The Effects of Hybrid Marijuana Strains Don’t Always Match What’s Advertised

Hybrid marijuana strains with mixed-up lineage produce effects that vary based on the participant.

Skywalker OG and Moby Dick are examples of hybrid marijuana strains that come from cross-bred genetically modified plants. They are marketed with words like “uplifting” or “relaxing.” There are over 100 creative strains of marijuana, and each strain produces slightly different effects.

However, the fancy names and tantalizing effects may be an example of effective marijuana marketing. Experts say the sell to consumers is a little cloudy. According to plant scientist and assistant professor at Dalhousie University, Sean Myles, hybrid marijuana strains are not living up to their billing. Myles, who also one of Canada’s authorities on apple genetics says,

“Every time you get Bubba Kush it should taste and smell like Bubba Kush. It should behave like Bubba Kush. What we found is that it’s not actually the case … while it is the case in apples, you can’t say the same for marijuana.”

Myles goes on to say that strains of weed are more like “hybrid mutts.” Especially when compared to carefully cultivated products with clear genetic history. In contrast to well-tended apple orchards, hybrid marijuana strains have grown wild all over the world.

The indica versus sativa myth

There is a long-standing myth in the cannabis community that breaks marijuana strains into two main categories: indica and sativa. Sativa strains are thought to have a more invigorating, uplifting effect, whereas indica strains may be more relaxing or sedating.

But research led by Myles and Jonathan Page, a botanist at UBC, discovered that marijuana genes are extremely interbred. Thus stating a strain of weed has one ancestry is often false. Myles says,

“It’s often the case that these names they’ve associated with these marijuana strains do not represent any meaningful genetic identity.”

For example, Jamaican Lamb’s Bread was reported as 100 percent sativa. A test by Myles and his team discovered that the plant was nearly 100 percent indica, the complete opposite of advertisements.

hybrid marijuana strains
Cole Cacciavillani, co-founder of Aphria Inc., inspects a crop of cannabis buds. Leamington, Ont.-based Aphria is one of Canada’s largest growers of medicinal cannabis. (Susan Ormiston/CBC)

Marijuana strain names are meaningless

Myles continued on to say that hybrid marijuana strains sold under the same name by multiple growers are often genetically different. Myles says in reference to the meaningless strain names on the market,

“We need to move towards a system where these things are quantified by the medicinal-components side of the strain and the effects they have on the user.”

Currently, licensed growers in Canada must list CBD and THC levels, and test for things like pesticides.

But the naming conventions under which cannabis will be sold are still unregulated.