Interesting post I read on another forum.
Story is from Wired Mag a few years ago, love that Mag, or did, its more of a Tech Trend Mag now esp in print form, grrrr!!
SO, MY BROTHER was like “Bro check out this Blueberry Kush,” and I was like, kind of sketched out because last week my cousin was like “Bro check out this Blueberry Kush,” and even then I was like “This Blueberry Kush looks a lot like the Purple Sour Diesel that I got from that girl I was contact dancing with at Golden Gate Park last weekend” and even that stuff wasn’t even all that purple. It was like, red colored. Plus I think it smelled different?
Yo, I’m only saying this because it’s not my imagination. Check it out, Rasta: A pair of Canadian plant scientists compared the genes of hundreds of Cannabis plants and found that the way the community names its plants is all messed up. This goes all the way down to the basic split between strains of weed that supposedly give you an uppy high versus something more mellow.
First of all, chill out. Nobody is trying to narc anyone out. In Canada—where the government is way more ‘lax about Mary Jane—the authors compared the DNA of about 130 different Cannabis plants. This means both marijuana and hemp. They didn’t make any assumptions, because good scientists don’t judge, bro.
Instead, they just had their computer group the different Cannabis strains according to their genomes. “We chop all those genomes up into about 14,000 small pieces, and use a method to compare those pieces across different samples,” says Sean Myles, an agricultural geneticist at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and author of the paper. “After you’ve looked at the same portions of DNA across all samples you can get an idea of how related they are.”
The first split cleanly separated hemp from marijuana. “Previously many people had thought that the two were only different at the specific gene that regulates expression of THC,” says Myles.
From there, things got dicey. In the marijuana community, weed is grouped into two basic groups: Sativa has tall, thin leaves, and is supposed to give uppy, euphoric highs, while Indica, which has short, fat leaves is supposed to give you that nice body chill. But the Indica/Sativa divide wasn’t well supported in the data. Like, Jamaican Lamb’s Bread, which is supposed to be a Sativa strain, was pretty much identical to some Afghani Indica. “They’re not totally wrong, but the split is nowhere near as accurate as you’d need to be in another horticultural crop with a formal classification system,” says Myles.
And that trickles down into the whole strain naming convention. Think about if you had a case of the munchies, and bought what were advertised as some sweet, juicy Fuji apples. Then you get home, and instead you’ve got a bunch of mealy Braeburns. Yech!
But this goes beyond simple branding issues. Marijuana is a medicinal drug in many places in the US and Canada, and distributors use those names to help patients manage things like anxiety, glaucoma, or chronic pain. “The thing that is important is the medical community claims that Indica is good for certain things, and Sativa is good for others, but that must all be hog wash because the Indica/Sativa labels don’t correlate well with the genetics,” says Myles.
This isn’t some big weed industry conspiracy though. More likely, it stems from the fact that marijuana cultivation was underground for so long. And The Man still makes it really hard for scientists to study that Sweet Jane.
Finally, not everybody growing pot knows how breeding works. If you clone your friend’s Sour Diesel from a cutting, then it’s totally cool to call the new plant Sour Diesel. But, if you get a seed labeled as “Sour Diesel,” there’s no way that’s the same plant. Even if the seed came from a female Sour Diesel mated with a male Sour Diesel. Think about it this way: Even if a pair of male and female human clones had sex and made a baby (sorry for the visual), that kid would not be an exact genetic copy. The genes get mixed up, and therefore the baby deserves a new name.
But as the social and legal windows shift towards acceptance, some sort of formal classification will be necessary. “From an industry standpoint, there have been moves towards developing more consistency,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “There’s no real centralized information, so it’s difficult for people to tell one strain of Strawberry Kush from the next.”
West says genetic testing will be hugely important, not just because it will standardize the medicinal aspect of weed and make clinical trials possible, but also for intellectual property reasons. “Right now because there’s no federal oversight on the US market, you don’t have things like trademarks or intellectual property,” she says.
That interest in genetics doesn’t surprise Myles, considering the marijuana industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the US. “I’m volunteering to take that on, in case anybody asks,” Myles says, for any weed growers out there who want to get their strains in order.