Sean Myles, a researcher at Dalhousie University, discovered cannabis in Nova Scotia is mislabeled on shelves. After an in-depth study of various strain DNA, Myles reported to Global News, “There’s not much difference.”Now, Myles says he’s concerned about how strains are marketed to consumers who depend on them for medical use. Nova Scotia currently has the highest rate of cannabis use in the country at 27 percent.
Imagine feeling under the weather. Most would take a trip down to the local pharmacy to pick up something that might help. You know what your symptoms are, so you walk down the aisle and carefully read over the packages. You want to make sure the medicine you chose matches your symptoms.
Avid smokers of cannabis might be diligent in reading the labels as well — especially if using it medicinally. Now imagine buying Benedryl when you wanted to buy cough syrup, all because of the label.
According to Myles, associate professor in the Faculty of Agriculture, strains frequently labelled as Sativa are still more chemically related to something labelled as Indica. Strain labelling is a poor predictor of anything and not useful for consumers. This is a big deal for those who seek the medicinal content of a specific plant.
Why are strains being mislabeled?
George Smitherman, president of the Cannabis Council of Canada, says mislabeled cannabis comes from the trickling effect of illegal cannabis products. “License holders were able to bring, on a one-time basis, plants over from the illicit world where perhaps the naming and such was more of a trend and less of a scientific matter”, said Smitherman.
This mislabeling in Nova Scotia is a big problem, so why is cannabis not being labelled correctly? Basically, phenotypes of cannabis are much more complex than previously thought. With the discovery of more complex cannabinoids in recent decades, the differences between Sativa and Indica aren’t as clear-cut.
Keep in mind two things that influence the structural formation of any given cannabis plant: genetics and environment. The genetic makeup (also called a genotype) acts as a blueprint for growth, allowing a spectrum of physical possibilities. However, it is up to the environment to induce these characteristics. We refer to the physical expression of genotypes as a phenotype, defined as the traits that the environment pulls out from the genetic code. Everything from colour, shape, smell, and resin production is affected by the environment.
“If Pinot Noir appears on a bottle of wine, a consumer can be confident the wine is made from Pinot Noir grapes. Unfortunately, cannabis consumers cannot have this confidence — labels and strain names do a poor job of informing consumers about what they are consuming,”
Dr. Sean Myles, University of Dalhousie.
Now, Myles warns that breeders and growers may be labelling their cannabis strains rather subjectively based on a small number of aromatic compounds that are under genetic control. According to his evidence, consumers should not rely on cannabis labels to inform them of what they are consuming.