What’s in a strain name? Q&A with Canndescent CEO Adrian Sedlin

By Bart Schaneman

Walk into any marijuana outlet and you’ll find jars of flower strains with names like Golden Goat, Ghost Train Haze or Robert Plant.

Such names convey minimal information to novice consumers, forcing them to do further research before they can purchase any cannabis. California-based cultivator Canndescent is trying to simplify that experience.

The company has abandoned traditional strain names in favor of what it’s calling an “effects-based classification system” where flower is identified as Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect and Charge.

Canndescent also is providing strain-specific tasting notes. For example, the strain Calm 105 carries the description, “Lulls the mind and body into a gratifying sleep, waking you up alert for the next day,” and Create 301 “Focuses your mind and settles your body, so it’s ideal for crafts or computer work.”

Adrian Sedlin, the CEO of Canndescent, spoke with Marijuana Business Daily about the company’s decision to take a different tack on naming strains at a time when the industry is attempting to woo new customers.

Why did you decide to abandon the traditional strain naming practice?

Having names like Durban Poison and Trainwreck presents a real problem. They have no meaning to people outside the category. If you’re trying to learn the category or understand it, you’re left with a periodic table of 6,000 random strain names that have no rhyme or reason behind them.

What we’ve tried to do is take all of this subculture, counterculture code and then create some meaning that other people can understand. It’s very easy for me to go to someone and say, “Hey, you can try Connect 401, and here’s how it’s going to make you feel.”

Do you think moving away from these strain names might help the industry gain more acceptance with potential users and the general public?

Absolutely. It will help with mainstreaming and gaining acceptance. If you think about it, the names are all just a little bit too cool for school.

If you start thinking about a strain — Blue Dream. How many people grow Blue Dream in the United States right now? A thousand? So what does that mean?

Some of those growers grow indoors, some grow under glass, some grow outdoors. Some are really good at what they do, some are really bad. Some use pesticides, some don’t.

And they all have different phenotypes (physical characteristics) of the same strain, which fundamentally affects things. So you can have two things called Blue Dream, and they have as much in common as a navel orange and a kumquat.

You see this as an opportunity to standardize marijuana?

It’s an opportunity for us to provide meaningful information to consumers with our naming conventions while differentiating from what everyone else is doing, and (to provide) a very intuitive, user-friendly system where people – whether they’re super-experienced in cannabis or first-time users – can start navigating the category more comfortably because they’re getting effects-based tasting notes.

What most people are looking for is an effect. We’ve tried to simplify the category down to just say this is how you’re going to feel.

How does this affect your cultivation process?

It took our cultivation team a while to cross over. Some of those guys have been growing since 1993 and they’re pretty used to their existing naming conventions.

We put together an online application where we forced our people to take a test, converting the old strain names to what we were going to call them for our specific phenotypes. Now, a year and a half into our journey, we don’t even know what the original, underlying strain was.

Do you think this will have any impact on your bottom line?

If we vet the right way, and our naming conventions and our effects-based architecture convey the meaning in a way that we think it’s going to, I think over time we’ll win on-shelf, in-store.

Do you see this as a trend other companies will follow?

I do think over time the industry will go that way. There are simply too many strains right now for people to keep track of.

And it’s changing all the time. You’re seeing growers take two existing strains and create new strains by mashing names together.

Exactly. On top of that, if you look at how any dispensary works right now, if something’s not moving on-shelf, they change the name of it and now it’s something new.

I want our customers who become our loyalists to know exactly what they’re getting every time. This is a way for us to provide that consistency and reliability.

Have you gotten any feedback yet?

We started testing this concept among new users, from people who are thinking about entering the market to longtime growers. Once people kind of get it, they can look down at our packaging and their eyes start opening up because now they’re no longer intimidated and it’s accessible to them.

It’s not this mysterious cannabis thing. It’s “OK, this is going to make me a little more tired and I’ll go to sleep for the night,” or “This one’s more for going out at night – I can relate to that.”

I was really surprised when we got with the hardcore industry vets. I was expecting a little more pushback, but they were like, “We’ve been saying this for years that someone needed to do this.”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Bart Schaneman can be reached at [email protected]

Read more about naming strains in the April edition of Marijuana Business Magazine.

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