Strain Selecting 

Sure, it seems cool to have cannabis choices galore, but the buyer still needs to beware

I lived in Germany for a few years back in the day, and one of the stark differences between my grocery store there and the ones I was used to was the comparative lack of choices.

My neighborhood market there didn’t have a bread aisle; it had a bread section at the end of an aisle. There weren’t 15 varieties of wheat bread and 25 varieties of rye. There were one or two of each. Frankly, it kind of annoyed me at the time. I felt like I was being painted into a bread corner.

I usually don’t have to worry about that in cannabis dispensaries.

There are a lot of different strains of cannabis out there - literally thousands, in fact - and a lot of dispensaries carry a mind-boggling array of them. A recent scan of dispensary menus in Arizona showed that one dispensary had 28 strains. A few dispensaries had more than 20, and several had between 15 and 20. That’s a lot of choices.

Too many, maybe. It’s confusing, and the vast majority of people can’t tell the difference. I know a lot of people think they can tell, but I would love to see a cannabis taste test. I’m certain it would go the way numerous beer and soft drink comparisons have gone over the years - drinkers removing blindfolds only to be shocked to find that they didn’t pick their favorites.

Cannabis is basically broken down into two categories - sativa and indica. Though both are subspecies of Cannabis sativa, they have very different properties. Almost every strain is a hybrid of the two, though most lean one way or the other.

Sativas generally offer an uplifting experience, the kind of head buzz most people associate with marijuana. These strains are good for daytime pain relief, among other things. They sometimes make people nervous (me), but you probably won’t nod out during the day when you use them.

Indica strains generally offer more of a “body” buzz that sometimes leads to the stereotypical experience of couch lock. These strains, in my experience, offer better pain relief, and they are good for nighttime use. They help you sleep and calm you down - both highly sought-after traits.

Ultimately dispensaries simply don’t know what they’re selling. I’m sure most of them think they do, but they don’t. Period.

I had a conversation with a major grower a few months ago, and he openly admitted that even he couldn’t guarantee what he was growing, because the genetics of most marijuana plants is lost to history. I know of at least once case where a dispensary simply changed the name of a strain, because it looked different than the batch that was on the shelf. I don’t think that’s common, but I know it has happened.

A lot of people are growing cannabis in Arizona, and it’s winding up in dispensaries. I don’t think all of these growers are honest about what they have, and there isn’t any way to test it to find out. Buyer beware.

In any event, there are hundreds of cannabis strains available in Arizona dispensaries, just like there are hundreds of beers in liquor stores.

I guess one benefit of all this variety is that it will make it difficult for corporations to patent cannabis strains. The stuff is actually pretty easy to grow, and a lot of dispensaries are creating custom strains via cross-breeding. This is adding to the confusion.

I don’t really need or want dozens of strains to choose from. It’s a nightmare. I have tried many, many strains in the past couple years. I found a few that I like, and I stick with them, generally, when they’re available. The problem is that with so many strains out there, dispensaries don’t always have the same ones. It’s like deciding I like PBR, then going to the liquor store to find that they don’t have any this week. But this is America, dammit, and we demand choices. Many, many choices.

Even if we can’t tell the difference.

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