The cannabis market, compared to when the only market was the black market, has a lot of order. Almost all of the ‘order’ is around collecting taxes, not about the consumer.
The legal cannabis market is still developing. Yes, there are many regulations the individual states have passed, but they’re not designed to protect consumers. They’re intended to get as much cash in the coffers of the states as they can. The only consumer regulations are for pesticides, fungicides, etc., but these regulations are few and far between. Good cannabis shops test for chemical residue and purity of the product, but that’s about all. For the cannabis consumer, any grower can name their produce anything they want. There are no regulations about naming conventions around cannabis. Different strains could be called apricot or honeydew (and some are almost named like that!) but it doesn’t mean anything. There are also no regulations about what growers can (or cannot) call their trimmed and ready to smoke bud or shatter or oil or whatever. This needs to change. Consumers want a dependable product and the growers need to provide that. When I buy a Honeycrisp apple, I expect it to look and taste like a Honeycrisp apple. A honeycrisp apple is defined by its look and taste. There are rules about how these apples can be identified at retail. I may buy some bud called Blue Dream, but do I know if I’m really getting Blue Dream??? No.
When you go to your recreational or medical dispensary to purchase cannabis, do you know what you’re getting if you buy Jack Herrer? The short answer; Nope. The long answer is the strains that are called indica or sativa are probably some form of both. Some cannabis plants have long skinny leaves and some have shorter and wider leaves, but all produce the stuff that makes you high or kills pain or creates anxiety or everything all at once. Yes, there is absolutely a difference, but it’s not from the broad leaf vs. the skinny leaf varieties; i.e. sativa vs. indica. Cannabis cultivars have become so inbred that there are very few landrace (think of them as the original strains) varieties left. There are a few places who specialize in these old time strains, but even they’re not sure. Lamb’s Bread, purported to be sativa was actually almost 100% indica. And Lambs Bread is a name for an old Jamaican strain. And Jamaican strains were known to be originally from India, which are known to have been indica (the name partly gives it away) strains.
We’ve built (in several, but not all legal states) a “seed to sale” regulatory system. This is good. But in the legal market and there’s turmoil. The turmoil is in the lack of consistency for what the consumer is buying. The genetics of cannabis aren’t known very well at this point. Everything we see, hear, or read about this ‘strain’ or that ‘strain’ is wrong. We don’t know because we don’t understand the plant at least from a recreational perspective. The ‘indica’ you got at the dispensary or store is probably sativa. The sativa you got at the store? Who knows. Except that it’s cannabis. One HUGE advantage of the legal market is that at least we know we’re purchasing cannabis and not some fake sh*t that can kill or put you into a permanent catatonic state – like forever.
How do we figure out the whole strain thing? This is a good question to ask. Consumers obviously need product genetic testing. I hate to use the word ‘regulation’ but if the industry doesn’t do it on its own, eventually there will be regulations. And as cannabis becomes legal, there’s the “Fair Packaging and Labeling Act” of 1967. Here’s what it says in part:
“The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA or Act), enacted in 1967, directs the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration to issue regulations requiring that all “consumer commodities” be labeled to disclose net contents, identity of commodity, and name and place of business of the product’s manufacturer.”
But why should we wait for regulation? Wouldn’t it be nice if cannabis was the first market…ever…to create its own “Truth in Packaging” act internally. Perhaps a consortium of growers could get together, form a trade organization and lead the way. Now that would be something.