What's in a Name?
Updated: Oct 6
A strain by another name would smell as skunky. Perhaps...and perhaps not.
"Cannabis is the most complex chemovar out of all the plants in the whole plant species," explained Cameron Taylor, Cannabis Steward for Shore Natural RX, a grower here on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. He and I grabbed lunch a few weeks back and nerded out over our beloved plant and its many benefits. We discussed eco-tourism, mycellium communication, the importance of knowing where what you ingest is coming from, and why it is crucial to embrace scientific nomenclature for a successful experience and the destigmatization of an industry and resource under constant scrutiny.
So how does a guy go from growing ganja in Salisbury at the age of 14 and then a condo in Ocean City at 19 to running the grow show of multiple crops, both cannabis and hemp? How does he go from words like "pot strain" to "cannabis chemotype?" Necessity and evolution.
While I have long since distanced the word "marijuana" from my lexicon for its xenophobic history, there is still great appreciation to be found for the lingering locution, such as "reefer," "grass," "jive," and, "gauge." Like those mentioned, many of the codes used today originated in the Jazz Age when prohibition was gaining its momentum and the practice of hyper-priming was in a full swing. Get it? Swing? *badum chump* It is a gift of circumstance that prohibition provided decades of opportunity to name variations after anything and everything, from champions of the cause like Jack Herer and Willie Nelson, to the descriptive Lemon Skunk and Strawberry Cough, to the wild and unusual Alaskan Thunderf*ck and Ghost of Mujahideen. I'll never forget my second week in working behind the counter of a dispensary when I weighed out my first ounce for an elderly patient with arthritis and neuropathy. "Hello, dear," he said, "give me an ounce of that Pootie Tang." He didn't care what the name was; he cared that it worked. For now, and hopefully always, those names are ours to keep (unless you're in Canada, sadly). These words are the language of love for a plant of innumerable healing capabilities, from generations of wellness seekers. They are reminiscent of the revolution that continues to rage around the world, including several of our United States. These words helped get us where we are today. Despite much room to grow, grow this industry shall, and the entire United States will have legal cannabis medicine, as is the divine right of every human being on this planet. That being said, as the industry grows, and as the science finally begins to catch up, so will the understanding of "mota's" magic. Of course the lingo of long ago is an essential element to understanding a significant period of the plant's history, but that is what it is...a period.
Thus returns the plant to its bygone roots and its scientific terminology. Dancing with "Mary Jane" in social circles is significantly connected to the ritual and ceremony of cannabis wellness, certainly; however, understanding the chemical composition of your medicine is paramount to mindfully medicating, and the strain name is merely a rough list of ingredients. It's hardly a recipe for wellness when so much trial and error is already required for establishing an effective regimen. Educating on true classification can make all the difference between a really bad day and a really awesome one, and as much as I love our beloved strain names, they are just names. When a patient would come to the dispensary looking for the same strain they had a few months back, which was now well out of season, I would inquire about the terpene profile of the strain that served them so well, and identify a strain of similar makeup for similar efficacy, In other words, I would find a cultivar of similar chemotype,
Chemotypes/Chemovars: a subspecies of a plant, such as types of cannabis that are grouped according to their most abundant cannabinoid (CBD, THC, etc.)
Cultivars: a plant variety that has been produced in cultivation by selective breeding
A simple analogy to identify with is that of tea. You aren't likely to reach for a chamomile and lavender combination (indica) to sip on your way to work any more than you'll want to steep a bag of caffeinated green tea with ginseng and lemon (sativa) at bedtime. If you experience a negative reaction to a new tea blend, and you recognize that ingredients are varied and shared amongst different blends, you will want to find out which ingredient specifically instigated an uncomfortable response and avoid it in future. If you find a tea that serves you very well and cradles your aching joints like a warm blanket, you'll want to know what that recipe is for recreation. Such control is still being fine-tuned, but it is here. It's not in the strain name, it's in the chemovar. Right now we in the U.S. are all at the mercy of greenhouse space in our respective states, unable to trade across lines. This makes it difficult for states to grow what's native to their region as demand increases and seasons change, which can also limit the variety available in a given state or region. Shore Natural RX is one of few cannabis growers in Maryland to grow any medicine outdoors. The majority of cannabis in the country is cultivated indoors, though Cameron says, "that will change when everyone can grow [at home]." This is where we are heading. To the day when we are able to specifically tailor our medicine to our precise needs via molecular design and comprehension, and to farming cultivars outside according to their geographical specifications.
Cannabis cognizance can feel overwhelming after being suppressed and stigmatized for so long, but if you can decide a cup of tea for yourself, you can discern an effective cannabis terpene and cannabinoid profile that suits your needs. It's like believing learning to read a map is too difficult in the age of the GPS dependency, but literally every generation since Magellan has gotten around the world with maps, and some of them didn't even know the Earth isn't flat. In fact, maps date back as far as the 5th century BCE, and evidence of hemp has been found that date it back to the 5th millennium BCE. As human beings, we are thankfully capable of learning new things, even if they are only new to us and in actuality very ancient to the world. Sometimes we do need a little help learning these things and could use the support of an educated mentor. Maybe I can be that mentor for you. Book your free Discovery Session today and let's find out.