The state-legal cannabis industry has exploded across America in recent years. With more than three dozen states on board at this point, there is plenty of room in the industry for new growers, processors, and retail distributors. From the consumer’s perspective, there is no shortage of cannabis brands and strains. But how much do they really matter?
At last count, there were thousands of allegedly unique cannabis strains on the market. Not all are available in every state due to restrictions against interstate transport. But still, can there be thousands of strains and all of them be unique in some way? Probably not. But even if they were, how much would that matter to medical cannabis users?
The Strain vs. Brand Issue
If you were to visit the Beehive Farmacy in Salt Lake City, UT, you would find a variety of different brand names. The Cookies brand would be among them. Cookies is one of the most well-known cannabis brands in the world. It is marketed as a lifestyle brand.
How different is the Cookies brand from the actual strains the company produces? Technically speaking, there is an enormous difference. A brand is little more than a marketing image and message. Meanwhile, a strain is a variety of a particular cannabis plant species.
Unfortunately, the cannabis industry discusses strains and brands interchangeably. The vast majority of strain names do not actually refer to real strains. Rather, they are just brand names being passed off as unique strains.
Results Should Matter More
All this leads back to the fundamental question of how important brands and strains are to medical cannabis users. But it is a matter of how important they actually are versus how important users think they are. Green Flower’s Jordan Tishler, MD explains it easily enough by comparing medical cannabis to pizza.
Preference and Outcome Are Different
There are two considerations in medical cannabis: personal preferences and outcome. Likewise with pizza. If you order a pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms, you have ordered according to your preference. Those are the toppings you enjoy. Yet the outcome of eating the pizza is filling your stomach and providing your body with nutrition.
Guess what? You could order pizza with pineapple and ham and still get the same outcome. Your belly would be full, and your body would have food to convert into energy. You only order pepperoni and mushrooms because that is your preference, not because it affects the outcome.
Preference and Outcome with Cannabis
A similar principle applies with cannabis. The patient might prefer the Cookies brand for whatever reason. But what is more important is the outcome. Does the particular product that the user likes so much accomplish the goal of helping them feel better?
It turns out that brand has little to do with the patient’s outcome. What makes that person feel better are the cannabinoids and terpenes contained in the product. So in theory, a patient would experience the same outcome with a different brand as long as the product contained the same cannabinoids and terpenes.
Cannabinoid and terpene profiles are really what matter to medical cannabis outcomes. As far as brands and strains are concerned, they are more a matter of preference than anything else. The only exception would be a brand or strain that is truly unique in its cannabinoid and terpene profile. If it is the only one on the market with that profile, and it’s the only one that works for you, then you’re likely to stick with it. Other than that, brands and strains are more marketing tools than anything else.