Article by Susan Ormiston, CBC News
Red Diesel, Moby Dick, Lemon Burst, or how about Girl Scout Cookies? All names for “bud,” the cannabis flower, and when the black market product goes legal in Canada this summer expect some heavy marketing of fancy names and their tantalizing effects.
But plant scientists say the “sell” is hazy. Those buds have a mixed-up lineage and don’t always match what’s advertised.
It’s about genetics, and cannabis is a mixed breed, to say the least.
With more than 100 creative names for pot, each variant is said to have slightly different properties and that translates into different effects, according to vendors.
“Moby Dick is a really popular sativa, fantastic for stress, and it’s got like a really kind of citrusy sweet nose,” says Clint Younge, who sells pot from his dispensary in Hamilton to clients with medical marijuana prescriptions.
As for Lemon Burst, it’s “kind of euphoric and energizing, a daytime strain,” while “Red Diesel, straight sativa, makes you feel relaxed. There’s no anxiety with Red Diesel.”
But pot strains don’t all live up to their billing, according to Sean Myles, a plant scientist and assistant professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
“Every time you get Bubba Kush it should taste and smell like Bubba Kush. It should behave like Bubba Kush. What we found is that it’s not actually the case … while it is the case in apples, you can’t say the same for marijuana,” says Myles, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on apple genetics.
Different types of pot are more like hybrid mutts, he says, when compared to other carefully cultivated products with clear genetic history such as the MacIntosh Apple.
Unlike well-tended apple orchards, pot has grown wild all over the world for centuries. And since it has been raised and traded illegally in so many places, there’s been no regulation or consistency of strains.
Most cannabis is generally defined as being one of two species, either sativa or indica. Sativa is thought to have a more invigorating, uplifting effect, whereas indica may be more relaxing or sedating.
But research led by Myles and Jonathan Page, a botanist at UBC, revealed that pot genetics are so interbred that saying a type of weed has one ancestry or the other can often be false.
“It’s often the case that these names they’ve associated with these marijuana strains do not represent any meaningful genetic identity,” Myles says.
Take Jamaican Lamb’s Bread – which was reported to be 100 per cent sativa by a cannabis producer. In the test by Myles and his team, it turned out to be nearly 100 per cent indica, the opposite species.
In 35 per cent of the 81 strains tested, the genetics did not match those advertised.