I’ve had the opportunity to run my own inventory, and when doing so, I was able to decide which strains that came into our dispensary. Often, we would have an opportunity to try new strains and revisit old ones depending on our timeframe for displaying new product. This was often important as we needed to evaluate grade and effects before we put them on our menu. A strain from one grower can differ significantly in quality based on how it is grown, so finding the best price tier was essential to assure that our patients were getting a top quality product. Those same growers were often pheno-hunters, working to find the one strong seed or mother in a market flooded with similar strains. Due to this, we regularly tested strains to see what the difference in effects were, as they could range widely. Even though we did our own research, we often had to resort to using a popular info site that added strain details to our menu as our primary guide in communicating to patients what to expect when they were doing their own research on the best strain for their needs.

Know Your Grow

Details of a grow’s conditions in a cultivation may or may not be available to you when shopping at a dispensary, which is a shame, because honestly, these details influence my choices even more than testing (though I do make an exception for mold). I often find that hydro or aeroponics, though expensive, in my state put out reliably strong product while also requiring high standards for cleanliness. It also matters to know whether you’re dealing with cannabis grown outdoors or in greenhouses, as strains from these types of grows are rarely as strong. The grow conditions of outdoor cannabis in Arizona can also require extra care or product to succeed in our arid conditions. This can mean pest control, PGR’s, or additional nutrients applied during growth to improve the quality of the final product. Knowing these details about a grow can influence patients greatly as some might want organic, or specifics about what additional nutrients are going into the cannabis.

Why Strains Can Vary Wildly

Growers also work to bring new phenotypes of favorite strains to the market in the hope of creating something new. I’ve grown Super Silver Haze, and I have tried many different versions of it from throughout the country. Each cut of that strain has been different from what I knew from experience, simply because the conditions it was grown in, were different, or the source for the seed differed from my own. The effects might share similarities, but the quality will depend greatly on the conditions and skills of those cultivating. It could be why, I might try some GDP at one place near me, but across town, their GDP is different. This may manifest in effects, or it could be in the overall quality of the bud.

Managing Customer Expectations

All of this makes it difficult to manage customer expectations of strains. This stems from the information found on popular websites like Leafly and their own experience. Unfortunately, there’s no way to add or edit details or descriptions on big sites, so we are left to use blanket descriptors because they’re familiar to patients from their research. However, due to differences in phenotypes, breeding, and cultivation conditions, the described effects can differ greatly, so it then becomes our job to provide good intel on the state of the strain in our state. In Arizona, I have had what I’ve known as strong sativa, be a heavy indica. I’ve also had a vendor tell me about their best indica, and have it turn out to be a hybrid that affects those sensitive to sativas. Issues like these vary from region to region, and since current online menu options are quite limited, there isn’t always a good way to communicate the changes to those who need the products.

Knowledge is Power

Even though it clouds the water a bit, I’m happy that such strain diversity exists, as it allows companies room to improve by learning from one another, as well as giving dispensaries options for their patients. At the end of the day, it comes down to the budtenders and their knowledge of the product or cultivation to best assist those buying the strain. It lands on our shoulders to connect with patients on the differences they might see or feel, and to explain why they exist. Knowledge will always be the best way to help others and knowing how something is cultivated will help you to serve your customers better. Expand your experience, and search for the fundamental differences that will exist between vendors in your region. Be aware of what is said about the product online versus what you have in store. Ask questions of colleagues around you if you need feedback and use all you know to better help those you serve. After all, helping customers understand cannabis and get what they need should be our number one priority as budtenders.