The Case for Cannabis Clarity: How Strain Names Are Confusing Consumers and Restricting Growth

The Case for Cannabis Clarity: How Strain Names Are Confusing Consumers and Restricting Growth
The Case for Cannabis Clarity: How Strain Names Are Confusing Consumers and Restricting Growth

The Problem with Playful and Patternless Naming

The cannabis industry’s longstanding tradition of using fanciful and frivolous strain names has been limiting its reach. While colorful names like “Purple Punch” or “Alice in Wonderland” may be amusing to those already embedded in cannabis culture, they fail to provide any useful information about a strain’s properties, effects or intended use to would-be consumers, mainstream consumers and patients. This approach, which is seemingly patternless to those who aren't already 'in the know', creates a barrier to developing cannabis into a widely accepted consumer good and medicine.

I'm not suggesting those names be completely removed, rather, an additional system be put in place that remains to honor the original name provided by the genetics engineer, while also providing a standardized naming system that commercial operations can use to introduce the plants to the average consumer.

For example, the label on the shelf could display a standardized product name, such as “Creative Euphoria” or “Clear Enhancement”, while also including a section that highlights the names given by the genetic engineers and credits the engineers themselves. Some brands have begun this practice with products like tinctures, vapes, and edibles already. Without a standardized format, however, these efforts are fleeting.

Alleviate the Disconnect to the Would-Be Consumers

Would-be consumers between the ages of 21 to 65 may feel disconnected from current product naming conventions. When shopping for any product, people rely on specific and comprehensible names, as well as detailed descriptions, to determine if that item will suit their needs. By contrast, cannabis strain names are often selected arbitrarily based on pop culture references or just because operators think they sound interesting.

Some names even promote outdated stoner stereotypes. While this comedic approach is understood and even worn as a badge of honor to many stoners, it does not bring in new customers. This does the entire industry a disservice by positioning cannabis as a novelty instead of a serious product that could benefit both recreational users and patients.


A person who grew up in the era of relentless cannabis disinformation has been manipulated to believe the cannabis plant's use is shameful, harmful, and deadly.
They fear isolation, and moral disregard as a result of even considering its use, even if they themselves or a loved one in the same age range begins showing signs of degenerative disease, such as ALS or Parkinson's that would greatly benefit in quality of life from the cannabis plant's use.
They will certainly never try a product named (insert cross-name Kush), because to their understanding, it is shameful, untrustworthy, and unreliable.
We consumers know better, but they do not.
We should always aim to help the collective population, not a select few anointed path-less-traveled personalities.
We're all on this ball of dust circling a massive nuclear fusion reactor together. Our goal should always be to help, heal, and guide, not divide.

To successfully transition cannabis from the counterculture fringes to mainstream acceptance and legalization, the industry must adopt straightforward and systematic naming practices. The diversity of cannabis products today demands an approach to taxonomy that categorizes strains based on their mix of compounds, effects, flavors and aromas. Much like how wine varietals have distinct names to indicate the types of grapes used, cannabis needs a clear classification system to guide consumers in finding the best strains for their desired experience.

An Opportunity for AI to Assist With Standardization

Artificial intelligence and automation present opportunities to implement improved naming conventions and product classification. AI tools can analyze the chemical properties of cannabis strains to determine optimal categories and suggest appropriate names. By categorizing strains based on their levels of compounds like THC, CBD, CBN and dominant terpenes, AI could assist us to develop a taxonomy that organizes cannabis products by their most important attributes and intended outcomes.

For example, strains particularly high in the terpene limonene, which tends to provide uplifting and mood-elevating effects, could be categorized as “refresh” strains. Strains predominantly high in the terpene linalool, known for its calming and anxiety-reducing influences, could be labeled “soothe” strains. Similarly, strains could be categorized by high THC and low CBD as “elevate” strains, while balanced THC and CBD profiles signal “moderate” strains, and high CBD strains become “restore” strains. These types of systematic names convey the crucial information consumers and patients need when shopping for cannabis products.

Working together, even with competitors, to establish this type of a standardized system is crucial to the wider adoption strategy.


How can we make Cannabis more 'Consumer Friendly'?

Context, understanding, and relatability goes a long way.

Here's an example of how this type of classification system could be used in a clear, and concise manner, while helping the average would-be consumer, and still celebrating the efforts of the original genetics engineer, and cannabis' cultural history.

Medical

StrainUseTHC/CBD%NameGeneticsBreeder NameTerpenes
1Pain/Anxiety10/101:1ReliefACDC x Harle-TsuCanna-TsuPinene, Linalool
2Appetite/Nausea15/28:1Hunger HelpBubba Kush x DJ ShortHuckleberryMyrcene, Humulene
3Insomnia22/.544:1Sleepy ShelbyPurple Urkle x Hash PlantNightcapMyrcene, Linalool
4Anxiety/PTSD8/81:1Worry-FreeCannatonic x Sour TsunamiCenteredLimonene, Linalool, Pinene
5Inflammation5/251:5Anti-InflameCBD Medihaze x CandidaCD-1Pinene, Linalool, Terpineol

Recreational

StrainEffectTHC/CBD%NameGeneticsBreeder NameTerpenes
1Relaxing18/.536:1CalmPurple Punch x Granddaddy PurpSoothing SunsetLinalool, Limonene
2Creativity20/.540:1Creating GreenJack Herer x Shining SilverInspirationPinene, Terpinolene
3Euphoria22/211:1JoyPineapple Express x Mango HazeHappy PlaceTerpinolene, Limonene
4Social18/29:1SociableBlue Dream x FloFriendly AcquaintancePinene, Limonene, Caryophyllene
5Introspection16/116:1Pondering PurpleGrandaddy Purp x Grape ApeContemplation ChamberLinalool, Myrcene
  • 1:1 - Equal parts THC to CBD (i.e. 10% THC and 10% CBD)
  • 2:1 - Twice as much THC to CBD (i.e. 20% THC and 10% CBD)
  • 10:1 - 10 times more THC than CBD (i.e. 25% THC and 2.5% CBD)
  • 20:1 - 20 times more THC than CBD (i.e. 30% THC and 1.5% CBD)

Adding clarity on cannabinoid ratios, especially for THC to CBD, helps provide a more complete picture of the properties of each strain. Some key points for ratios include:

  • Higher THC, lower CBD (i.e. 20:1) strains tend to be more euphoric and psychoactive. CBD helps balance the effects of THC.
  • Similar levels of THC to CBD (i.e. 2:1 or 1:1) tend to provide a more balanced, moderate effect. CBD works synergistically with THC.
  • Higher CBD, lower THC (i.e. 1:20) strains are typically less psychoactive and more therapeutic. CBD counteracts some of the effects of THC.
  • Very high THC or CBD, trace amounts of the other (i.e. 50:1 or 1:50) tend to provide intensity of either psychoactivity or therapeutic effects, with little balance.
  • Balanced levels of multiple cannabinoids (THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, etc.) are thought by some to provide the most comprehensive benefit due to an "entourage effect". But effects can still vary person to person based on factors like tolerance.

Major Terpenes and Their Effects

  • Pinene: Alertness, memory retention
  • Linalool: Anxiety relief, sedation
  • Myrcene: Relaxation, sedation, pain relief
  • Limonene: Anxiety relief, mood elevation
  • Terpineol: Muscle relaxant, sedative
  • Caryophyllene: Anti-inflammatory, pain relief, mood elevation
  • Humulene: Appetite suppression, inflammation reduction
  • Geraniol: Neuroprotectant, anti-spasmodic
  • Ocimene: Anti-inflammatory, antifungal
  • Terpinolene: Sedative, antibacterial
  • Bisabolol: Anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory
  • Borneol: Analgesic, antibacterial
  • Eucalyptol: Improved circulation, concentration
  • Camphene: Local antiseptic, muscle relaxant
  • Sabinene: Antioxidant, digestive
  • Phellandrene: Peppery, energizing
  • Fenchol: Expectorant, sedative
  • Valencene: Sweet citrus, uplifting

While I have provided an overview of the major terpenes found in cannabis and their generally reported effects, it is important to note that:

  1. Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in the essential oils of plants, including cannabis, that provide flavor and fragrance. They are believed to influence the overall effects of cannabis in combination with cannabinoids like THC and CBD. This is known as the "entourage effect". However, much remains to be conclusively proven about terpene functions and impacts. Without public normalization practices in place, such as a more traditional naming structure, these studies are unlikely to occur, or be taken seriously if they are conducted.
  2. Effects can vary based on several factors, including individual body chemistry. The descriptors here refer to potential properties and the experience of some consumers but should not be considered definitive or universal. They aim only to inform and spur discussion with a physician or professional to determine suitable options based on a person's unique needs.
  3. More research is required to fully understand terpene functions and interactions, as well as variability across individuals and application methods. The information provided here is based on limited available research and anecdotal evidence but should not be taken as definitive guidance without consulting an expert.

Minor Terpenes and their Effects

  • Camphene: Muscle relaxant, antiseptic, analgesic
  • Carene: Anti-inflammatory, bone stimulating
  • Borneol: Sedative, antispasmodic
  • Eugenol: Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
  • Fenchone: Analgesic, sedative
  • Pulegone: Sedative, muscle relaxant
  • Phytol: Antioxidant, sedative
  • Menthol: Analgesic, anti-inflammatory
  • Isopulegol: Anxiety relief, sedation
  • Piperitol: Anti-inflammatory, promotes serotonin
  • Camphor: Anti-inflammatory, antifungal
  • Bisabola: Anti-inflammatory, sedative

As with the major terpenes, it is important to note that:

  1. These are aromatic compounds found in cannabis essential oils that are thought to contribute to the overall effects of certain strains in combination with THC, CBD and other cannabinoids. But much is still unknown about their precise functions and impacts, as well as variability across individuals.
  2. Stating definitive effects promotes unrealistic expectations about this complex plant. These terpenes have the potential to influence cannabis experience, but outcomes ultimately depend on several factors, including individual body chemistry and sensitivity. Professional guidance is essential in creating realistic expectations, which leads to higher customer retention and exploration.
  3. Limited research is available on these minor terpenes, so properties are based primarily on anecdotal evidence. More study is needed to draw conclusive claims about their effects, benefits or risks. Information here aims to inform discussion, not provide medical advice or tailored recommendations.
  4. Effects of any terpene may depend greatly on dosage, method of administration, and their interaction with other compounds like cannabinoids. Generalizing properties based on terpene alone risks oversimplifying their role in a person's experience with cannabis. Many dimensions are in play.

Educate, Empower, Avoid Overreach: A Balanced Approach

Cannabis has significant potential for both medical benefit and recreational enjoyment, but effects can vary widely based on several individual factors. Guidance to find the proper solution for any one person's needs requires consulting a medical professional. However, there are opportunities to thoughtfully inform choices by discussing strain characteristics, cannabinoids, terpenes and general properties - as long as language avoids implying universal or "customized" outcomes.

Focus on Possibilities, Not Promises

Rather than:

"Strain X should produce an energized, creative effect due to its high THC and terpinolene content."

Consider:

"THC is considered psychoactive and may produce euphoric or uplifting effects for some. Terpinolene is a terpene that could potentially contribute to alertness and creativity."

Describing properties without definitive outcome language provides education without overreach. Effects are multi-dimensional, depending on individual factors beyond just properties of the plant.

The endocannabinoid system is unique to each person, just as one person may have different experiences with foods, supplements, or nutrients. Medical professionals with proper equipment may be able to analyze one's unique endocannabinoid system, similar to how tests are conducted for allergies, and a better analysis of how terpenes and cannabinoid combinations will affect the individual can become more predictable or customized to their desired outcome.

Note Variability and the Need for Guidance

Adding a note about significant variability in individual responses provides important context:

"Please note: Effects can vary significantly from person to person based on several factors. Details here aim to inform and guide discussion with a medical professional to determine the most suitable options based on individual needs and characteristics."

Focus on Safety, Responsibility, and Broad Groups Rather Than Tailoring

Rather than suggesting strains for specific symptoms, focus guidance around safe practices, dosage, and broadly grouping selections that may relieve anxiety or aid sleep based on commonalities. But continue acknowledging human variability. For example:

"These strains are frequently used for relief from anxiety to promote balance and ease. However, individual effects vary based on many factors. Finding the right solution may take trial and error under a doctor's guidance."

Transparency and Openness to Critique

Acknowledging limitations and an ongoing need for improvement provides ethical framing and helps address concerns. For example:

"There is still much work to be done, but avoiding overreach from the start helps set balanced expectations. Please share feedback on how to convey information responsibly. Through openness to critique, we achieve better understanding and serve the wellbeing of all."

Supporting a Wider Adoption Strategy Summarized

Educating about cannabis means discussing possibilities and properties, not making promises of tailored solutions or universal outcomes. By focusing guidance on safe practices, acknowledging variability, avoiding definitive language about effects, and framing information with ethical transparency, we can inform choices without overgeneralizing or promoting unrealistic expectations about the complexity of this plant and human experience. Overall wellbeing is best served through open discussion and medical guidance to determine what works for any one individual. But let's start by having thoughtful, balanced conversations.


Industry Professionals and Legacy Market Professional Concerns

Some argue that increased standardization could discourage innovation and diminish the whimsical nature of cannabis culture. However, as cannabis gains mainstream popularity and legalization spreads, the industry must adapt to meet the needs of all consumers, not just those already initiated.

There is still room for creativity within a classification system. Cannabis producers would remain free to give proprietary names to their unique strains for branding while still categorizing them under a standard taxonomy. More people being able to understand and be comfortable buying a product is not a bad thing.

While cannabis tradition has valued playful names and references to stoner culture, the industry’s future depends on implementing pragmatic practices that will be inclusive of all consumers seeking the benefits of this plant. By collaborating with AI and technology partners, such as https://kief.studio, cannabis businesses can develop the innovative naming and classification solutions needed to propel cannabis into the mainstream.

Progress demands willingness to adapt.

A Vision for Smart Synergy Between Humans and AI

As with any long-entrenched system, improving cannabis product naming conventions will require openness to change and a balance of the old and the new. Honoring tradition and culture while also embracing AI tools to solve this pressing issue is key. The future of the cannabis industry, and most industries, will see increasing reliance on collaboration between humans and machines.

Fortunately, the passionate experts at Kief Studio have already developed a system to leverage artificial intelligence to assist cannabis operators with their proprietary Qurtoo: Quantify Your Roots Too system. They are master certified in cannabis, and have been studying AI systems for over 10 years, I know, because I am the COO. I finished my Computer Science certification program through a local college while I was still in Jr. High School. Needless to say, I'm a stoner and computer geek. We can help cannabis companies through this complex and challenging technology shift.

People will always be essential to identifying emerging problems, guiding the direction of change, and determining optimal solutions. AI simply provides the scale and processing power to develop and implement those solutions with maximum impact. Automation is possible, when integrated appropriately, but when human ingenuity pairs with AI innovation, we open the door to possibilities that would otherwise remain unimagined.

The Cannabis Industry Can Set The Standard for AI Integration, It's Already Positioned For It

The cannabis industry today has the opportunity to pioneer this synergistic relationship between human and AI in addressing foundational challenges like product classification. By tapping into both the cultural knowledge of long-time cannabis advocates as well as the analytical capabilities of AI, the industry can establish a naming system reflective of its roots yet poised to branch out to new groups. The result of such a symbiotic approach may prove a model for other industries grappling with similar issues of tradition versus progress.

For an industry preparing to emerge from the shadows into the mainstream light, every detail matters in crafting the narrative and normalizing the product. The language itself shapes perceptions. Therefore, shifting from whimsical strain names to a descriptive taxonomy based on a strain’s compounds and effects constitutes a necessary evolution. While nostalgia for the past is natural and admirable, the future cannot be reached by looking backward.

Better Reform Policies Are More Likely With A Traditional Taxonomy

The coming period of legalization and reform represents a turning point, a chance to decide how cannabis will be viewed and who will benefit. Will it remain niche and inaccessible, shrouded in layers of cultural references not comprehended by those outside? Or will it establish itself as a product for the people, approachable but artisanal, benefiting medical patients and recreational consumers alike? The nomenclature itself signifies the path. Clarity and consistency must prevail.

Of course, there will be obstacles to implementing any new naming conventions and classification system, including additional costs, internal resistance and consumer confusion during the transition. But if achieved, the rewards of mainstreaming cannabis via a standardized taxonomy far outweigh the challenges. The spread of legalization depends on shaping cannabis into a product as easy to understand as it is to enjoy.

And so, we return to the opportunity at hand and the vision of what may come to pass if met with boldness.

A future where cannabis reaches its full potential as a natural remedy and adult indulgence, its wonders revealed through a language all can comprehend. Where patients receive relief and recreational consumers responsibility unwind. Where the natural fuses with the high-tech world we live in to forge new horizons. Where tradition comes alive again in mainstream appreciation of this plant, no longer relegated to the fringe. A future bright as the morning sun, as sure as the sea - if we but choose to make it so.

The words we choose today will guide us there. I look forward to further discussion.

Some Examples of Similar Universal Naming Techniques

This practice is often referred to as a 'Harmonized System'. These systems aim to provide order and to maintain context and classification internationally in various industries, for multiple languages and systems.

Here are some additional examples of standardized naming or classification systems used in various industries:

  • The Universal Product Code (UPC) system is used to track trade items, typically for retail sale. It consists of 12 numeric digits that are uniquely assigned to each trade item. UPC aims to streamline the purchase, tracking, pricing, and inventory of products.
  • The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is used by business and government to classify business establishments according to type of economic activity. It aims to facilitate the collection, analysis, and publication of statistical data related to the business economy.
  • The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system is a product-based classification used to identify the primary activity of a business. It was designed to promote uniformity and comparability in the presentation and analysis of industrial statistics.
  • The New York Stock Exchange uses a standardized numerical designation called a ticker symbol to identify and list stocks, bonds, funds, and other securities for trading purposes. Ticker symbols facilitate fast electronic trading and legibility.
  • The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system is used by libraries to organize and categorize books on shelves by subject. The DDC aims to make it easier for patrons to find the books they need.
  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides standardized criteria to classify mental disorders. It is used by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals to diagnose and categorize psychiatric conditions. The DSM promotes consistency across diagnoses.
  • The ICD is the international standard for reporting diseases and health conditions. The ICD is maintained by the World Health Organization and aims to allow for a standardized global epidemiological tool to monitor incidence and prevalence of diseases, as well as other reasons for utilization of health care services.
  • The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is an open, global multi-sector standard for the classification of products and services. It seeks to provide an efficient and flexible coding system for financial planning, cost accounting, purchasing, inventory control and sales analysis.

These types of standardized and harmonized systems provide examples of what a thoughtful cannabis classification system could aim to achieve in terms of facilitating commerce, data collection, product organization, consumer searchability, and global consistency. The key is developing a simplified model that still captures the nuance and complexity of all that cannabis encompasses. But through an open, collaborative process, a balanced solution can emerge.

So How Can We Collaborate on This List?

Open discourse is required for something like this to work for everyone

https://cannabisframework.org Logo, operated by HxHippy & Meelie of Kief Studio
https://cannabisframework.org

Introducing the Cannabis Framework Project

To address the issues discussed here surrounding inconsistent cannabis strain naming practices and the need for standardization to reach mainstream consumers, our team has established Cannabis Framework - a new organization dedicated to developing thoughtful solutions to complex problems in this burgeoning industry.

The Cannabis Framework Project aims to bring together industry stakeholders, subject matter experts, business leaders, and policy advocates to create pragmatic frameworks for navigating cannabis into mainstream legal and cultural acceptance. Our goal is to identify the obstacles preventing cannabis from achieving its full potential, then develop comprehensive roadmaps for overcoming them through multi-stakeholder collaboration and adoption of best practices.

We believe this inclusive, systematic approach is key to effecting real change on foundational challenges. No single business, organization or person alone can implement the solutions needed to transition cannabis into a widely accepted consumer product and medicine. But by building frameworks for process, policy and nomenclature through collective wisdom, we can establish guidance to benefit all in this rapidly evolving industry.

Our initial undertaking will focus on resolving the issue of unclear and non-standardized cannabis strain naming by developing an intuitive taxonomy and classification system based on a plant's compounds, effects, flavors and aromas. This Cannabis Framework Project will incorporate insights from cannabis experts, doctors, chemists as well as customer research on product naming preferences and purchasing motivators. The goal is to publish a practical model for strain categorization and naming that can be voluntarily adopted by cultivators, dispensaries and product brands to better serve medical patients and adult consumers alike.

We invite industry professionals, advocates and businesses to get involved in developing this solution-oriented framework and those to follow. Please visit www.cannabisframework.org to join the discussion and share your perspective. Together, we can craft the path forward. The future remains unwritten. Shape it with us.