Letter from the Editor

A strain by any other name—would smell a lot sweeter

There comes a point in the life of every fledgling industry when it’s no longer fledgling, but all grown up. California’s medical-cannabis industry, 13 going on 14 years old, isn’t quite there yet, but it’s time we started thinking about what we want to be when we get out of school.

Are we going to be a mature and responsible business, to be held up as a shining example for other states to emulate? Or are we going to wallow in our adolescence, eventually turning into that no-longer-promising waste-head up the street still living in his parents’ basement and blowing all his money on video games?

The choice is ours to make, but it’ll be made for us if we don’t quit goofing off and start acting our age.

A good place to begin showing some maturity might be for growers to reconsider how they go about naming new cannabis stains. How will medical cannabis ever cross the line into true legitimacy if we keep saddling our medicines with handles like Baked Alaska, Jack the Ripper or Stoney Baloney? If we really hope for medical pot to be fully mainstreamed in America, we need to give our products names that wouldn’t make the average American cringe while saying them.

I do hope for cannabis to be fully embraced by society. But take my word for it: Only in a Seth Rogen comedy would we ever see a drug commercial where someone says, “I used to suffer from constant headaches, but then my doctor prescribed me Stoney Baloney.”

Cannabis is a sacred herb, revered throughout the millennia for its beauty and beneficial properties. The ancient Indians named it “ganja” after their holiest river, the Ganges, and considered it a gift from one of their most powerful deities—Shiva.

So when did we get it in our heads that the best names we could give this divine plant were “Big Mac,” “Cat Piss,” “Fast Freddy,” “Hell’s Angel” or “Thunderfuck Diesel?” Some have even labeled their products after assault weapons, like “AK 47” and “AK 48,”or—worse—weapons of mass destruction (“C-4” and “WMD” are two big examples). Weapons are the opposite of medicine—one kills, the other heals.

None of this is to say that strains like AK 47 and Cat Piss aren’t very good products. All the strains mentioned above are excellent varieties, representing years of hard work and determination by those who made them. It’s also easy to understand why they were given such attention-grabbing monikers: Faced with so much competition, growers want the fruits of their labors to stand out in the crowd.

That’s perfectly understandable. But perhaps there’s a better way to accomplish this goal. Instead of naming strains after fast-food burgers or biker gangs, why not work off a list of items in the natural world, like “Sunflower” or “Blue Jay?” Famed grower DJ Short proved you could do that and still be successful when he simply named one of his creations “Blueberry.”

Better, why not pay homage to the sacred nature of cannabis by christening strains after the gods and goddesses of old? The general public might have a lot easier time accepting a medicine named “Zeus” or “Isis” than one named Fast Freddy.

At the very least, when considering naming a new strain, growers should ask themselves if the name under consideration passes the “Grandma test.” Would they really want their 89-year-old grandmother to have to walk into a pharmacy and ask for a gram of Thunderfuck Diesel for her arthritis? If not, then perhaps they should consider coming up with something else.

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