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.

19 comments on “What’s in a strain name? Q&A with Canndescent CEO Adrian Sedlin
  1. George Washington on

    Having crazy names is as integral to cannabis culture as the marijuana itself is. Part of the fun is telling someone what you’re smoking on, or imagining what a strain will taste like.

    Reply
    • Michael Whalen on

      G.W. O.G.!
      Isn’t Chem Dawg x Blue dream now called K-9 Blue 440.40 and the Maui Wowee is 420.50, as in 50th State, Hawaii, not Hawaii 5.0 as You may have guessed. Perhaps develop a complex algorithm that names each strain individually for that individual at that very moment on demand via telekinesis? I believe these new comers are really on to something here! “Fixing” unbroken traditions with a brand new name game! Not to be cynical but …..GOOD LUCK MY NIZZLE’S!

      Reply
  2. Solis Lujan on

    Good call, I am always boggled by the names breeder give there strains. Green Crack, really! I also think breeders forget that cannabis flowers are female, how many ladies do you know that are named AK 47…

    The AK-47, or AK as it is officially known (also known as the Kalashnikov) is a selective-fire (semi-automatic and automatic), gas-operated 7.62×39 mm assault rifle, developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: ??????? ???????????). Wikipedia

    Reply
    • Michael "Slingshot" Whalen on

      My ex is named AK-49….Real close, but come to think of it, besides My new baby grand daughter, AK-47, I can’t think of one other female human with that name…Not on their birth certificate like My precious baby girl. You are really on to something there ….and such intimate weapon knowledge! Scary thoughts if You combine that stew of info. Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Susan Gress on

    Not an original idea but doesn’t work because we all have different CB receptors in our bodies, this the Sam strain affects people differently.

    Reply
    • Jim on

      Our human anatomy is pretty consistently built across our entire species; some people just prefer one type of effect more/less than another, a Coke to everyone tastes the same, some prefer it some don’t.

      Reply
    • Michael "Rubber Duck" Whalen on

      CB receptors? Like “Ten-4 Good Buddy!” and “Breaker 1-9”? No wonder I keep hearing that red neck C.B. radio in My head when ever I smoke late at night while driving My big rig diesel truck across the U.S.A. in Convoy! Thank You kindly, Ma’am! Call Me “Rubber Duck”, ok? Thanks

      Reply
  4. Rick Fague on

    I’m definitely in favor of better descriptions, every time I walk into a MJ store here in Washington, I see people squinting at CDB and THC percentages on tiny labels trying to figure out what’s good or not based on just that, because god knows you can’t really smell what you’re getting in most shops.

    Another good idea, until the industry catches up, is shopping at rec stores that have former MMJ dispensary folks on staff, they try everything so they actually know what’s good when their customers ask.

    Reply
  5. David Watson on

    Why not go all the way to clear the air and list the Cannabinoid and terpene contents by %? Almost all the different effects found in smoked Cannabis are from Cannabinoids and terpenes and judging what effects an unknown smoker will get is much harder then saying if you like THC/CBD/Myrcene it will cause most to feel like XYZ….but not all. With a little experience any experienced smoker will learn and know what Cannabinoids/terpenes they want for any end use, and what the effects of an unknown variety is just by Cannabinoid/terpene contents.

    Reply
  6. Deaconknowgood on

    I think it’s a Great idea. Goofy names are the cultivators’ right, but it doesn’t tell me a damn thing of the mood I’ll be in.

    Reply
  7. Gregg on

    What I needed as a new medical consumer was an explanation of what CBD and THC are, and the benefits of each along with choice of tested selections with the amounts of each listed on the package, not a selective testers reaction to strain Calm 101. Also, sounds like no thought has been given to the effects of dosage level. Response could be quite different depending on a consumers experience level or tolerance. Sounds like you still haven’t figured out how to let the consumer know if the weed is covered in pesticide, grown by a “bad” grower, or the indoor/outdoor/clone thing.

    Reply
  8. steve on

    People are not just interested and the effects calm or create people are interested in flavors like strawberry blueberry pineapple better do some more research before you come up with some names

    Reply
  9. Hyena Merica on

    That’s simply a gimmick, very little value and will get minimal traction because it’s aimed at only the most novice users.

    But you gave them big publicity, far beyond the importance (if any) of the news. Why do I suspect this “news story” is simply an advertisement?

    Hopefully you gave them a good deal.

    Reply
  10. james boyd on

    I live in Southern California, First time into a MMJ shop. As stated above What I needed as a new medical consumer was an explanation of what CBD and THC are, They did not have any idea what they were selling is this the type of shop we are stuck with. I am lucky and we have two other other shops in town to visit I hope they know what what they are selling.

    Reply
  11. Shane London on

    The”effect – based classification system” is an intelligent way to promote the MMJ/MJ to customers. It immediately tells what one buys. One does not have to search the internet to find the meaning behind countercultures given names. It’s simply stupid. I agree 100% w/Connescent cultivators. Finally, a common sense approach to natures gift to human/animal kind.

    Reply

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