Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Name Game: What's the real scoup on Medical Marijuana strains' genetic lineage?

With so many dispensaries popping up everywhere here in Denver and other parts of Colorado, the medical market is slowly falling prey to a problem that plagued the black market for decades: We're talking, of course, about the name game.

The name game is when a retailer of cannabis simply gives the commercial pot they are selling a famous name, such as "kush" or "skunk" and many varieties on these two names. It has been used on the black market for years to move mid grade buds off the shelves.

However, this practice becomes immediately more troubling in regard to Medical Marijuana. The reason for this is that many patients suffering from severe nausea or pain truly need particular strains or genetic lines [often pure Afghanis (Indicas) work wonders for pain, for instance] in order to experience relief from their symptoms. Dispensaries mislabeling their product might result in less than adequate medicine for many patients.

As a longtime cultivator of Cannabis I find myself constantly tracking down the lineage of strains in dispensaries I visit. The benefit of my experience here comes in being familiar with the true breeder of origin [or story of origin for clone-only strains such as Chem/Dawg] for many popular strains today. Many times I become immediately aware that a strain a dispensary is selling is not what they are touting it to be.

I don't want to get into too much finger-pointing, but I will give as an example here a recent visit I made to a local organic dispensary here in Denver. While in the waiting room of this dispensary, I decided to check out their clones, which were in rockwool [I generally expect organic clones to be in peat pellets or else rapid rooter plugs]. The clones were labeled on their respective plastic domes with signs about what strains were contained and their basic genetic lineage [Indica /Sativa].

Canabis Indica Leaf Canabis Sativa leaf

The first strain I viewed made me scratch my head. The sign advertised that it was Afghani #1, then labeled it as a pure Sativa. To provide a little background here, Afghani #1 was bred by Sensi Seeds by taking their finest landrace indica varieties and inbreeding them for many generations, until a very consistent, pure result was eventually distilled, which became Afghani #1.

In a sense, Afghani #1 is considered a Landarace Indica [Also known as an IBL or Inbred Line], which means it is one of the purest Indica's on the planet. [A cannabis Landrace is a marijuana plant that has been geographically isolated from the possibility of cross-breeding with any other marijuana strain of a similar plant species., and then selectively inbred for many generations for purity and potency.]

And yet what they had in the dome was clearly a sativa dominant strain, with longer, thin leaves and long internodes. Whatever it was, this strain was in no way related to Afghani #1, which has fat, stubby indica leaves, [and incidentally is excellent for pain, as where a pure sativa like what I saw in the dome is not likely to have nearly the desired effect for a patient suffering from chronic pain].

So how does the average consumer, not familiar with genetic lineages, ever verify their medicine's true identity? The answer is research. Shop around on the net, go to breeders' websites and really thumb through their information. Keep a list of the most respected breeders in the industry, and familiarize yourself with their strains. Most of all, ASK QUESTIONS of the dispensary employee selling you the medicine.

Simply put, if that employee seems unstable with their information, they are not fit to be providing you with care, and I suggest you take your caregiver status elsewhere, with true professionals and students of marijuana strains as medicine.

I wanted to give a bump here in this blog post today (the link is below in the next paragraph) to a post made on the forum of a very respected breeder, Sensi Seeds (Holland). The post was made by an administrator to the forum, and it very clearly lays out some of the hysteria associated with bunk strain names, and the bunk perception that marijuana is somehow more potent now in the medical world than it was 25-30 years ago. This belief is not founded in any form of reality, and here's why.

I mentioned Landrace strains earlier in my post. Many Landraces have been being cultivated for hundreds of years and passed down through families for generations, constantly selectively breeding the finest specimens together until a potent, uniform version can generally be distilled from nearly every seed phenotype.

The belief that we've somehow accomplished more in 20 years of selective breeding than was accomplished in hundreds is naive at best, manipulative at worst. Check out the forum post here, and find more information on Landraces and their use in creating many of the strains you know and love, here.

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