Pot Luck – Is Medical Cannabis Correctly Labeled?

Whenever weed is grown it will look different from grower to grower and every breeder will have a different looking example of a strain (ex. Og kush). Theres also the chance of having a few different phenos in a singular grow using one breeder pack. One strain never looks the exact same. It’s nature.

However a 2015 study shows that marijuana strains, are frequently mislabeled. The editor states, “We find a moderate correlation between the genetic structure of marijuana strains and their reported C. sativa and C. indica ancestry and show that marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.” Researchers looked at the genotypes of 81 marijuana and 43 hemp samples. Using the DNA variants in the cannabis genome, they studied the relationships between different cannabis plants. Although licensed producers often market the plant based on its strain and species ancestry, researchers found the information was often incorrect. “The conclusion is that a strain’s name is not a reliable indicator of its genetic identity,” said Myles, the Canada research chair in agriculture genetic diversity.

“What they’re saying about the ancestry of these strains is often wrong. They’re reporting it’s 70 per cent indica and 30 per cent sativa, for example, and it’s horse crap.” Myles said a medical marijuana producer might market a strain of cannabis, such as one known colloquially as Purple Kush, and refer to its ancestry an indica strain. But he said there is no consistency among producers of the so-called Purple Kush variety. In other words, you could order Purple Kush from three producers and get three different strains of marijuana.

According to the study, the classification of cannabis has proven difficult over the past 6000 years. Factors to determine the correct type of strain include culture, cultivation, and artificial selection by humans. Unfortunately, marijuana types “lack an organized horticultural registration system and are referred to as strains,” meaning has been no thorough investigation of the structuring of cannabis through high-throughput genotyping methods. We, unfortunately, lack the ability to 100% correctly determine an exact type of strain.

One of the biggest problems with cannabis industry is no standardization of strains! We are all taking “pot-luck what if what you are purchasing isn’t what you think you’re getting?

Different types of strains originate from various countries within the lineage of many marijuana plants. The differentiations between the two strains include the physical outer appearance. However, due to cross-cultivation in grows, the line becomes hazy in fully determining which is which. The study states that “C. sativa and C. indica may represent distinguishable pools of genetic diversity, but that breeding has resulted in considerable admixture between the two.” This study proves to be extremely significant in regards to how a consumer can trust that what they are purchasing is really what they need. Until we get cannabis legalized, there will be no standardization of strains! This really messes up researchers, too! They will never get consistent results, until they stop using “Cannabis sativa” and start using “Cannabis sativa, var “Girl Scout Cookies” with a cannabinoid and terpid profile. Even new cannabis users recognize that there is a difference in the effects of an indica and a sativa! But somehow, the scientists don’t.

Can we trust that  dispensaries are reliable and giving me the product that I need?

For example, if a patient with chronic headaches needed an indica strain to relax her body, not her mind, she would not only be disappointed but would most likely experience pain if given a sativa strain that was mislabeled as indica. Another example would be a recreational user wanting to buy sativa for physical activates, such as climbing, so they can better analyze their route up the face of a mountain. He would find himself in a dangerous situation if he were given an indica strain that is misrepresented as sativa. Though there are strains that have been mislabeled, it is still important to note that whichever strain you receive, it will either partially or completely effect the areas of pain in which you may be experiencing. Personal research and Q&A’s with your budtender or Cannabis Physician could also relieve some of your worries.

“These are the growing pains an industry like this will have to go through,” Myles said. “We’ve inherited the plants and genetics from underground operations. The question is how do we take measures now to start cleaning this up, having certified known materials and telling the customers the truth.”