Maui Wowie: A History

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A pale green cannabis nugget with a frosty appearance from the crystals covering it

The Maui Wowie strain, also often spelled “Maui Waui” was absolutely groundbreaking when it emerged in popular culture. It was hugely prevalent around the 1960s, largely adored for its THC content. That tends to clock in around 19%, which by today’s standards might not seem too far away from the norm, but at the time was revolutionarily high. In the 60s, the average marijuana strain hovered around or under 8%, so the 19% punch made it one of the most popular marijuana varieties available. There are even anecdotes arguing that the phrase “pot wasn’t as potent back then” can refer only to a time before Maui Wowie was popularized. 

The strain got nods from movies like Half Baked, Cheech and Chong, and even Pineapple Express. So what makes it so popular? 

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Effects and Uses

The Maui Wowie or Maui Waui strain is sativa-dominant. As may be expected from a sativa, the high is described as energetic, happy, and creative, great for relieving anxiety, stress, and depression. However, Maui Wowie may also have some indica-like effects, helping with aches and pains thanks to a numbing sensation in the body. It has sweet and sour citrusy flavors, floral and piney scents, and shockingly bright orange pistils that stand out in contrast to the lighter bud. Its high sets in quickly with a heady high that most people find wakes them up. 

a green and orange cannabis nugget with a white background

Maui Waui provides an energetic, creative high. Photo credit: Shutterstock

If you’re looking to buy, the Maui Wowie price point could have you saying “Wowie,” depending on where you live. Some legal stores sell an ounce for about $125; some go up to $250. Some retailers sell feminized Maui Wowie seeds for a little over $10 each. You can also buy a Maui Wowie cartridge, which will run around $25-$66 depending on where you get it. If you can’t find Maui Wowie, other strains like Super Silver Haze, Sour Tangie, or Sage N Sour are all energizing sativas with similar THC content and myrcene as the dominant terpene. 

The Name

Maui Wowie is named for the island where it originated: Maui. It’s a landrace strain, meaning it was cultivated in its natural environment and not altered or cross-bred, so it makes sense that its place of origin would be included in its title. But there’s also an entire tale behind the moniker.

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A tropical island with a blue ocean beach

The island of Maui is where the strain, Maui Wowie, originated from. Photo credit: Shutterstock

As the legend goes, counterculture hippies, activists, and veterans fled to the Hawaiian Islands during the Vietnam War, but found themselves in some strife with native Hawaiians who struggled to accept statehood. During a large psychedelic party, the two sects of people bridged the gap – and it’s all thanks to Maui Wowie. The native Hawaiians, as the story goes, smelled the hippies smoking weed and decided to join in, sharing their own strains. The non-natives were wowed by the ones the Hawaiians provided and wound up calling it “Maui Wowie.” 

Origins and History

Maui Wowie first grew in the Hawaiian Island’s volcanic soil, which gave it unique, bright orange hairs over a dense flower. From there, it spread outward to other Hawaiian Islands and today can also be grown well in other tropical or simulated tropical environments. 

The strain’s exact history remains a mystery. Scientists have still been trying to map its genetics, but have had a tough time because it doesn’t appear to be cross-bred and remains a landrace strain. They do have at least a couple clues: the plants grow extremely tall when compared with other types of marijuana, which may narrow down the search for its origin story. 

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The tops of green cannabis plants outdoors with blue sky above

Maui Waui is known to grow very tall. Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Maui Wowie strain was all the rage in the 60s, but cannabis has a much longer presence in Hawaii than that. Some historians believe cannabis seeds first showed up on the island after a visit from a whaling ship in the 1800s. The first mention of cannabis that historians studying Hawaii have been able to find was dated back to 1842 in a local newspaper, Ka Nonanona, which referred to a “numbing tobacco” product. That lengthy history might come as a surprise, but cannabis has been used for millennia. There are historical records showing evidence of the Ancient Greeks getting stoned, the Egyptian pharaohs blazing, and Chinese Emperors toking it up.  

When America annexed Hawaii in 1898, the island became subjected to U.S. law, and therefore cannabis was regulated shortly thereafter. A few decades after that, the plant was outlawed, yet gained popularity as military veterans settled in Hawaii’s jungles. At one point, Hawaii’s marijuana industry was estimated to surpass the value of sugar, pineapple, and tourism to the state. The War on Drugs ensued, and the U.S. government moved in to cripple the industry.

Operation Green Harvest started in the late 1970s, with officers from the federal, state, and local levels moving in with the National Guard to fly helicopters low to the ground, in search of marijuana. When they found it, they’d either spray them down with poison, or send officers in to pull the plants out by hand. In the 1990s, soldiers from the U.S. Army and National Guard supported DEA agents in eliminating an estimated 90% of Hawaii’s visible marijuana crop through Operation Wipeout. That effort still continues at least in part – the Kaua’i County Council, for instance, just approved its Police Department’s request for $35,000 in federal dollars for the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. 

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Cannabis in Hawaii Today

Hand holding bong with ocean waves and Hawaiian island in the background

Hawaii has medical marijuana and has decriminalized weed for up to three grams. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Despite the attempts to eradicate the plant, it appears the Big Island’s love for marijuana has prevailed. In the year 2000, Hawaii became the first state to use a legislative initiative to legalize medicinal cannabis, which allowed patients and caregivers to grow their own plants. Its medical dispensary program wouldn’t start for another 15 years, and the first sale at a dispensary wouldn’t happen in Hawaii until 2017. But the effect has seemed positive: In 2020, the state decriminalized possession of up to three grams of marijuana. Full legalization could be next, and the Maui Wowie strain could dominate once again.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called Maui Wowie?

Maui Wowie or Maui Waui gets its name from the place it originated, Maui, which is a part of the Hawaiian Archipelago. A tale surrounding the name says it came from a union of natives and non-natives who shared that particular strain of marijuana and found themselves saying, “Mowie, Wowie.”

Where is Maui Wowie grown?

Maui Wowie is from an island called Maui, which is part of Hawaii. The Valley Isle, as it’s called, is Hawaii’s second-largest island. It includes 30 miles of beaches and is home to the Haleakala National Park, the Island’s highest peak with a striking volcano, pools, and waterfalls. 

Is Maui Wowie a landrace?

Yes, Maui Wowie is a landrace strain, meaning it is grown naturally in the environment where it originated and has not been altered or cross-bred.

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What is Maui Wowie strain good for?

Maui Wowie is a sativa-based strain, known for making people feel energized and creative. It’s said to help with depression and anxiety. It also gives people the munchies, making it medically helpful for people with eating disorders and certain diseases.

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