By Daniel Enyart
At the end of 2016 the cannabis industry as a whole had many reasons to celebrate. However, as 2017 began, the industry mourned the untimely death of world-renowned cannabis geneticists, Green House Seed Co. front man and "strain hunter" Franco Loja, just 42 years young.
Word of his passing spread quickly on the morning of January 2, 2017. At first no official cause of death was released, but later it was revealed that he had contracted cerebral malaria while on a recent trip to Africa. Loja was in the midst of researching a medicinal landrace oil to treat the very disease that took his life.
After having worked in the hospitality industry and translated instruction manuals for the role-playing game Warhammer, Franco happened to run into someone would eventually turn into his right hand man, brother and business partner, Arjan Roskom. Roskom is the founder/owner of Green House Seed Co. in Amsterdam. Together they became known as "strain hunters" and for almost 20 years scoured the globe in search of the rarest landrace cannabis strains.
Franco's dedication and commitment to anything and everything cannabis helped drive him to become one of the most—if not the single most—successful cannabis geneticists the world has ever known. That was proven by the numerous Cannabis Cup awards he won.
In 2014 Franco was quoted as saying:
“Landraces are the most natural form of cannabis existing on the planet because they have been constantly adapting and evolving, improving their harmony with the environment they live in. They are the basis of breeding, and the most ancient pure cannabis races existing on the planet. Landraces have been obeying a basic rule of nature inside their own environment: survival of the fittest…. It is our duty to preserve cannabis landraces for the future of scientific and medical research, and for the basic human right to use a plant that has been used for millennia. Landraces could hide cannabis profiles that one day may be used to create new medicines, and these medicines could improve or even save lives.”
Senior cultivation editor at High Times magazine, Danny Danko, shares his memories of Franco with this statement:
"Franco was one of the most welcoming and kind individuals I’ve ever encountered. From the first time I met him in Amsterdam many years ago at the Cannabis Cup to the last time I saw him many Cannabis Cups later in Jamaica, he was always the same amazingly upbeat and giving person. Enthusiastic for cannabis in a way that made you want to smile proudly. And his proud smile is in every photo I see of him.
My condolences go out to his family, the Green House Coffeeshop & Seed Company family and the Strain Hunters franchise. I cherish the time I got to spend with him, smoking huge joints and celebrating cannabis freedoms. He joins Jack, Old Ed, Eagle Bill, Brownie Mary, Dr. Mikuriya and so many countless others in the pantheon of marijuana legends we’ve lost to eternity. Our fight to free the flower and the green prisoners continues in their honor!”
Green House Seed Co. has set up a condolences board where people can share thoughts, memories, prayers and condolences. They also have created an "in memory" page that starts off by saying "Franco is an icon and helped change so many people's lives. He will be deeply missed as a brother, father, son, friend and so much more."
Cannabis was Franco's passion. Whether or not you knew his name, or even who he was, it's almost guaranteed that you've smoked a strain that he had a hand in creating.
“Cannabis is my passion, my bread, my home. I feel it is my duty to make sure this amazing plant is preserved and enjoyed. I am a smoker, a grower, a breeder, and a strain hunter. For life.”
May 20, 1974–January 2, 2017