If you're a cannabis connoisseur, then you probably have a favorite strain that you buy whenever you hit up the local dispensary. But as it turns out, you might not actually be receiving the same stuff each time, even if it's all called the same thing.
In most cases, cannabis growers use techniques like cloning and "stable seed samples" to produce consistent and predictable products. However, some researchers claim that these processes aren't enough to ensure consistency. Cannabis strains are commonly mislabeled, and strain names often aren't a reliable means of identifying genetic differences between plants. So, just because you always buy the bag that says OG Kush on the sticker, that doesn't mean you're actually getting the same weed every time.
Many of the inconsistencies of cannabis strains can be traced back to the federal limitations on scientific studies of cannabis, according to researchers from the University of Northern Colorado. There are few systems in place to verify the genetic makeup of various strains and that can lead to mislabeling issues.
"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," write the study authors.
The researchers also showed that it's not only strains that have this issue. The broad categories of indica and sativa are susceptible as well. They go so far as to say those distinctions may not exist at all any more.
"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]."
The lack of reliable distinctions between different strains may be annoying for recreational consumers but could pose more serious problems for medicinal users who need predictable effects for treatment of their illnesses. Advocates like Hezekiah Allen—executive director of the California Growers Association—are hopeful that more regulations can go into place soon.
"We have been calling for an industry wide science-based system for several years," Allen said. "We envision a well informed market, where consumers ask questions before making a purchase."