The History of Cannabis Strain Names

cannabis strain names

All you need to do is take one quick look inside your local dispensary to know that the cannabis industry is big on strain names. 

Ranging from whimsical, like the Purple Monkey Balls, all the way to downright scary, like the Hell Raiser, it is enough to overwhelm even the most motivated customers. 

It is a good thing that the products they are selling are supposed to help you relax. 

How do they come up with these names? Is there a method somewhere in the madness?

To answer these questions, we must first look back at the history of cannabis naming.   

The Early Days of Cannabis Strain Naming

The history of cannabis use can be traced all the way back to 500 BC on the steppes of Central Asia. 

Even then, ancient cultures did not grow weed to get high but to meet various medicinal needs. 

Over the years, the plant slowly made its way to Africa and Europe. Early colonists were the first to introduce the plant in the Americas. 

They grew hemp mostly to make rope and textile products. The seeds were also a great source of food. 

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Cannabis is fast-growing, easy to cultivate, and has many applications. Because of its beneficial characteristics, it became widely farmed throughout colonial America.

It even reached the Southwest as part of the Spanish missions. By the 1600s, several colonies required their farmers to grow hemp.   

Still, up to this point, the cannabis community saw no need to name strains yet.   

All of this changed in the 20th century. 

There was a sudden increase in the demand for cannabis, prompting growers from all over the world to ramp up their production. 

As more products entered the market, enthusiasts became more selective when it comes to cannabis quality or the experience that it offers. 

This is where the cannabis strain name entered the picture. 

To help their customers identify a particular strain, sellers named their products using the place of origin. They added funny words as a clever marketing ploy. 

This was a reflection of the cannabis culture, which was, among others, playful. During this time, names like the Hindu Kush or Maui Wowie were very popular. 

The Impact of Crossbreeding    

The demand for cannabis products continued to grow over the years, and so did the production. To meet the evolving needs of consumers, cannabis growers increased their output. 

They also did more crossbreeding to come up with better and more potent products. 

It was not long after that the increase in the number of strains outpaced the number of places, which meant that the old method for naming was no longer applicable or at least effective. 

This pushed the community to be more creative in coming up with new names for their products. 

It began primarily in the 1960s and ‘70s as more and more feral strains from all over the world entered the US market. 

Some of the names that laid the foundation for succeeding strains were Durban Poison, Acapulco Gold, Panama Red, and Afghan Kush. 

These “landrace strains” were bred together to come up with new hybrids that offer larger yields, enhanced flavor, stronger effects, or any other characteristic deemed better.  

It is widely accepted that there are only 15 original cannabis strains, and the rest are just crossbreeds of these strains. 

The “true” strains had the benefit of early naming, while the subsequent crossbreeds were named based on their colors and flavor profiles. 

Some of the most popular strains have names that include the words strawberry, lavender, lemon, and even skunk.     

Thousands of other names have been created, spanning the wide spectrum between Indica and Sativa. Some of these names have died out over the years, but they are constantly being replaced by new creations.  

The New Method of Naming Strains

The main goal of naming cannabis strains has changed a bit as years passed. The cannabis community now uses the name to inform customers about a strain’s important traits instead of just its place of origin.

Generally, it points to how that particular strain is grown or what its genetic makeup is. 

Variations in the growing process can be made by changing the lighting condition towards the end, resulting in strains with different colors like blue or purple.   

For most strains, the naming process involves a base word that gives you an idea about the key feature. Another word is added to tell you what it tastes or smells like. 

For other strains, it seems like virtually anything goes.

Some names are methodical, like the Sputnik or the Pre-98 Bubba Kush, which denote significant times in history. 

Others are downright ridiculous, like the Green Crack or Crouching Tiger Hidden Alien.

In between, you have the Strawberry Cough and Sweet Dream.  

Whatever the strain name is, there is a story behind it. In some cases, you just have to look harder to see it. 

A Work in Progress

As breeders get more creative to meet the developing taste of consumers, the process of naming strains will continue to evolve. 

More and more of the newer strains are named after prominent personalities such as Snoop Dog OG and Charlie Sheen. 

It does very little to nothing in telling you what to expect when buying these products. After all, smoking a Michael Phelps OG would not magically make you a better swimmer. 

Nevertheless, it leaves a lasting impression that may ultimately impact your purchasing decision. It is another manifestation of the cannabis community’s creative marketing strategy.  

However, while there is no denying that strain naming is interesting, you should not get too caught up with the process. Most of the time, you could not tell how good the product is based on what it is called. The brand has a lot to do with the quality of a cannabis product. Make sure that you buy your cannabis products only from reputable suppliers like Ice Kream Shop to get the most out of your cannabis experience.   

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