Marijuana strain reviews are mostly worthless pieces of internet garbage, often written and delivered by people who are woefully unqualified to publish such materials. But even when strain reviews are conducted by pseudo-qualified cannabis industry professionals – such as reviewer Russ Hudson, the folks at the Cannabist, and the people of All Bud – the reviews ultimately mean nothing to the average consumer. This article details the 6 primary reasons why marijuana strain reviews should not be taken seriously by anyone.
#6 – Do You Have the Right Strain? Probably Not.
Coffeeshops in the Netherlands, cannabis clubs in Spain, and dispensaries in the United States and Canada all label their cannabis products according to strain or variety. But where does this information come from? Is there some sort of formal plant pedigree that comes with a strain? A strain certification company or process? A fucking certificate of authenticity, at least?
Nope – there is no body, official or otherwise, that can affirm that a particular strain is in fact the strain it’s labeled as.
So where does strain information come from? The supplier.
The supplier – sometimes just a dude with a secret grow – tells the coffeeshop, cannabis club, or dispensary the purported name of each strain he or she is selling. Sometimes, suppliers and/or growers lie, because they know the branding behind a name like Girl Scout Cookies is going to make it vastly easier to sell their wares. Or, the deception could go beyond the supplier or grower; perhaps the person or company that sold the supplier clones or seeds lied, exaggerated, or confused the strain type.
Other times, honest suppliers tell coffeeshops, dispensaries, and clubs that they’re not sure what the strain is; only that it’s a sativa. And sometimes, the clubs or coffeeshops that receive these unknown strains decide to make up whatever label they want, based on what strains are “hot” at the time, and the likelihood that a batch of weed can pass for the supposed strain it’s being sold as. In even the most benign cases, retail outlets might just label these strains “House Sativa.”
So, I’ll ask you – what good is a cannabis strain review for a made-up strain, or an unknown strain that some shop somewhere is calling “House Sativa?”
It’s worthless, obviously.
But the real problem here is this; some growers and suppliers count on the fact that there is no organized body, no person, no official, and no testing process that can refute their claims.
As a consultant, I can’t tell you the number of times a cannabusiness has told me that they didn’t know what a particular strain was, so they just labeled it whatever they wanted. But what pisses me off professionally and personally is that they reveal this information to me as if it’s totally acceptable industry practice. That’s because it is – for now.
Unfortunately, there is no way to verify strains at this time, and because the power of branding is too much to ignore, many people assholishly capitalize on this. All too often the answer to “how do you know what strain you have there?” is, “that’s what the clone guy told me,” or, “that’s what the dealer told me,” etc.
I’ve seen this in the United States quite frequently. For example, medical marijuana caregivers in New England states often acquire seeds and clones from third parties, who may or may not provide accurate strain information, or who may not have ever had that information to begin with.
It’s a fucking free-for-all.
In Spain, otherwise legal cannabis clubs have been forced via legal pressure to purchase black market marijuana on behalf of their members. Testing of any variety is rare, and most strain name information comes directly from the black market dealers.
There’s no repository, there’s no way to prove or verify or otherwise check what a cannabis strain really is. Not yet. So virtually every cannabis strain on the market right now is labelled based on the honor system, in an industry where many people and companies are engaging in typically scummy human behaviors to rise to the top.
So, if you’re looking online at a review of New York Diesel because the dispensary or coffeeshop or club down the road from you is selling the same strain, how is it that you think you’re going to get any useful information? The strain review you’re reading is most likely incorrect or hybridized into obscurity, and/or the strain available down the street from you is also probably based on little or no concrete data.
Strain labeling in the cannabis industry is currently based entirely on trust, and in this cutthroat new green age, that’s laughable.
#5 – Breeders (of Misinformation)
Before point #6 above can be discussed, you must first go back to the source of most modern cannabis varieties; “breeders.” But these days, everyone is a fucking breeder or geneticist; look at the massive numbers of people on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook that have titles as “breeders,” or, “geneticists,” yet they have no formal training in botany or genetics whatsoever, and never stepped foot inside a clean room or laboratory. For fuck’s sake, I’ve bred my own plants and developed different “varieties” in my time, but does that make me a breeder? If I take some F1 seeds gifted to me by a friend and then spend a year stabilizing a good phenotype that I like, does that make me a geneticist? Hell no!
Think about it. Take the word “cannabis” away for a moment and replace it with “potato.” Let’s imagine that you grow potatoes to sell at local farmer’s markets. In your time as a farmer, you crossbred a couple of varieties of potatoes that you really liked, and you began labeling one type as “AK47 Pot8O.” Now, should you rush out and change your resume and your professional title to “breeder,” or “geneticist?” No, dipshit. You’re a farmer – not a scientist.
Anyone can grow two “strains” of weed, allow pollination, and do further work with the resulting cross, giving the hybrid any stupid name you want, but that doesn’t make your variety a legitimate, known, consistent strain worthy of retail labeling and branding.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of reputable seed companies out there. Sensi Seeds, Crop King, and Dutch Passion are a few of my favorites. In the case of Sensi Seeds, Ben Dronkers and others within his circles spent years collecting landrace strains, then painstakingly developing their own varieties from these natural cannabis plants. GreenHouse Seeds is also famous for taking this approach.
But the problem here is that there are now hundreds of cannabis seed companies, each selling their own version of a strain. For example, consider that many different seed companies are offering White Widow. Now assume each company’s version is actually different from the others (to warrant their version in the first place), that the grower knows he is getting these “highly” unique seeds, that the crop grows well, makes it to market without problem, and is labeled correctly at the final retail establishment.
Let’s assume that everything happened correctly along the way, and now you’re at a dispensary in Michigan, United States, and you see “White Widow” on the menu. In many cases, that’s the most information you’ll get; the breeder won’t be listed and the dispensary clerk won’t know what seeds the strain came from. But even in the cases where the breeder is clearly listed, what does this information tell you? Is it trusted, verified information? Let’s pretend that it is, and that you’ve found one of the rare cases where the strain on offer is the actual strain of a well-known or established breeder. Now let’s assume further that you’ve found a review for this strain ahead of your purchase, and you think that it’s going to provide you with relevant information regarding what to expect from the Michigan Dispensary White Widow from XYZ Seed Co that you’ve got in your hands.
Does the review mean something now, if all these points are met?
The answer, still, is ‘fuck no’ – see points #6, #4, #3, #2 and #1.
And just because I’m a deliberate bastard, let me add some more details here; “white-labeling” in the cannabis industry exists folks; you’d be stupid to think otherwise. White-labeling of seeds and strains means that cannabusinesses can label any weed any way they want, and everyone who is “in the know” will approve and look the other way.
Finally, science tells us that there’s little to no difference between most strains, and in fact there is barely any chemical difference between indica and sativa. But by all means – rush right out and buy that Platinum GSC down at Fuckboy’s Dispensary in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, based on a review for the strain that you read in ILoveWeed.whatthefuckever.idiots.com.
#4 – Seeds Pop Phenotypes
Seeds present new phenotypes all the time – even in very stable strains. What this means is that, even if a grower acquires White Widow seeds from Crop King, the seeds might produce plants that do not fit the generally accepted profile for the strain in question. In fact, many “new” strains have been developed from phenotypes of supposedly known and consistent strains. This means that I as a consumer might acquire 5 grams of White Widow from Sensi Seeds at a cannabis club in Barcelona, and subsequently write a review of this strain. However, DumDum cannabis association across the city might be growing these same seeds, but they selected a phenotype that they really like that’s different from the one I wrote a review on, even though the end-product comes from the same seed stock.
How could these reviews possibly be relevant, or related?
It’s simple – they can’t!
Of course, many growers today produce crops exclusively from clones. But at one point in time, those clones came from seed stock. The mother plant used for the clones could be any phenotype – known or otherwise – of the particular strain in question. So, the White Widow that you acquire in California could be grown from clones based on a favored phenotype that a mother plant was developed from, while the White Widow I acquire on the East Coast – developed by the same breeder as your West Coast variety – was raised from mother plants that were actually 2 different phenotypes – the “stabilized” type produced and sold by the seed company, and a phenotype different from the stabilized version. Assuming we conduct reviews of all three types, we’re going to be reviewing what are essentially three totally different “strains,” but we’re all calling it Sensi Seeds White Widow.
What the fuck?
It’s a sloppy and insanely variable mess. However, even if the cannabis markets could supply the world with a consistent strain of a very particular known, verifiable phenotype, and even if there existed some way to test and prove that the strain you have is the correct variety, marijuana strain reviews describing these products will still be utter rubbish because of points #3, #2, and #1 below.
#3 – Methods bring Madness
Every grower – from old school, tried-and-true experts from the sixties, to modern hipster douchebag wannabes – raises cannabis using different methods, and they all think that their method is the best. It’s just like religion. In fact, one of the main reasons that I have stayed out of the public side of growing is because of the petty infighting that occurs among growers over their uber-special, better-than-yours methods. There’s so much pomposity and fuckery in the cannabis growing community that I can hardly stand it sometimes.
But at the very least, we can all agree that every grower has different methods, right?
With that said, if you still think marijuana strain reviews provide any value, then you might be too dense to continue reading this article. The reality is that any variance in the cultivation process can and likely will result in a significantly different finished product. This includes differences in:
- Grow Medium
- Air Quality and Ventilation
- Local Ecological Exposure
- Water quality
Each one of these can radically change the taste, potency, duration, medical and psychoactive effects, and other important aspects of the final cured marijuana flowers or related hash products.
As an example, let’s imagine that Grower A and Grower X both go to Ripper Seeds in Sabadell, Spain, and each acquires 10 seeds of their hard-hitting Zombie Kush. Now let’s imagine that Grower A grows hydroponically, and Grower X grows in an organic soil medium.
Will their weed be the same?
Let’s imagine that Grower A uses a mixture of HID and MH lights, and Grower X cultivates their plants outside, under the sun.
Will their weed be the same?
Grower A has excellent water quality, while Grower X has a ph. of 7.5.
Will their weed be the same?
Grower A fights aphids by introducing Ladybird insects, while Grower X fights mites using a homemade neem oil and milk mixture passed down from a dude that he once knew in high school.
Will their weed be the same?
Grower A grows outside, where the night time temperature often drops to the low 40’s and 50’s, while Grower X lives in a tropical zone, where temperatures at night are in the 60’s and 70’s.
Will their weed be the same?
Grower A flushed their cannabis for 14 days prior to cutting the plants, while Grower X only flushed for 3 days.
Will their weed be the same?
Do I need to go on? Isn’t it painfully fucking obvious that even slight differences in cultivation, growing, pest and fungus control methods, etc., can cause measurable differences in the final product, even when produced from the same exact genetic seed stock? This is true even if Grower A and Grower X start with identical clones; the same cultivation and production variables will have a major impact on the flower that you end up buying at the shop.
Seriously people, use your brains; this is common sense here, not thermonuclear dynamics. How the hell can you expect that a marijuana strain review for weed grown by Grower A and weed grown by Grower X will be relevant to whatever strain you’re being sold, just because it has the same name?
Add to this the fact that most coffeeshops, dispensaries, and cannabis clubs use multiple growers and suppliers, and it’s all too fucking easy to see that these reviews don’t mean shit.
#2 – Looking for a Cure
If point #3 isn’t enough to convince you that cannabis strain reviews are entirely irrelevant and mostly non-applicable to the reader, consider that the curing process is quite possibly the single largest influencer of what the weed you’ll smoke or vape will ultimately be like. What’s more is that this is the step that is skipped, skimped, and rushed the most often. In fact, in the case above, let’s assume that Grower A and Grower X cultivate their crops from the same exact seed stock or clones, using the same exact methods, with generally the same air and water quality, etc. But, when each grower moves on to the curing phase, Grower A uses large, specially made ovens and drying racks, while Grower X cures for 35 days using the glass jar method.
Will their weed be the same?
If you don’t think their final products will be significantly different, then you probably don’t know shit about curing and its importance, and that’s okay. I buy coffee every week, but I don’t know much about it or how it’s made; only whether it tastes good or not, and whether it does what it’s supposed to do. If you’re like most cannabis consumers, you’re probably the same. But as a long-time professional in the industry, I’m here to tell you that, when it comes to marijuana, EVERYTHING is in the cure. The cure will determine what your weed tastes like, what it smells like, how smooth or harsh it is, what the aftertaste is like, how cleanly it burns, and – because curing affects terpenes – the type of high you get from a strain will greatly depend on how it was cured.
The critical tenets of curing cannabis include:
- Time – Length of Cure
- Air Quality and Recirculation
- Type of Environment
- Resistance to Contaminants
While many people argue that growing is the hardest part of producing excellent quality cannabis, I believe that the proof is in the cure. Curing can take a lackluster strain and make it incredible, or it can take a phenomenal strain and turn it to dog shit, if not done properly. And if the same exact strains produced using the same exact methods can still turn out radically different depending on variables related to the curing process, why the fuck would you think that a strain review of any type is going to provide you with relevant information? It won’t, so stop wasting your time reading these useless strain reviews on sites like MarijuanaGames.org and Leafly.
#1 – User Perception
Everyone uses cannabis for different reasons, and everyone experiences cannabis differently. Do you really think your experience will be similar to mine? What if I told you I suffer from PTSD and anxiety? What if I told you that I like to inhale a half a joint of Zombie Kush before I run ten miles? Do you suffer from the same conditions? You like to get blasted and run 16km? Maybe you suffer from depression. Maybe you’re a couch-potato. In any case, you and I are far too dissimilar to generalize something that is 100% SUBJECTIVE.
For instance, I’ve been with my wife for 7 years, and often we don’t even see colors the same. What I see as grey, for her, is blue. What she sees as green, for me, is blue. I’m a douchebag at the dinner table; I loathe mayonnaise, onions, olives, relish, mushrooms, and lots of other foods because of the way they taste and smell to me. My wife, on the other hand, is like a dog; she loves virtually all foods.
So how the fuck could we possibly perceive a particular strain of marijuana the same? Based on my above description, if we got a half ounce of, say, Super Lemon Haze, and then each of us wrote our own “marijuana strain review” after smoking a quarter from the same bag, do you think our reviews would be similar?
And so the review that I published for Zombie Kush as acquired from La Mesa cannabis club in Barcelona (now defunct) doesn’t really provide relevant information – relevant in the sense that, if you have Zombie Kush in your hand and you’re checking out my review in California, then what I smoked for the review and what you are currently holding probably aren’t at all similar. The review that I published about Oregon Huckleberry in 2015 that I acquired from a caregiver in Maine, USA? Not useful to anyone.
Furthermore, I’m a veteran when it comes to cannabis. I smoke extremely potent weed, all day long, and I’ve been doing it for a long time – a quarter century and counting. If you’re a weekend warrior or occasional smoker, you couldn’t possibly think that my experience with a strain will be the same as yours. In fact, this type of thinking could be dangerous; if I report that the supposed “MK Ultra” strain is mellow, and is a good “day time” weed to “get shit done,” what makes you think it will be the same for you? Maybe it will make you anxious and virtually comatose, but you took my advice on it and smoked a big joint of it before meeting with your stuffy in-laws.
I’ve received emails and comments on my review for the MK Ultra strain, and in some cases, people were furious with me for what they perceived as my negative discussion of the strain, because to them, it was among the most potent types of marijuana they had ever smoked. The same is true of Jack Herer, Northern Lights, and Cheese – these strains are well-known as heavy-hitting, stony types, but they do little to nothing for me. Therefore, my reviews of these strains are not relevant to you.
And finally, people change over time, all the time. Diet, environment, social influences and more can make us a different person from one day to the next. The same Amnesia Haze that I smoked 4 years ago and got along well with at the time, might make me too anxious or stoned today. Did you hear that? This means that my own review of a strain might not be relevant to ME.
Think about that for a minute, and then tell me you still think marijuana strain reviews are a reliable source of relevant information.
7 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Marijuana Strain Reviews are Worthless”
Very nice article. Sadly many consumers only want to say they smoked that. Bud Light is popular for a reason? Give me hype, I want to think I’m in the IN CROWD.
Everything I grow I donate to medical patients. Only after it gets a 3 month cure. There is no money in it for me, so I refuse to take shortcuts. It’s right or it gets culled.
I agree with mostly all you writted. But for example the phenotype is the combination of the genotype and the ambient, of course, the ambient can modulate the potential expression of the genotype but seeds coming from the same mother share a genetic background that has to be reflected in the phenotype, so, I think that The information coming from the Seedbank / breeder (regarding seed marketing) has to be referring to the cultivation characteristics and method. I mean the Seedbank should not say this strain produces X grams and has whatsoever m of height but the company could say with this environmental conditions the production had been X or the height is A …
Also I wonder what alternative to this marketing manipulation do you propose? Because for example when I buy wine I tell the seller I want a fresh wine, drinkable and not so alcoholic. For Cannabis (in a dispensary or cannabis club) should be the same, but, in reference what you said, we can not do this because we do not know if the seeds come from the genetic announced, we also do not know if the person that provided the material to the club / dispensary is reliable or not. Are you suggesting that when obtaining the cannabis, choosing it with eyes closed? And what do you recommend about the deceptive marketing fo the seedbanks?(choosing “landraces for example?)
I know that the similarities with cannabis and wine are very little, alcohol is legal and can be somehow regulated.
Hola Alfred; thank you for your comment. Some of my suggestions can be found in this post: http://www.cannabastard.com/your-marijuana-strain-name-sucks/ Basically, we need a new taxonomy for cannabis, one that is based on rigorous testing and upkeep of public databases, primarily using terpene concentration to identify types and related effects.
I just listened to your interview on The Ganjapreneur (great job!), and your comment on using the top 3 terpenes as the criteria for the potential effect of a particular strain piqued my interest.
Given your experience with dried products and your premise for assessing effects based on analysis of terpene content (inter-individual variability notwithstanding), what are your thoughts on companies selling terpenes for addition (back) into extracts (i.e., as fortification due to terpene loss in processing)?
Hi Melody; thank you for your comment. I’ll be honest with you – personally, I don’t feel great about adding something back in that was destroyed in a chemical process. It seems counter-intuitive to me. However, I’m a whole-plant medicine type of guy, and I like to use the plant in its mostly unadulterated form. Iceolator is as far as I’ll go, and there’s no loss of terps there. So if you’re making BHO and you lose all your limonene during the process, adding it back in from another source seems…lacking somehow, and far less natural than I like to see. Does that make sense? What do you think about this?
You are exactly correct, everything is influenced by the grower, environment, methods and materials…. all being different/variable for innumerable reasons.
Genetics from even land-race varieties can be different from seed to seed, which many people do not understand.
Most plants of similar genetics appear the same to us but to a person with trained senses there are many differences and cannabis is a plant in which many variables can be easily experiences with taste, look, odor and color all being “in your face”.
I say I am a breeder, been doing so with cannabis for over a decade, even done some work with feral hemp. After reading your explanation of a “breeder” I guess that I may have to refer to myself as a “back-crosser” or “genetic rehabilitation artist” since I mostly try to make clone-only strains available in seed form. I use as many generations as needed until the seeds are highly representative of the original clone. It’s rewarding to see the change from generation to generation, specifically when going as desired. Never claimed to be a scientist though.
Hola Jesse; based on your expertise and length of time that you have been doing the work, I think you qualify as a breeder, with some interesting specializations. I was mostly referencing “backyard breeders,” which is someone who crosses various strains of cannabis, but with a less-than-scientific-approach and/or a less-than-credible method of organization and tracking.