How Medical Cannabis Strain Names Work
What’s in a strain name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Or at least, that’s the idea. Open a cannabis menu in any recreational state and you’re sure to be presented with an overwhelming list of evocative strain names (some of our favorites shouldn’t be repeated here!) But what do all of those names mean?
Strain names are meant to provide consumers with information about what cannabis will look, smell, taste, and (importantly) make a user feel like. In this way, strain names are meant to serve as “brand names” (like your favorite toothpaste) or, in botanical terms, to serve as “cultivars” that group cannabis plants by physical traits. However, it is frequently the case that strain names provide an incomplete or inaccurate picture of what plants are actually being grown, distributed, and ultimately consumed (by you!).
Growers are always on the lookout for the next best genetic profile. We want strains that are high-yielding, disease resistant, and low maintenance. However, cannabis has significant genetic variances that impact what physical characteristics and effects a given plant might actually have and these variances aren’t always stable between generations of plants. This means when a grower purchases seeds with a particular strain name, it is frequently the case that the resulting genetics from those seeds will vary widely from what is expected. This variability is then passed on to the consumer who purchases cannabis with a particular strain name only to be surprised when it doesn’t have the effect they were expecting.
Due to the genetic variability of cannabis, strain names can frequently be inconsistent and can (in some instances) be used as more of a marketing tactic to sell a product rather than an informative label to help customers find a product. There is no governing agency that determines what the genetics of a particular strain of cannabis are, and likewise there is no enforcement for someone selling cannabis using a strain name that doesn’t actually match the genetics they’re selling.
In our experience, testing seeds sold by one breeder under one name, we have found cannabinoid ratios from 30 THC : 1 CBD all the way to a 1 THC : 2 CBD. On top of that, the potency of extracted oil resulting from growing those seeds varied from as low as 13% overall cannabinoids up to 92% straight THC. We are lucky to have the infrastructure to be able to perform genetic and cannabinoid profile testing, so we are able to weed out inconsistent plant genetics and selectively cultivate cannabis with the same potency and cannabinoid profile over time.
Our method of cultivating, testing, and naming our medical cannabis products is designed to meet regulations set by New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. Under current regulation, we are not allowed to use strain names to label our products. Instead, we provide consumers with the information they need to understand exactly what and how much is in each product we sell.
So do all those roses by other names smell as sweet? Not always! We are hopeful for a future in cannabis where there is transparency around strain names and a collectively agreed-upon method for determining what genetics are associated with a particular strain.
This is why we’ve partnered with Phylos Bioscience to begin supplying genetic information about our products to their database so you can learn how our cannabis products relate to products grown in other markets, and how particular genetics impact you specifically.
Learn more about the genetics of Etain Strains
Backes, Michael. Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana. Black
Dog & Leventhal, 2014.