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How Reliable Are Marijuana Strain Names?

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romulan marijuana strainAre Cannabis Strain Names Accurate?

I remember when I started smoking marijuana in the mid 90’s marijuana strain names weren’t that important. Finding marijuana was not as easy as it is now, and there certainly weren’t any dispensaries, so you were just glad to get anything.

Back then, at least in my area, marijuana was lumped into one of three categories – bammer, beasters, and kill bud. There was rarely a strain name attached to the marijuana I bought back then, and even if it had a name, there was no telling that the strain name was accurate.

The first marijuana strains were ‘landrace strains’ or wild strains. Did cavemen or indigenous people name their strains? Who knows. Seed historians seem to agree that the first modern day marijuana seed breeding started in the 1960’s. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love brought seeds to America from Afghanistan, Nepal, and other regions, and people starting breeding them.

In the early 1970’s the first official seed company started in Holland – Sam Skunkman’s Sacred Seeds. The art of seed breeding spread from there. There are now numerous marijuana seed companies around the world, and many, many breeders operating in the United States (some better than others!).

If you get seeds directly from a reputable seed bank, the strain names are reliable. Obviously if you get seeds straight from the breeder, the strain names are reliable. But if you score a sack from someone that is not a breeder, or not the grower, who knows if the strain name is accurate.

There is an increasing importance to market strain names to marijuana consumers these days, which is leading to a lot of inaccurate strain names out there, especially at dispensaries. If a customer walks into a dispensary and is given the choice between a well known strain name and a jar full of un-named bud, the customer is much more likely to choose the one with the popular name.

Dispensary owners know this, especially shady ones. So they will slap a name on a jar and not care less if it’s accurate. All they want is to sell more bud. I had a friend work at a dispensary where the owner had a bunch of old outdoor from several harvests over the course of multiple years. The owner had no idea what strain it was, but put it on his shelves in a jar stating it was OG Kush. The nugs didn’t sell at all before they were marketed as OG Kush, because after all it was old outdoor. But within a week of putting a fake name on it, all the outdoor was gone. I guarantee this is a common thing at dispensaries across the country.

To be clear, I’m not saying all dispensaries do this. But clearly some do. An example I always point out to people is when a famous person ‘gets their own strain.’ Is the marijuana strain something completely new? Or is it a clever dispensary owner trying to cash in on a recent event?

Case in point would be any strain with Sanjay Gupta’s name on it. Sanjay Gupta aired an episode on CNN where he came out in support of medical marijuana. Within the same week people were selling strain names like ‘Sanjay Gupta Kush.’ This is clearly inaccurate. I don’t know anyone on the planet that can breed a new seed strain, grow it from seed, harvest it, and cure it all in a week. I’ve seen the same thing happen with a bunch of celebrity names.

The fact of the matter is unless you get the strain from the seed breeder, a reputable seed bank, a reputable grower, or a reputable dispensary, there’s simply no telling what strain you are smoking on. Base your purchases on how the strain makes you feel personally. If a strain helps alleviate your symptoms, or gives you the certain high you are looking for, then it doesn’t matter what the strain name is. If you take that approach, rather than getting caught up in marketing hype, you will be a much more satisfied customer.

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57 Comments

  1. You think this forum ain’t safe?

    “The new Gmail plug-in called Streak informs Gmail users exactly when emails they sent were opened — and where the recipients were when they opened them. Meanwhile, the lucky recipients of these Gmail emails aren’t informed of how much personal information they’re broadcasting to the email sender.” Consumer Affairs

  2. If you didnt’ start smokin’ till the 90’s you unfortunately missed the boat! THE GOOD STUFF (i.e. from 60’s-70’s) like ALCAPULCO GOLD AND PANAMA RED were the REAL stuff, not this “chemical” crpap with outrageous prices that smells like “a DEAD SKUNK stinking to high heaven! and sold by a NICKEL BAG $5, a DIME BAG $10 and a full “baggie” called “A LID.” these were often measured by the purchaser by fingers; like a 2 finger bag or 4 finger bag.

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  4. Charles Waller on

    A friend sent me this picture 20 years ago, he succeeded. Sorry for the low quality, it was a Polaroid instamatic picture and didn’t scan well. The cultivar is an Afghani strain hybridized with a high CBD indica subspecies. The growth patterns were chaotic, but the medicinal therapeutic benefits were consistent, according to him.

  5. Charles Waller on

    Few people know that the tips of a cannabis plant in the rapid vegetative stage of growth contain highly psychoactive compounds. I have demonstrated this to friends since the late ’70s by clipping the growth tips, drying with low heat and smoking them. It causes an intense “mind” high with no sedative effect, resulting in self-contemplation, introspection and a near total disconnect from surroundings for approximately 5-10 minutes at extremely low dosage.

  6. I had a buddy who loved to raise and nurse mutant/retarded pot plants. He swore that he was going to find a super potent plant that way. Never happened but he tried for years.

  7. I once had a plant that wouldn’t flower under any conditions, regardless of photoperiod. I removed it to make space for another plant and just set it aside, out of the way. The plant eventually died from neglect. A few weeks later I smoked the dried leaves and was higher than I really wanted to be. MJ potency is a strange thing!

  8. Sounds good, I just don’t know how you would go about enforcing it with cannabis growers. Would seeds need some sort of hereditary certificate?

  9. Sounds good, I just don’t know how you would go about enforcing it with cannabis growers. Would seeds need some sort of hereditary certificate?

  10. disqus_demMJl6uTu on

    Nope. Just guidelines about how you can label and what you can call it. You can’t call it Blue Dream unless it really is Blue Dream. If you do, you will be caught and fined and that would be a good thing for the industry and the consumers. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying.

  11. disqus_demMJl6uTu on

    Nope. Just guidelines about how you can label and what you can call it. You can’t call it Blue Dream unless it really is Blue Dream. If you do, you will be caught and fined and that would be a good thing for the industry and the consumers. Consumers have a right to know what they are buying.

  12. Would that require more regulation and cost to the producers (than is already in place in the MMJ industry)?

  13. Would that require more regulation and cost to the producers (than is already in place in the MMJ industry)?

  14. disqus_demMJl6uTu on

    Strain names are worthless. There needs to be a regulated system, just like there is for wine grape varietals. When you buy a bottle of Pinot Noir, you know it’s Pinot Noir.

  15. disqus_demMJl6uTu on

    Strain names are worthless. There needs to be a regulated system, just like there is for wine grape varietals. When you buy a bottle of Pinot Noir, you know it’s Pinot Noir.

  16. Okay, ya’ll might call that folk music, but I call that country. p.s. Were these guys ALWAYS stoned? Or do they talk like that just because they are from Cali?

  17. Okay, ya’ll might call that folk music, but I call that country. p.s. Were these guys ALWAYS stoned? Or do they talk like that just because they are from Cali?

  18. in Mexico all good bud is called “kush”, either they don’t want to say the original name or they are good at marketing, before you get ahead of yourselves and start calling names, hold on a second, as of the last 10 yrs, or so, there have been some top notch flowers, correct name or not, they are as good and above of the high end Cali buds, they are not cheap either about $80/10gr of great stuff; Then you have your “field flowers”, that you can get for about $130/kg. This is what I hear from some people that are into that sort of thing and talk aloud in bars;

  19. Dude, what are you smokin’? Or are you making an old hippie reference that was before my time? A song perhaps? Sounds kinda like a country-western song, except you’ll have to add in a reference for beer or alcohol. :)

  20. There it is! Thai Stick. Yer an old fart. Like me. And PR really was a little red, wasn’t it? Or was I high at the time. LOL

  21. I couldn’t agree more, (although attending a Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam is on my bucket list). I’ve found a definite pattern to what works for me, and have found that anything with “blue”in the name will usually be my go-to. I still have a damn good time experimenting with others. I appreciate the guidance of a name associated with a certain pot, but I can’t always rely on it. I’m thankful to have found a few good dispensaries that seem to be consistent, and sell the stuff that is unknown as a harvest blend, and basically say that it could be just about anything. Sometimes it knocks your socks off, sometimes not, but sold at a lower price, it moves. I found about 20 seeds in a batch of harvest bend shake and trim, got lucky and produced just one fab female of unknown origin. It rocks and I got lucky. I think I’ll just call it Gramma’s Medicine.

  22. So sorry for you AussieBilly. It seems we may be of a similar age. I remember those good old strains too. and also remember when all weed was no-name, and when “baggies” hit the market, they were a fabulous new inventions with as much of a future with pot dealers as with mom’s wanting to bag a sandwich for a lunch box.
    Anyone remember Thai Sticks?

    But even then, anything that came from Hawaii or seemed exotic in a way was called Maui Wowie. This problem still persists with strains. Sigh. But it must seem silly to hear all these poor American’s bitch about weed not being better regulated when you’re in your present situation.

  23. Mary Jane Gudenhi on

    I grow from clones. I can only be as accurate as the places providing the clones. I was at a dispensary several years ago and had seen two customers with a tray of clones they had selected. They realized there were no labels on many of them so they tried to replace them in the correct areas and get ones with labels. I’m glad dispensaries have changed their practices but I still remind all my patients that strains are not guaranteed.

  24. Mary Jane Gudenhi on

    I grow from clones. I can only be as accurate as the places providing the clones. I was at a dispensary several years ago and had seen two customers with a tray of clones they had selected. They realized there were no labels on many of them so they tried to replace them in the correct areas and get ones with labels. I’m glad dispensaries have changed their practices but I still remind all my patients that strains are not guaranteed.

  25. We are all suckers for the marketing gurus. If it’s smart phone or pot seeds no difference. 10 seeds from the same mom can produce many and varied phenotypes. The best advice I see here (the one I agree with naturally ;) is keep trying until you find a strain that meets your needs to a “T” and stick with it, instead of chasing Cannabis Cup winners and looking for the High Times centerfold bud. Save your energy!

  26. Sorry my Aussie friend, your government hung a right turn recently, so your wait just got longer…
    Too bad, cuz Australia has been so progressive up to this point (compared with the rest of the world).

  27. This kind of article, while informative and interesting reading, is, for some of us out here in the bigger world, merely a FRICKING TEASE! Yeah, I know, slowly, state by state the US is opening up to the joy and benefits of mary J… but for the rest of us, it’s still a major no-no. Ah, how well I remember the day, way back then, when Maui Wowie, Alcapulco Gold and all kinds of bud was coming out of No. Calif and So. Oregon. Didn’t cost an arm and a leg, was good smoke and… oh, yes, oh yes. Flash ahead to now and y’all are enjoying what the rest of us can only vaguely recall. Guess I’ll just have to continue searching out that illegal baggie now and again and hope someday truth will come to Australia.

  28. The strain names and the indica/sativa designation at least give me a place to start from when choosing medicine.
    But the only way to gauge quality is to sample it. It is unlikely this will change.

  29. Had some alleged Panama Red recently, a sativa, that was so-so for strength, but was very smooth. So when you find some good bud, what have your senses told you? What was the tip-off?

  30. People just make shit up for names most times. I managed to get an ounce of very good hydro bud in the late 90s that had 20 seeds in the whole ounce. Grew them out and got 12 females. I managed to harvest 6 full sized plants outdoors(10 to 12 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide) . The plants were an indica and sativa hybrid, The outdoor buds were huge, very sticky and had some swirly purple in them. Dried and cured them. I’d tell people I had some homegrown and immediately they lost interesting without seeing it so started telling people I had Humboldt trainwreck crossed with Purple Kush. I ended up selling the stuff for twice what I intended and people were all over me every week for more telling me it was the kindest bud they ever had.

  31. Scott Sherwood on

    Thanks for the informative post Johnny. As a grower it’s not easy to get the right combination of strains so in outdoor season everything doesn’t ripen at once. So usually I use 3-4 different kinds so they finish 2 weeks apart. It gives us time to trim, dry and partially cure before the next harvest in 2 weeks. We normally get our seeds from a BC seed bank but our indica strains come from a Dutch bank. 75% of the time no matter what the bank calls it until I flower it and it finishes I have no real idea how it will come out as far as yield, strength, structure, smell. ect. I very seldom use clones unless I make them but occasionally I will get a few from Harborside if I have a special order or a breeding program I took on. I just crossed Kosher Kush x L.S.D, and it turned out pretty good. I’m thinking hybrid vigor made them bigger so we will see what happens next cycle. All in all, I don’t pay much attention to names. When High Times came out to Hawaii to take pictures of our weed in Captain Cook, ’76 they named them “Puna Budder” “Kona Gold” and “Maui Wowie” We couldn’t stop laughing! The seeds were all Tepe Rojo Colombian, the best commercial weed available at that time. Once the ’80’s hit we were importing different strains then in ’82 “Green Harvest” started and screwed up every ones breeding programs. If the weed smells good and gets you medicated well, the name has no bearing. If I called it Dog Lick and it smelled good it will sell.

  32. Smokeyhomegrown on

    Had some bud one time wouldn’t get a piss ant high. Stored a gallon bag in the back of an old car over the winter, thought about it and broke it out in the spring when times were lean.When I opened it , there was like a smoke came off of it from some mold that had grown. Went ahead and tried it, tasted like fine Colombian, looked like it and had a high equal to it! Talk about a happy man!

  33. I like to depend on what my senses tell me over strain names but I’m so old school I remember real thai stick and panama red

  34. Emphasis on the distinction between sativa and indica subspecies is exaggerated and inaccurate also. Trichome maturity, drying, curing and storage can all have an enormous impact on overall psychoactive effect. The same bud can have different effects depending on cannabinoid content resulting from a wide range of contributing factors.

  35. Yeah reputable seed companies seem to be the best way to get legit strains. Rarely believe a clone is legit or stable unless you can trust mother source or have mom yourself. The amount of people in Colorado 10 years ago who cloned from clones blew me away, no better way to dissolve what makes it unique. Trusted genetics and practice is a good way to start.