The Strain Name Game | Cannabis Genetics In Jeopardy [ by Nick Boomer ]
The Strain Name Game | Cannabis Genetics In Jeopardy
by Nick Boomer
It’s spring time and the California hillsides are filled with wildflowers in full bloom. We’ve got 4/20 right around the corner, and hoping everyone is getting stocked up to celebrate!
Speaking of planting, let’s talk about genetics for a moment. Some of you may take into account, what strains you're smoking, but several others of you, may not be. As a new wave of consumer comes into the cannabis community, we see marketing campaigns skew some of the lines between fire and hyped boof.
I’ve been consuming cannabis since I was a teen, that was also when I started to grow my first plants outside in the garden. At that time you were happy to be buying weed without any seeds, and you may or may not of known what the strain name was.
Due to the War on Drugs, cannabis grown before the 2000’s was not the same caliber as we strive for today. With medical marijuana laws being established in states like California, my home state, that alleviated some pressure on growers, whom were becoming more accustomed to gorilla grows in the bush, or concealed grow rooms indoors. As clandestine breeders worked quietly in their respective regions, honing in on their craft, these artists developed cultivars, unique to their terroir. Choosing phenotype selections that would be exhibiting traits desired by the grower indoors or out, which indirectly determined the route those varieties would later take, playing a role in future breeding projects.
These varieties known as popular strains like OG, Chem, GG, Cookies, and many more names developed over time, by crossing male and female plants, in a tireless effort, to hunt down that new “fire” strain the market demands.
In the midst of all that hunting, breeders and growers alike, popped so many seeds and kept clones of their personal winners, infatuated with traits like yield, aroma, appearance, and THC potency. They overlooked several medical traits including other cannabinoids, that we are more familiar with today, like CBD, CBG, THCV, and so on.
I was in that mix of growers, until I started lab testing my grows for cannabinoids, and discovered strains high in CBD, among other phyto-cannabinoids. We as a community almost systematically, bred out CBD and other valuable cannabinoids…
With the increased demand for clean cannabis, consumers wanted to see more transparency in how their weed was grown, not just who was growing it. Submitting flower samples to analytic labs equipped with liquid or gas chromatographs, would allow growers to receive a certificate of analysis in return, reporting on cannabinoid potency, terpenes, heavy metals, moisture content, pesticides, foreign contaminants, and microbials. Providing this COA to collectives where the weed was dispensed, provided a third party stamp of approval, giving the consumer a sense of product safety and quality control, not offered in the illicit cannabis market.
Most of us today, appreciate lab testing, just like we appreciate food testing, to ensure what we consume is safe. However as consumers, we typically aren't worried about the cultivar of bananas or strawberries we’re eating, because to us, it's just a fruit.
In the cannabis world, we have come to appreciate the diversity of genetics that offer different aromas and flavors when consumed, or varying psychoactive effects from couch lock, to soaring highs. Each strain of indica, sativa, or ruderalis can be categorized into a subcategory, that is much further in depth than I’d like to explain here. In short, the lineage of that strain is what predetermines the plants capabilities and the grower and environment optimize its potential.
New technology has been deployed in recent years for cannabis research, and with this DNA sequencing system, scientists are documenting strain’s DNA, and condensing the nonsense coined as the “strain name game…”
Over time so many seeds and clones of cannabis have traded hands, that names get forgotten, mixed up, or intentionally changed. For that reason, more research needs to be done to eliminate the duplicates and such, in the gene pool, to get down to brass tacks; what really is an OG? The preliminary results are very interesting. Suffice to say, what you think is an indica, may be a sativa!
So now that we've caught up to speed with the history of cannabis testing, what about the genetics and those blurred lines of lineages?
When your mother and father conceived you, your DNA is made up from those two donors, and you, yourself exhibit phenotypic expressions similar to your parents; IE: eye color, skin tone, hair color, nose, voice, etc. This is similar to plants when cross bred, just like cannabis, it will exhibit traits similar to its parent plant. This is relative to the weed you consume, as each strain is not created equal. Lineage of genotype or phenotypes is important to document and diversify further in regions different then one another, to expand the genetic pool of cultivars. We all enjoy the different aromas, colors, and effects cannabis gives us, and we should embrace that diversity and encourage cross breeding to develop new varieties to enjoy, whether recreationally, or medically.
However, we should evaluate the way we name strains, like old school strains Skunk #1, Panama Red, White Widow, and others, their names often lent a clue to their place of origin, bud description, or its effects on the user. When a breeder would create a new strain from a breeding project, he typically would get clever and hybridize the two donor strain names, or simply do something like “Afghani x Skunk #1.” -So if you'd ever tried Afghani, or Skunk #1 prior, you knew what to expect from that new strain, and the look, or smell may even be similar to the original parent plant you've tried before.
This was what the cannabis community built itself on for years, as breeders and growers exchanged seeds and clones, testing out new grow methods and strains in different regions, seeing what produced the best in the grower’s eyes.
These ongoing cannabis breeding projects began to surface online and in magazines like Hightimes where the breeders and growers could highlight the strain and benefits, marketing to a whole slew of growers and consumers alike. But as the commercialization of cannabis began with states regulating laws on production and sales, we started seeing the Snoop Doggs, Seth Rogans, Martha Stewarts, and other celebrity name sakes, come onto the scene, dubbing some strain of cannabis after their namesake...For example, Seth’s new Houseplant brand in Canada just announced “Houseplant Indica, Houseplant Sativa, Houseplant Hybrid…” -Do you think that Seth grew these strains, let alone bred them? The answer is, likely not… Most of these celebrity endorsements are snatching up an existing strain like “Chem” and renaming it “Houseplant Sativa” as if that brand owns or created the strain. The companies have large marketing budgets to rebrand a strain claiming it as their own. Collectives are doing the same thing with their in-house “OG” strains, essentially its a white label deal with a grower they worked out.
Why does this matter? I believe in authenticity, transparency, and giving credit where due. The breeders and growers before me, and current, have all fought long and hard to be here. None of us had an easy ride, this community has bled to be here. I think the genetics shouldn’t be subject to the strain name game, and we should consider honoring the lineage in the name or description, giving credit to the breeders who contributed before, and transparency in how it was created. This benefits future producers and consumers with a roadmap outlining the strains possibilities, and paying homage to the artists who opened the strain up for the community.
I work with seed breeders and seed banks alike, and the solution for any cannabis cultivation company coming into the space, or already existing, is to license out the breeder’s strains and brand, in return for a royalty on each seed sold or flower produced. It's no different then the flower and Ag industry, who has commercial and craft breeders alike producing new varieties for propagation.
In the near future we will see something more like a celebrity endorsing a strain but giving credit to the breeder and farm that grew it, in a collaborative fashion like:
Nick Boomer’s select Wedding Cream
bred by Boom’s Genetics, Grown by Boomspharm…
The finished flower packaging will even have the breeder and grower’s logos on it, carrying the brand from seed to sale. This is a great marketing strategy as well, since consumers trust a brand that's already existing, and most breeders have a reputation and following, that would demand a premium price tag at retail.
If you're looking for CBD seeds this season be sure to check out Feno Seedbank and enter promo code “Boomspharm” to get 15% off your order anytime. Bulk deals inquire by responding to this email for options. THC seeds also available from a referral if needed just contact me!
In summary I hope you’ve gained a better understanding of cannabis genetics and testing, why it's important to support farms, brands, breeders, and producers, whom are transparent, and want to put out the best product, ethically. This is one of many ways we can ensure our cannabis community develops into the industry we all want to see, and it starts with you.
Have a great 4/20 holiday and be sure to light up one for me!
Stay tuned for more, and be sure to visit the new Boomspharm YouTube Channel & subscribe there for video feed. I’m in the process of setting up my new Podcast channel as well, which will be featuring guest speakers covering a variety of cannabis topics.