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What’s In a Strain Name?

A lot of time when I hear people speaking on their preference for cannabis, it usually boils down to indica or sativa. Oftentimes, especially with connoisseurs, I do hear specific strain names that they prefer over any others. The most obvious reason is that most of these strains are sought after because of the flavor, aromas, and effects. Every strain is different, containing a different terpene profile which gives each individual cannabis strain its own unique set of effects. But how can you be sure that the strain you have is really what it’s labeled? Well, the thing is… you really can’t.

With so many different genetics and breeders producing the same genetics, or different ones with similar profiles to other strains, it’s really very difficult to tell. Breeders will alter genetics themselves by backcrossing or cross breeding with other strains. Some may even create their own version of a well known strain altogether, by crossbreeding completely different strains than were originally used to create the strain they are producing. A perfect example of this is Wedding Cake. Most of the Wedding Cakes I have seen on the market, when you can find out something about the genetics, are made from crossing Cherry Pie with Girl Scout Cookies. However, there are a couple companies, including Arizona’s Grow Sciences, who have produced their own Wedding Cake by crossing Triangle Kush with Animal Mints. Yet another example is a strain that usually goes into making Wedding Cake, Girl Scout Cookies.

The Girl Scout Cookies that became famous and is bred by The Cookies brand out of California, was created by breeding a Durban F1 with a specific OG Kush Pheno that creates a profile similar to Thin Mint Cookies, hence the name. There is another brand that produces Girl Scout Cookies as well, except they use entirely different genetics. The Cali Connection makes their Cookies by crossing OG KB with The Forum. So you see, you may walk into a dispensary and they may have either or The Cookies brand GSC or The Cali Connection GSC, and although they may both may smell similar to a Thin Mint Cookie (where it got its famous name from), and also have a similar flavor, the effects could be completely different. This is due to the fact that the specific genetics of the parental plants are completely different, as well that the only similarity that those two share is that one of the parents in each is an OG pheno, with the Cali Connected being OG KB and The Cookies brand an unknown OG pheno.

There are also a couple more factors that could play a part in why strains, although the same name, could be completely different from each other in every way. Another factor that I did mention a bit are phenos. Phenos are different cannabis plants that share the exact same genetics, but still differ in the profiles they produce. So, think of humans: although people may have siblings that were produced by the same two parents, they are not going to look exactly alike. Sure, some similarities may be shared, even behaviors and things that aren’t just physical, but everyone is different. Well, the same thing goes for plants, especially cannabis. Even if I were to get lucky enough to get a pack of seeds from The Cookies brand and a pack from The Cali Connection and every seed popped successfully, I would then have to do a pheno hunt for my desired cut.

Pheno-hunting is the process of selecting the best phenotype of a strain for mass production. So when a company does have these seeds from reputable sources with reliable genetics, a pheno-hunt is still necessary because each of those seeds is a phenotype. Each Phenotype will produce its own unique combination of traits from the parental plants. So although one breeder may have the same exact seeds and genetics as another, their preference in the traits they desire may be completely different from the other breeder. For instance, if two breeders have a pack of GSC seeds from The Cookies brand, one may prefer the Durban characteristics one of the phenotypes may carry, and the other breeder may prefer a phenotype that has more of the OG traits. Once the breeder has selected their best phenotype, it will then be cloned to get exact replicas of it. The clones will then be mass produced for sale to farms, dispensaries and other licensed growers.

There are a couple challenges that growers here in Arizona face, one being that they cannot purchase exact copies or clones of plants from out-of-state breeders who have already conducted a pheno hunt of their own, such as The Cookies brand, Jungle Boys, and other big name breeders. Also, genetics and seed packs aren’t really the easiest thing to stumble across either, especially for smaller companies barely starting up. So instead of one of these companies breeding their own version of a plant as GS and Jungle Boys did with their Wedding Cake, they may want the actual strain with the originating genetics. They may not be able to get their hands on that specific cultivar or seeds but may have access to the parental lineage of a strain they may want. For example, a newer company starting up may want to have the strain GMO in their line up, and they have no access to it by seed or clone, but they may be able to obtain or already have the two strains that were bred together to create GMO.

GMO was created by breeding GSC with the classic Chemdawg, so if a local company has these two cuts, they may then breed them together to create their very own version of GMO.

With all these different factors and possibilities that can go into making a single strain, as I said, it’s almost impossible to really tell what you are getting just from the label. Now, there are obvious things you should look for, but really it all comes down to your own senses. There is no reason your Gelato should smell citrus-y, and no reason your Jack Herer should smell like gas. Now, every Gelato and Jack Herer may be different due to the exact genetics and phenotype, unless it’s a specific clone which will then be an exact copy of the plant it was taken from. Many people often will still throw their own genetics in the mix, then back-breed it to be the original strain, now containing characteristics of that particular breeder’s genetics, which will alter it in some way, whether in its potency, flavor or aroma.

As I said though, it all really comes down to your senses, because we all know what we do and don’t like. A strain that may smell good to me may not to you, but those smells are not just smells; they are terpenes that interact with the THC to give each individual strain its own unique profile and effects. Whether we realize it or not, this is what makes every plant react differently to every person. Most people, for example, associate gas with indica, and sweet and citrus with sativa, except not everyone receives these cannabinoids the same. For me, the gassy terpene profile follows the general rule, and will usually produce a more sedative effect, while the citrus terpenes break that rule by also producing a sedative effect for me, while for most they are uplifting and euphoric.

Really, your senses along with trial and error and years of experience are the best tools to help determine what you prefer. Use the label as a guide but not as a final decision, because with all the different phenotypes of the same strain and breeders creating their own versions or adding to genetics already found, it’s impossible to be 100 percent sure what you’re getting... unless, of course, they want you to know. This may be the reason the same strain has had different effects each time you have tried it. The aromas go hand in hand with the effects, so most of the time strains that produce the same smells often have similar effects.

I understand that some may want to know what exactly made up your strain, but really that factor isn’t as important as you think. What’s really important is learning your body, and realizing what terpenes affect it in which ways. Once you do this, I promise you will not pay attention to names as much or think of them as important. You definitely will not care about high THC percentage, and you will trust your nose to give you the information you need about how this strain is going to affect you. Trust me, the terpenes are what’s important, and I will go ahead and tell you why in my next article. Stay high everyone!




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