Marijuana is not a Commodity: The Importance of Strain Diversity

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The following article was originally published on VancouverSun.com

Genetic parentage may be the single most significant predictor of any species’ ability to thrive. As life evolves, those individuals with the most robust and adaptive traits, as passed on by their lineage, will be the ones most likely to survive to pass on their genes. We humans have also been selectively changing the flora around us. Through thousands of years of selective breeding and environmental manipulation, everything from trees to vegetables has been nudged in directions better suited to meet our needs.

Cannabis is no exception.

In conjunction with the right amount of light, water, and nutrients, different strains of cannabis manifest diverse and fascinating traits. Taxonomic distinction between Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, for example, reflects only a rudimentary understanding of differentiation. From colouring and scent, to potency and size, cannabis strains have become as diverse and specialized as wine grapes.

When ingested, specific strains are reported to evoke feelings of euphoria, while others elicit observed responses similar to powerful sedatives. Some strains have been demonstrated to suppress nausea and even exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. From alleged metabolic regulation to pain modulation, there is no plant or psychoactive compound on Earth that interacts with the human mind quite the same way.

At the start of the cannabis cultivation process, stable genetics are the key to establishing a foundation for consistent and optimized output. Genetics are the best predictor of plant uniformity. From the grower’s perspective, this is of great value in understanding how to customize the ideal environment for a specific strain. Slight alterations in temperature and humidity through the various stages of the plant’s life cycle can significantly impact its ability to thrive. What works for one strain may not be optimal for another. This creates complications in a cultivation environment, and requires logistics tailored to the specific strain mix. It would be a far easier shortcut to cultivate a single strain and avoid these logistics entirely. This in fact was industry practice for 10 years under the single commercial cultivation license in Canada from 2003-2013.

The market, however, has spoken, and strain diversity is a priority for patients. If a cultivator wishes to diversify their offering, insight into specific plant needs helps cultivators ensure that we are providing the ideal conditions, enabling each individual strain to express its inherent traits to their full genetic potential. The range of traits realized by this potential enables patients to tailor their product mix to a diverse range of wants and needs.

Some would still accept cultivating cannabis as a single commodity product. The assumption that one homogeneous strain and cultivation strategy is suitable for a diverse community of users and applications ignores patients’ informed preferences. This closed mindset inhibits genetic experimentation and diversification. The furthering of breeding programs alongside specialized research and development systems is essential for a future where cannabis varieties are unique and diverse. These systems are an investment in advancing the frontier of cannabis.