It’s common to see the same strains available from dispensary to dispensary but researchers are finding that you’re not always getting exactly what you think. Due to the variances in phenotypes and plain old mislabeling, one store’s Green Crack might have wildly different genetics than another’s.
Anna Schwabe, a Doctoral student studying population and evolutionary genetics at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, tested 122 strains of cannabis from Washington, Colorado and California. She tested widely available strains, including strains like Golden Goat, Blue Dream, Purple Kush and Green Crack, and analyzed their genetics. The results showed that strains that shared the same name varied from location to location. This is problematic for consumer who expect the same results from a strain regardless of where they purchase it.
Another troubling finding in Schwabe’s testing was the lack of genetic difference between strains labeled sativa and indica. For medical patients who seek relief from specific complaints purchasing a strain that doesn’t deliver expected effects can be a huge problem. There are no returns or exchanges for cannabis.
Some of the variance can be explained through mislabeling. Consumers simply can’t trust that what’s inside the package matches the outside. Lack of training and high retail employee turnover are likely contributors. But another problem is that cannabis doesn’t offer the same protections as other agricultural products (despite being held to the same regulations). For example, if you create a new apple or melon, you can name and claim that breed. There’s no such protection for cannabis cultivators, something the USDA needs to address.
Hopefully some of these inconsistencies will be addressed as all California retailers are required to sell only lab-tested cannabis, however consumers still have no guarantee they’re buying what was tested. Most cannabis industry experts agree that the only solution is an industry-wide, science-based system that allows cultivators to register their phenotypes and strains. However, this still doesn’t address problems such as relabeling a strain with a more popular name to increase sales or plain, old sloppy work.
Consumers can take some measures to protect themselves such as purchasing cannabis from legal and ethical businesses or cultivators they trust but ultimately cannabis sales remain a bit of a gamble and only experience will truly tell.