A recent analysis of popular marijuana strains revealed widespread “genetic inconsistencies” that raise questions about what consumers are really getting at their local dispensaries.
The study, released last week, looked at 122 samples of 30 common cannabis strains, obtained from dispensaries in multiple cities around the United States. It turns out that strain names don’t appear to be reliable indicators of a given product’s actual genetic profile.
That might strike consumers as surprising, especially considering the fact that commercially available cannabis products are often reproduced through cloning and “stable seed strains.” Even so, the researchers found “evidence of genetic variation…indicating the potential for inconsistent products for medical patients and recreational users.”
While the study’s findings might disappoint recreational users who studied up on a strain’s reported effects on sites like Wikileaf, it poses a particular issue for medical marijuana patients who seek out specific strains to treat various health conditions, the researchers noted.
The factors behind the unreliability
The fundamental problem in cannabis strain inconsistency is that marijuana is federally illegal, limiting research and regulatory opportunities, and there’s currently no industry-wide system “to verify strains,” the study authors wrote. Therefore, “suppliers are unable to provide confirmation of strains.”
“Exclusion from protection, due to the Federal status of Cannabis as a Schedule I drug, has created avenues for error and inconsistencies.”
“Without verification systems in place, there is the potential for misidentification and mislabeling of plants, creating names for plants of unknown origin, and even re-naming or re-labeling plants with prominent names for better sale. Cannabis taxonomy is complex, but given the success of microsatellites to determine varieties in other crops, we suggest the using genetic-based approaches to provide identification information for strains in the medical and recreational marketplace.”
Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association, told Marijuana Moment that he agreed with that recommendation.
“We have been calling for an industry wide science-based system for several years,” he said, citing a legislative accomplishment in 2016 that mandated the California Department of Food and Agriculture “establish a process by which licensed cultivators may establish appellations of standards, practices, and varietals applicable to cannabis grown” in the state.
“Having universities finally able to engage in this type of research is one of the most exciting outcomes of legal reform,” Allen said. “This is an important step the multi-year effort to document and catalog the extensive culture of cannabis.”
“We envision a well informed market, where consumers ask questions before making a purchase. How is grown? Where is it grown? What type was grown? The answers to all of these questions hold great promise for humanity.”
In the new study, which was not peer-reviewed, the researchers at the University of Northern Colorado also pointed out that increased cross-breeding on cannabis strains (hybrids) has contributed to genetic inconsistencies.
“The results are clear: strain inconsistency is evident and is not limited to a single source, but rather exists among dispensaries across cities in multiple states.”
It’s not just the strains that showed genetic variation. The study also indicated that the cannabis categories “indica,” “sativa” and “hybrid” may be unreliable.
“If genetic differentiation of the commonly perceived Sativa and Indica types previously existed, it is no longer detectable in the neutral genetic markers [the researchers used],” according to the study. “Extensive hybridization and selection has presumably created a homogenizing effect and erased evidence of potentially divergent historical genotypes.”
The team’s findings are consistent with a 2015 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, which also analyzed the cannabis genetics and determined that “marijuana strain names often do not reflect a meaningful genetic identity.”
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See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Marijuana Strain Labeling Likely Misleading, Study Says
Boston OG, oh how I love thee. Let me count the ways.
These beautiful buds were acquired from the Good Meds Network dispensary located at 8420 W Colfax Ave, Lakewood, Colorado. These particular samples were on the smaller side, but each one was quite dense. The scent profile for Boston OG is simply delightful. These flowers smelled bright, clean, and herbal with a slightly sweet scent of berries.
One small-ish nug provided enough for 4 bong poppers (filling the water pipe with only enough for one green hit at a time). Each puff of the super harsh smoke was worse on my throat than the last, but each left a subtle aftertaste of citrus and black pepper that was quite pleasant, despite all the coughing.
I quickly realized that this strain must be high in alpha-pinene because it is definitely a bronchodilator and expectorant. I did not notice a strong pine smell with these flowers, so this caught me off-guard. The expectorant quality in strains is not very common, in my experience, but I have definitely encountered this in a few other strains that I have sampled. If it was not for the extreme level of harshness of this strain’s smoke, I would definitely suggest it be used to treat the common cold or other non-asthmatic ailments that involve face and chest congestion. Mucinex cannot compete with Boston OG (in my non-medical-professional opinion). My body continued to flush all congestion from my lungs and face, and although that period of time was almost torturous, in the aftermath, I could not remember the last time I had been able to breath so clearly.
Did I mention that I sampled this strain before hitting the jogging trail behind my house for my usual “how does this strain affect my workout” experiment? This process of cleansing was not the most ideal way to begin my workout, and although it made the first fifteen minutes more challenging, it was not bad enough to make me stop. I like to think that it also made my jogging more entertaining for the people I passed on the trail. I can only imagine that it seemed as though I was practicing my dinosaur call.
Once the flushing subsided, I was able to notice the beautiful energizing burst of euphoria that had settled into my brain. I was not able to tell for sure if this strain caused the increased heart rate that I normally associate with such euphoria because I was running. Sometimes, I also experience feelings of anxiety with strains that produce such a strong cerebral effect, but Boston OG did not cause any such feelings for me. It did, however, enhance my sense of humor. I do not believe I’ve ever giggled so much during a workout.
The whole time on the trail, I felt extreme, stress-free mental energy. My mind was going a million miles an hour, covering a thousand different thoughts at once in a very unfocused, space-cadet fashion. I was ready to take on the world! Then, suddenly, at nearly the sixty minute mark, my muscles and eyes became super relaxed. My thoughts became consumed with how much I would love to lie down or at least close my eyes, but there is no way my energized mind would have allowed me to actually sleep. Essentially, my mind was fiercely competing in the Boston Marathon, while my body was on the couch watching Friends. Luckily, I was almost home by this point. The euphoric energy is the only thing that pushed me through to the end of my run.
Once home and breathing regularly, I noticed how uplifted my mood was, and I felt another wave of intense mental energy that inspired a strong desire to clean, which is not a feeling I experience often. That quickly subsided when another tidal wave of muscle and eyelid exhaustion hit. If only there had been a way for me to clean the house and seize the day, as my mind was commanding, without having to move my body. As the Boston OG was leaving me, the mental energy wore off, but the humor and spaciness prevailed throughout the remainder of the day.
In summary, Boston OG provides serene mental energy that combats feelings of anxiety and stress, and induces intense waves of body relaxation that do not necessarily result in actual drowsiness. Therefore, this strain would not be best suited for anyone looking to sleep, but I would deem it acceptable for daytime use. Novice users beware, this strain may be a little intense, so start off with just one hit.
photo credit: running.competitor.com