Oct 2, 2020

Strain 101: What Does Strain Mean?

What’s in a name?

People tend to put a lot of credence into the naming conventions used for cannabis. Like everything else in our lives, we expect a certain level of consistency and legitimacy in the branding for products we use every day. But can cannabis currently be held to the same standards as a product like soda, where you know that for every fast food restaurant you go to, your favorite beverage is always going to taste exactly the same.


There are many white labelled products on the market these days as well as products like growers choice, daily special, the batch, etc. that revolve their entire brand around inconsistency, you don’t know what strain you are getting, just that it is Cannabis, around a certain potency range, for a great value.


But what about the labelled strains? Is Blue Dream always going to be the same at every dispensary? Will Pink Kush always smell the same no matter the LP?


Unfortunately, most names and classifications we use today were formed in the legacy market where the need for oversight, rules, or consequences for false advertising don’t exist, and, because of that, it was basically the wild west when it came to labelling/naming your products.


You say tomato, I say tomahto

Another factor to consider is the nature of regional dialects. With no officially recognized national/international database of cannabis words and definitions or strain names and genetics, we end up with the same words/terms meaning something totally different just a few towns over. 


Since the legal market is still in its relative infancy, there is no real system in place to ensure that all LPs are sticking to the same terminology and standards simply because the standards just don’t exist yet. We do, however, have Health Canada standards for safety, we have AGCO standards for regulation, and we have standards for running a business in general. But who is to say that where one brand’s Pink Kush is different from another brand’s Pink Kush that only one of them is right, or that one brand is knowingly putting out false information? We don’t yet have long-standing, established standards of what the chemical makeups of strains should be to be able to compare and verify them.


Many companies are working on creating more consistency in the industry, creating cannabis dictionaries and online collections of strain information, but there is still a long way to go.


The naming game

Back in the day a breeder would release a new genetic and call it X, the distributor would rename it Y to match their branding, the dealers would say “no one buys Y anymore, everyone wants Z these days” and rename it Z. So, by the time it has reached the consumer they have no idea what they are actually getting.


Between LPs changing the names of strains to better align with their branding and legacy naming conventions that aren’t always reflected within the regulated market, there is no true transparency when it comes to where the LPs are sourcing their genetics. Transparency and consistency isn’t limited to naming alone; issues with terms like Distillate and Full Spectrum are also in question. Until a defined and regulated playbook for naming is instituted users can do some personal experimentation to see what works best on an individual level, leveraging cannabis journals to compare each experience, and of course lean on the experts to help decide your next direction. Trust your local budtenders who dedicate their time to learning what the best the market has to offer is.


The bright side

Scientific studies continue to be conducted and shared and we can use them to track and establish pheno, geno, chemotypes of cannabis and start officially categorizing strains based on their chemical makeup, rather than what the producer decides they want to call it.


Until then, you can visit our FAQ page for some quick answers, and, of course, ask your budtender about which LPs are providing the best most consistent experiences and stick with them! 

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