I had the opportunity to run my own inventory, years ago in Midtown Phoenix dispensary and when doing so, I was able to decide the placement of each pound of flower that came into our dispensary, as well as help to steer our boat. Often we would have an opportunity to try the new strains and revisit old ones depending on our time frame for putting new product out. This was often important so we could distinguish grade and effects for placement on our menu. A strain from one grower could differ greatly in quality based on how it is grown, so finding the best price tier was important to assure quality to patients for their budget. Those same growers were often pheno-hunters, working to find the one strong seed or mother in a market flooded with similar strains. In doing so, we often tested strains to see what the difference in effects were compared with popular websites, as they could range as widely as the grow conditions themselves. It was even with this “research” along with my budtender team that our main guide had to continually be a popular info site that added strain details to our menu selection. This challenge was overcome best when simply communicated to patients what to expect when they made their decisions.
Grow conditions of a cultivation may or may not have details available to you when shopping at a dispensary, but law will make current testing mandatory. In honesty it is the testing, specifically ppm (parts per million) of any other elements over 1000ppm, these details would influence my choices more than anything with the exception being, testing positive for mold. If I were to know the cultivation and its practices, I might not need to have suspicions about mold testing as I would know details about that grow. Details like if it is clean and well managed, or if it is derelict. I often find that hydro or aeroponics, though more expensive in Arizona, will put out reliably strong product while also requiring those high standards for cleanliness. It would also matter to know when I am dealing with cannabis grown outdoors or in greenhouses, as these will not always be as high in THC, but will carry high amounts or a heavier concentration of CBD derivatives. The grow conditions of outdoor cannabis in Arizona also require extra care or extensive product to succeed in the arid conditions of Arizona. This could mean pest control, PGRs (plant growth regulators), or additional nutrients applied during growth to improve the quality of the final product, which can affect quality if not flushed properly. Being able to identify and look for elements in the ppm testing like high potassium, nitrogen (from rich fertilizer), and iron will benefit you greatly. Knowing these details about grow operations can influence patients as some might want strict organic, or specifics about what additional nutrients are going into their cannabis.
Current cultivations will also work to bring new phenotypes of favorite strains with the hope of bringing something new to what already exists on the market. I have grown Super Silver Haze, and I have tried many different versions of it grown throughout the country. Each cut of that strain has been different from what I know from experience, simply because of the conditions it was grown in were different, or the source for the seed might differ from my own. The effects might share similarities, but the quality will depend greatly on the conditions and skill of those cultivating. It could be why, I might try some GDP at one place near me, but across town their GDP is totally different. This could be in the effect, or it could be in the overall quality of the bud. It is becoming a fact that differences in quality will become known, and how patients respond will reflect that quality.
That said, many dispensaries and their management are encountering problems with websites that help to update displays for our menus. At times there is no way to add or edit details or descriptions, so we are left to use blanket descriptors according to a website that patients might use for guidance. When those who use these websites have their product in hand, they might find it isn’t exactly as what was stated on the website in effect or appearance. Due to differences in phenotypes, breeding, and cultivation conditions, those effects that were described can differ slightly to greatly, so it then becomes our job to provide good intel on the strain. In Arizona, I have had what I’ve known as a strong sativa, be a heavy indica. I have also had a vendor tell me about their best indica they have never tried, and have it turn out to be a hybrid that affects those sensitive to a sativa. It will always vary region to region, and with current online menu options, there isn’t always a way to communicate the changes to those who need the products fast enough.
I am happy that this diversity exists, as it allows companies room to improve by learning from one another, as well as giving dispensaries options for their patients. It can come down to the budtenders and their knowledge of product or cultivation origin to best assist those buying the strain. It lands on our shoulders to connect with patients on the differences they might see or feel, and why they exist. As patient counselors, knowledge will always be the best way to help others, and knowing how something is cultivated will expand your ability to do so, including the function within your role of better serving the patient. Expand your experience, and search for the fundamental differences that will exist between vendors in your region. Be aware of what is said about the product online versus what you have in store. Ask questions of colleagues, other patients, and trusted friends around you if you need feedback, and use all you know to better help those you serve.
Adrian Ryan was born in New Mexico and attended school since elementary in Arizona, his time growing up split between the two states. He hopes to work towards recreational cannabis, enjoys reading, writing, film, music, and also writing music.