One of the many confusions that many people who are just starting out in the cannabis industry struggle with is the various strain names of cannabis. More often than not, it becomes overwhelming to identify which is which, especially as strange brand names start to pop up. In this episode, Tony Frischknecht interviews Conal Rosanbalm, the wholesale manager of Kind Love in Denver, Colorado, to help us become familiar with the different strains available out there and how you can get yours. Conal also takes us into what they do over at Kind Love, how they pick their strains, test out their products, and sell. Listen in on this conversation to get valuable insights about the world of cannabis strain names.
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Understanding Cannabis Strain Names With Conal Rosanbalm
I’ve got a special guest with me and we’re going to discuss something that gets tossed around every now and then, but not very consistently. We’re going to talk about strain names. I have Conal Rosanbalm from Kind Love in Denver, Colorado. He’s the Wholesale Manager there. We’ve spoken on another episode, but he’s also a dear friend of mine. Conal, thank you for being on. I appreciate you squeezing us in. How are you doing?
I’m doing great.
I appreciate you taking the time out because this is something that I’ve had discussions with a lot of friends of mine that are in the industry for years. Where do you get your strains? How do you know what they are? I have my own story and I’ll share a little bit with you, guys. Strains are an interesting thing. It’s taking me back to when I first received my strain. I was just starting growing. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know where to get it. I knew you could purchase them online, but that was a scary sketchy thing. I didn’t know any particular growers at the time. The gentleman that helped me create my first growth set up was like, “I’ll teach you a couple of tricks. I’ll get you your first set of clones.” If people have followed me for a while, it was 72 different plants that I started with. “I’ll help you through your first harvest all for the small amount of $3,000.”
I didn’t know what I was doing. When you’re in those situations, you’ve got to pay to play. Fortunately, he didn’t charge me upfront. I was able to pay him after I saw some success. That was pretty awesome. I had to trust that he was getting them from a reputable source. Not only that, but I had to make sure that there weren’t pests all over it, powdery mildew, and a number of others that I like to call plant STDs that you can get when you’re getting them from somebody. In that case, he ended up talking to whoever he was talking to. That’s how it went back then and showed up with my 72 plants. I was introduced to Durban Poison. That’s where I saw my start. I know you’ve had a lot of experience in this area, but you’ve also had a little growing experience. Where does it take you back to with the first strain that you ever knew about?
We’re talking about many years ago, depending on the timelines. I don’t want to out myself completely because it wasn’t always legal in the beginning. It’s a little bit sketchy still. Back in the day, before I even was a grower, strain names aren’t even important. You would get bud or whatever. They had a couple of different kinds of buds. You can bring it up if you want to or you can get the kind bud. That’s what’s usually going to be the name brand strains. Back in the early days, I didn’t know what they were and I didn’t care. They came in a bag and I smoke it. When it came to growing, it seemed like people wanted to tout the larger names or the more popular strain names and stuff that was around. Before then, people started doing genetics in the masses. There are only a few little groups of growers that were making the cuts that people wanted to get their hands on. Early on, it was the OG strains. We call them psyche. The OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Flo, Blueberry, those kinds of things early on, and then things progressed from there.
I remember growing Bubble Gum. I liked growing that strain. It was a high yielding strain. However, did I know that I was growing Bubble Gum?For a cannabis product to become marketable, it needs to be relevant and needs to show where it came from. Click To Tweet
That’s always been an issue too because there are a few strains where you know it’s that strain when you grow them. Golden Goat, for example, is one of those because it’s got all those little red hairs on it. Durban Poison is also one of those because it’s got that specific smell to it, but you’re right. How are you supposed to know? You can have somebody let you know where it’s coming from too. If this one’s a lot gassier and smells, it probably comes from an OG or a Diesel cut. If it’s a Bubble Gum or a Blueberry, it’s going to have that sweeter thing. There’s a little bit of trust involved.
Back in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, there were some stuff coming out like people were creating Girl Scout Cookies and Gorilla Glue. The funny story about those is the Girl Scouts were suing people. They were doing cease and desist orders on a dispensary a few years ago. It’s the same with Gorilla Glue. They put out some cease and desist order because they didn’t want people using their name. These guys spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create a name and the black market industry or legal market was taking advantage of the names they created. What do you think it’s going to take for us to come out of the unthinkable, these crazy names and start naming these appropriately for the times that we’re in?
We started trending towards strange name brands, as you said, Girl Scout Cookies and Gorilla Glue. No wonder they wanted us to stop. They started naming things based on desserts that people love or something like that. Gelato is one of those popular ones and also the Wedding Cake. A good grower wants the name to do justice to the strain. A lot of times, you’re taking the name of one strain that you’re crossing with another, and then you’re mixing those and that’s what becomes the name. We’re in a cool position to be trying some new things and then maybe getting a little bit political on it so you know where the strain came from and what time period it was created. That’s a cool idea to think about. Maybe it doesn’t even have a name. Maybe it’s that symbol of the fist raised in the air or something like that. There are a lot of cool options.
These are the things that people toss around all the time, but I haven’t heard anybody break it down. I like the idea of a symbol but that’s more of a trademark.
You think of like Quarantine Kush or Wash Your Hands Whack or something like that.
This is something that we often hear about in the brewing industry. The microbrews use this a lot. You almost think it’s more scientific than it is, but it’s the smell and the experience that may be the growers are having during his crop. Something happens there and he’s like, “I crossed it with this, so I’m going to call it this.” It’s not very scientific at all. I’m wondering what that tipping point is going to be for dispensaries and growers to say, “Is it science?”
There’s something to that in order for it to be marketable. It needs to be relevant, but it also needs to show where it came from. You wouldn’t want to name something almost all Diesel. It’s anything but with Diesel in the name because they want to be attracted to that as a marketing person.
It could be certain compounds that that specific strain is made up of. Maybe it says, “If these other strains fall within 20% of each one of these compounds, we’ll put it in the A quadrant. That’s the A bud. We’ve got B bud, C bud, and D bud. I don’t know why this is difficult to understand and try to figure out, but it’s a conundrum. We’ve got this plant, we take the smells, and then we call it something.” I’ve never been in this situation of trying to segment the plant because it’s got many different compounds. We’re talking over 1,000. There’s a lot we don’t even know of or haven’t tested for yet because we don’t even know how to test it for yet. What does Kind Love do out there when they’re picking their strains because they don’t have much to go off of?
I’m looking at a big list of genetics and stuff. There are some things that you know you’ve got to keep at least close to what the original name was. One of our most popular strains is Alien Rock Candy that we sell in Kind Love. That’s another one of those weird strains where you can’t call it Alien Rock Candy because you can’t sell anything with the name candy in it. It’s aiming at children according to the government. We have to name it ARC. We can’t call it Candy Kush. You’ve got to call it C Kush or whatever. They make you jump through these stupid hoops. We did a cross of ARC with the Cookies and Cream, which you also can’t call it Cookies and Cream. We call it Arctic Cookies. We might have to shorten that too. That one gets pretty true to form. It’s one strain, put another strain, and then you mix the name together. That’s a trend that always helped you.
At some point, you get a guy that wants to be creative. He’s going to call it whatever he wants to anyway. He’s going to call it Bonanza because that was his favorite show growing up. Once that starts to happen, unless they keep these lists of old genetics and where the strains came from, you’ll end up starting to lose the originality of the strains in the first place. Who knows where Bonanza came from? Who knows where one of the strains that made Bonanza came from before that? How many times it’s been crossed? You could be at this point 50 to 100 crosses to one different strain that’s out there.
I spoke to one guy in Mexico a couple of years ago. He claimed to have 100% Sativa that had never been crossed, who knows. I’ve never heard of anybody because the only people I know that I firsthand met were crossing two genetics. They were doing Cotton Candy with a Bubble Gum. They were coming up with these names. Do you have a big area that you’re doing genetics?
It’s not a huge area. They try to do what we call phenotype testing. They pop seeds typically and then if it’s the strain that they like from the seed that they’ve got, sometimes they’ll try to do some pollination. With a pop like a series of seeds, maybe they’ll do twenty or something like that. They all have the same genetics but they have something slightly different. The different environments in the room or that kind of thing and see where it can grow the best, in what condition, and which seeds are the best. They will take those plants and get those same seeds and then regrow them until they can figure out exactly how to hold it in.
We usually end up with one strain out of twenty different attempts that we keep and everything else gets tossed to the wayside. We’re always trying to keep it very top level as they can be. I don’t get my hands dirty in that respect as much, but I do get to sell it when it’s out. It’s always nice to see what’s coming down the road. It’s also nice trying new strains. When they’ll have them at the store, it will be like Arctic Cookies 1 through 14. We all get back together afterward and we’re like, “We liked the 9. We liked the 7. Fourteen is terrible.” They will regrow those good ones again, then we sell them.
That’s a great way to test some new products out there. You are taking ten plants of supposedly the same genetic. You’re flowering them out to where you can harvest them. Your employees are all trying them a little bit and then they say, “Which one did you like?” I love that idea.
All people need to be confident in what they’re selling too, like the GM to the store, the operating managers, and a few of the owners. Me as a wholesale person, I love to try as much as I can so that I’m confident with the product.
How does that affect your selling when you’re able to do that?
It’s nice because I can tell somebody what the effects are. You can listen to somebody else tell you what the effects are. Honestly, me telling you what I felt isn’t necessarily going to be the same experience, but at least I can be like, “For me, this one is giggly and I love the fruity flavor. I forgot to turn the cartoons off that day for half an hour.” That’s what some people are looking for. I’m like, “I did this one and then I vacuum my house twice because I felt motivated.” If people want to know those experiences, they want to know smell and flavor, but that’s pretty apparent. It’s the effects thing that people are listening to me for anyway.
I want to touch on your experiences. Do you feel that a lot of these names are off of experiences?
I do, especially for us. They try to keep it true to where it came from strain-wise so that we know what the cross is when we say the name out loud. In general, I do think that you can name a strain based on what do you think is going to do? If there’s a Rocketship strain out there, that better not put you on a couch. I do think that’s out there. A lot of people try to ring true to the most popular names like Wedding Cake, things like Gelato, Tangie, Clementine, and things that you know are going to be flavorful or popular. You’re going to want to lean in that direction.If people want to know those experiences from the cannabis product, they want to know smell and flavor. Click To Tweet
The strain name is baffling to me because everybody has their own different story on what a strain name is.
You can tell from what era too. Remember Casey Jones, which is the name of that. It’s great for that song. It was like a train or something like that. There are all kinds of stuff, Starfighter or Stardawg.
I wonder what the percentage of Americans out there that would embrace this culture a little more if the names made a little more sense to them.
I bet you they would. It is a little intimidating if you don’t know what the heck you’re looking at. If you go into a dispensary for the first time and you may not have the same amount of experience that the other people in there do, especially not the budtenders. You’re looking at a menu on the wall. How do I know what WiFi OG is compared to a Triangle Kush?
It’s got to be extremely confusing to the customer at the end of the day because when we were back in the store and working with people, a lot of those people weren’t new to smoking cannabis. They’d been around it if not a decade, several decades because of the medical marijuana people, those were the originators. That push and pull of, “Let’s change the name.” You then got the older generation like, “That’s how it is.” In order to get people to understand what affects you have from this, how do I sell this to somebody that’s never smoked before? They may never have gotten high before from any type of drugs aside from taking alcohol or whatever. I can’t imagine how intimidating that is for people out there.
There are a lot of people that probably wouldn’t even walk into a dispensary. If you take a caveman to a grocery store, he’s going to pass out. You’re right about that. I do think there’s a little bit of responsibility in the industry to remain true to the roots of the strain. If you decide you’re going to change the name willy-nilly, that’s an experience-based. I understand that process and it might help some people, but then you start getting on muddy on that one like, “I can’t remember where I came from,” unless you’re keeping detailed notes on that, which is another responsibility of the grower.
I think science is what’s going to bring this into play. It seems like to me, data is what our world is made up of. It’s creating these different data points of each strain.
It’s almost like DNA markers like Ancestry.com can tell you what you’re made out of, where you are from in the world. It would be pretty cool to be like, “This one’s got 12% myrcene in it. We know it’s going to be one of these strains on this list.” That would be cool. I wonder how close we are.
Sometimes I think we’re right there, and then I think about how much control the Federal Government still has on this, especially with patents. I know hundreds are either sitting in line or figuring out a way to patent out their companies. If that will still open up, we would probably make more sense because then people could put this into a patent and say, “This is the pharma standard.” I’m making up an example, but something like that for a baseline. You guys out there reading, if there is somebody that’s like, “I’ve got this and that,” I would love to hear from you. Please contact me. I’m all over social media and PlantProblem.com. As for this conversation that we are having, that’s what’s stopping us at this point from creating a standard.
I also think people get lost in percentages of things like THC, CBD, and some of the other cannabinoids. There are many more things inside of a plant and inside of each gene that can make it different for each person with your endocannabinoid system, especially Terpene. I’ve got a theory too. One of the biggest frustrating things, even if it’s a great strain name, let’s say it’s Wedding Cake or Love Affair. Something that looks nice. It’s got some amazing bag appeal. It’s got a little bit of name recognition in the industry so people know what it is. If it comes back from testing at 15% THC, even though it looks good, smells good and everything, that one number that the end consumer is looking at is going to scare them from buying it. They’re going to buy the one that’s next to it. Who knows what the strain name is, but it’s a 30% tester and I hate that.
We could turn that into a whole hour because I disagree with the fact that the highest THC is the best or it is going to make you euphoric or the experience is high. Everybody’s body is different and that’s where we come back to the science again and say, “What are these particular traits of this strain that you see the best effect from? That’s the only thing I can match up because if you’ve got point A, point B, point C, and point D in that strain and you say, “This is the one that affects me the best. This is the one I like.” Why couldn’t they take those markers and go, “We don’t have the same name, but we have the same plant right over here to the left that’s got very similar data points?” All of a sudden people were like, “I like that but it’s got a little bit something different.” Not much, but it’s a little bit something different.
I know you don’t have the answer to this, but I’m excited to see from our readers out there that’s like, “I’ve got the idea and here it’s coming.” I don’t think when you’re in the dispensary business, the time that it takes to put something together like this is so much more extensive than the time you have available in your hand right now. These guys are trying to survive and run a business. They make sure they’re working on compliance always first and foremost, then they’re trying to pay their bills, and then they’re trying to make money. Those are the three things.
The places where it is happening are the places where it’s got government funding and backing now. Israel is a good place to be for that research. Hopefully, those guys are thinking about this. Maybe we should send some of them this episode.
They are probably way ahead of us on this. They probably already have the answer and I’m flubbing for no reason. Conal, thanks a lot for being on the show. I always appreciate your insight on what’s going down in at least the Colorado market. I appreciate that. If anybody out there has any questions, what’s the best way they can reach out to you?
It’s my professional email, Conal@KindLove.com. I’d love to answer any questions you might have. That’s the most direct and quick way to hear back from me.
You can always reach out to me if you think you’re more comfortable reaching out to me. I can always talk to Conal too. Get in touch with me at PlantProblem.com. I’m also on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can always reach me there. I’ll be more than happy to answer your questions there. I want to thank you for joining this episode and thanks a lot, Conal, for being on here.
No problem at all. Thanks for having me.
You’re welcome. You guys have a great day out there and I can’t wait to have you back.
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- Past Episode – The Shifting Cannabis Market with Conal Rosanbalm
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About Conal Rosanbalm
Conal is a cannabis professional who has been in the legal industry for 10 years. He is the head of wholesale management for The Award-Winning Cannabis Dispensary in Denver Colorado “Kind Love.” Most of his life has been spent working directly with the customer and helping them find the best product that suits their needs. Starting from the ground floor as a budtender, and working his way up through each position in retail (including cultivation) has taught him the expertise and knowledge to be a leader in the field. The joy he brings others flows through every part of his life. Especially when performing his passion for music on a live stage. Colorado is his home, and lucky for him it is the epicenter of the American cannabis industry.