Remember the first time you tasted a Honeycrisp apple? It was a sudden and glorious change from the mealy, waxy apples of the past and its introduction would go on to elevate apples to a whole new level in grocery stores, eventually becoming quite expensive.

Today, the produce section is full of Honeycrisp’s cousins, though shoppers might not know it because the names have been changed and even been trademarked for marketing purposes. The whole story is its own episode of the Planet Money podcast.

Here’s how these apples compare to cannabis
Something similar happened in the recent history of cannabis, when dispensaries exposed consumers to cultivars with exciting names they had only read about until then. Or, perhaps, they saw that movie, Pineapple Express.

Blue Dream became everyone’s best friend, starting with Colorado dispensary shoppers, and it didn’t stop there. Dispensaries were under pressure to have at least a few apothecary jars of ultra-popular strains such as Green Crack, White Widow, Super Lemon Haze, MK Ultra, Northern Lights, Chemdawg or U.K. Cheese on hand. Maybe even some Cannatonic or Harlequin for those who were savvy to the CBD.

Soon enough, the term strain started to fall away and was replaced by the more accurate cultivar or variety, and the names of those crowd-pleasing flowers either remained the same or got a makeover. For example, Tantalus Labs and Aurora Cannabis Inc. both produce Blue Dream for the recreational market. Liiv, on the other hand, has a cultivar named Easy Cheesy, the roots of which, depending on your knowledge, will be obvious or obscure.

Branding a consideration in any name change

To change the name of a cultivar is more often than not a branding play, with the goal being to have a product that the market loves, but with a name that’s different and memorable.

To change the name of a cultivar is more often than not a branding play, with the goal being to have a product that the market loves, but with a name that’s different and memorable.

Another reason that a legacy name may have morphed into a different moniker for the legal market, though, is that the original name is considered too appealing to youth. Nova Scotia licensed producer (LP) Highland Grow, for example, was asked by Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC Cannabis) to mellow out the name of its iteration of Ice Cream. That product is now marketed as Sweet Tartan while the rest of Highland’s offerings—White RussianSensistar and All Kush—maintain their legacy names.

The breeder who developed the Honeycrisp apple, David Bedford, did so at a trial orchard at the University of Minnesota. If cannabis breeders are like Bedford growing his apple trees, then Brad Martin is Bedford as he taste-tests apples from all 5,000 to 6,000 trees in his university orchard. Martin, the director of marijuana market research firm Cann Standard, writes strain reviews under the name, Pancakenap. Preferring to know the history of what he’s smoking, he once wrote a review for Edison’s La Strada (medical patients may know it as Organigram Holdings Inc.’s proprietary cultivar, Acadia), stating that the product’s “lack of transparency takes the fun out of it and is really unsettling.”

Martin has tried the Blue Dream in flower form from Aurora, Tantalus Labs and Starseed, as well as a similar product called Blue Haze from Maricann. He reports on his blog that all three are quite distinct in their physical characteristics and effects.

In a phone interview, Martin describes Tantalus Labs’ Blue Dream as “richer”, while others were “bone dry,” though he tells The GrowthOp that could be the result of the Tantalus product coming directly from the company via its medical program, while the others were ordered through Alberta Cannabis.

Can people depend on a hard link between the strain and its name?

One thing to consider between cultivars of the same name, says Nick Trueman, founder and principal consultant of Erie Rest Group, is that the final product depends on the breeder providing the seeds or clones. “Blue Dream, for example, a very, very popular strain available from easily 20-plus different genetics breeders, and every one of those Blue Dreams will typically be a little bit different, unless one of those breeders got their Blue Dream from another breeder,” Trueman reports.

He reckons that most legacy genetics have made it into the Canadian cannabis landscape already, characterizing the rebranding of these strains by specific LPs as unfortunate. “As a consultant,” says Trueman, “I always recommend that LPs at least reference the original genetics name because anyone coming from the grey or black market is typically very well-connected in terms of those names, instead of some made-up name, which is the type of name we’re seeing right now.”

With Martin’s help, The GrowthOp identified what larger LPs are keeping the legacy names alive. Several LPs were identified as retaining the legacy names of their crops: Whistler Medical Marijuana Corporation, WeedMD, Canna Farms Ltd., Tilray, 7Acres by The Supreme Cannabis Company Inc., Flowr Corporation, Seven Oaks Inc., DNA Genetics (by Canopy Growth Corporation) and Saturday (an adult-use cannabis brand by Starseed) are taking that path so far. Others, like Tantalus Labs, RedeCan Pharm, Aurora, Acreage Pharms Ltd. and Solace Health’s Haven St. brand, offer a mix of legacy and proprietary cultivars.

Some LPs opting to rebrand

Producers such as Tweed and Figr, Inc. are taking the rebranding route. Many Tweed products sport names inspired by Scotland, but those in the know report they are growing popular legacy cultivars like Hindu Kush, AK-47 and Chemdawg. Figr, which uses numbers instead of names, is growing Sensistar, Wappa and CBD Shark.

Consumers looking for Green Crack (by The Cali Connection) might try out Green Cush because WeedMD, Tilray, Dubon and Canaca (both of which belong to High Park), BlissCo Cannabis Corp. and some others grow it under that name. There’s also a strain called Rise, which is Cove’s version of Green Crack.

Those in the mood for Girl Scout Cookies (also bred by The Cali Connection) could try GSC Mint by the Peace Naturals brand, Med-Man, or GSC by Canna Farms.

White Widow (by Mr. Nice Cannabis) can also be found as Tropical Breeze by Synr.g and Nebula by Hexo Corp. Super Lemon Haze (by Greenhouse Seed Co.) is not as prevalent on the market, but Broken Coast renamed it Texada and Qwest Cannabis called it Zest Qwest.

Respecting the legacy

A cannabis plant doesn’t take the five years that Bedford’s apple trees did to mature and flower, but Trueman points out there is plenty of hard work that goes into creating an original cultivar. While the urge to rename a particular plant to set a brand apart in the market is strong, he adds he would like to see LPs take a more proactive approach to tie the legacy into the product of today.

Source: Alana Armstrong, The Growth Op