How to Decipher the Cultivar Names

How to Decipher the Cultivar Names
Learn from the source

When I first moved to Canada over 20 years ago, I started working in plant maintenance.

In Mexico, you could never get any consistency of product unless you went to places like Oaxaca where small native communities breed and grow the country’s finest ganja.

Immediately after my first few jobs here in Canada, I noticed that morphologies and aromas were consistent with names at most sites I was working at.

After 10 years of bouncing from site to site, I could recognize most classic cuts from my region, a skill that opened many doorways for me later in life. I was lucky enough to have good mentors and learn from the source of good cannabis – passionate, caring growers.

Where things went wrong

Then dispensaries started to move in hard around 2010. And I do mean dispensaries, not compassion clubs, because those two are different and compassion clubs were already around doing great work for a good decade before the dispensary scene really exploded.

This second wave of more profit-driven retailers ushered in a whole new type of cannabis entrepreneur, most of which had little knowledge of or respect for the plant and the tradition that stands behind it.

Name changing had always happened at the street level, but this context magnified the issue to a whole new level because of the highly aggressive competitiveness of this newly developed above-ground sector. It was rampant.

Meanwhile, in the background, the community of BC growers and breeders involved in producing some of the highest quality bud on this earth always knew exactly what they were growing and why. I hate to have to remind people that good weed does not come out of a void. Those who understand how to breed and/or grow ‘quads’ – as in top-grade cannabis – are never too intent on giving up their secrets. But it’s truly a beautiful thing when the right grower pairs up with the right cut. That’s when legends are born.

If a name is hot, you don’t change it

It’s illogical. Why would you change the thing that defines the product that sells? Why would you deprive your public to be able to consistently connect with that product?

This is why names like Blueberry and Congolese remain unchanged through the decades. No, not everybody has the real Congo or Blueberry, but those growing at the highest level tend to have the real deal because their reputation depends on it. And it’s not just that people will call you out, it’s also that good growers understand that without the ‘real deal’ there is only so much buzz they can generate.

If and when a cultivar’s name gets changed at street level, it tends to be at the moment that a genetic is fizzling out in terms of its public appeal, but this ploy is never effective.

For example, Slurricane by legendary BC breeders In-house Genetics became ‘Donkey Butter’ shortly before it was largely discontinued by most illicit growers because it just wouldn’t sell.

Underground growers know that there is no point in growing played out genetics that the street already spat out. Strange how most in the legal sector continue to think that they can use the very same rejects to win. Cultivar names that stand the test of time do not obtain their enduring quality through the ‘good marketing’ endowed upon them by their name. This is a myth maintained by those inexperienced in the gustatory appreciation of quality product.

Why are academics confused?

If you just came into the legal industry in the past decade and your initial exposure to cannabis was always limited to your local street dealer and/or an illicit dispensary, then your perception of what is going on behind the scenes in our community has been heavily skewed.

When illicit dispensary organizations became the filter for most people to gain access to the world of cannabis, both the public and academic realm were fed a story about the breeder and grower community that was simply not true. 

This is why there are so many publications in the states that claim to ‘prove’ that there is nothing to cultivar names. These publications are nothing short of a great example of how sampling error can skew our perception of the fundamental driving forces behind the cannabis scene. No university researcher has ever approached the cannabis community from an anthropological standpoint first, to understand the big picture before deciding that the tail is the whole of the elephant.

Decrypting our community’s symbols

Breeders have always understood that names are only worth the community of consumers that stand behind them. Think about it: what is a name other than a symbol that means something to a group of people that can associate this name with a particular type of plant or population that has a nuanced, aromatic profile and/or growth pattern?

Let’s try an example:

Hindu Kush

What does this symbol mean to those with the ability to read it?

It means:

  • The smell of pine, skunk and earth.
  • A short bushy morphology, underwhelming in terms of its production capacity — by modern standards — and producing small but dense bulbous buds of dark green coloration.
  • An expected maturation period of 8-9 weeks.
  • That the ancestry of these plants comes from populations still residing to this day in the Hindu Kush valleys of Northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Biochemically speaking, it means myrcene, BCP and limonene dominance with mid-THC content (17%-20%).  

Many try to make the argument that there is no way to determine if a genetic has Kush in it or not because of how much hybridization has occurred in the recent past.

This argument will never hold water to those who grew up growing and smoking Hindu Kush and her descendants, each of which draws from this mother line in its own way.

Convenient ignorance, but not bliss

In the end, it is easier for those in positions of power within both industry and academia to simply claim that ‘there is nothing to learn’, avoiding the implication of an enormous gap in their understanding of this plant and the people who have made it what it is today.

What’s worse is that far from showing appreciation, disdain and disregard has been actively expressed by the academic and corporate sectors for the work of underground farmers and breeders because they simply do not understand it.  

This is a very convenient form of ignorance for those who have built their fortunes on the IP of a community that has up to now remained mostly marginalized from the realm of legality. Things are slowly changing but have we truly recognized the unethical foundations upon which our past and present legal industry stands?

It is the disregard for the achievements of that cannabis community that have set our legal sector back years because nobody understood that having the right name that hails from the right source has always been one of the driving forces behind successful cannabis operations.

Why would legality change this?

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