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Data analyst Gerald Pallor published an in-depth article on April 4th, 2023 in his newsletter through LinkedIn, "Old Tokers Guide To Cannabis" titled "Cannabis' Notorious Product Names A Dilemma from the Farm to the Dispensary" in which he argues that the cannabis industry needs a more scientific classification system to provide consumers with accurate product information and help ensure quality. Pallor notes that the current categorization of cannabis strains into Sativa, Indica, and hybrid groups is imprecise and does not reflect a strain's chemical composition or effects.
Pallor traces the origins of the terms Sativa and Indica, but points out that most modern strains are hybrids that do not fall clearly into either category. A strain's effects actually depend more on its cannabinoid and terpene profile than these broad classifications. The wide variability in production techniques also leads to significant differences in the characteristics of a strain even when the same seeds are used.
While market forces incentivize the development of high-quality, innovative new strains, they also drive some producers to cut corners to maximize profits, emphasizing quantity over quality. Pallor warns that without proper regulation and standardization, the cannabis industry risks facing the same challenges as other agricultural products that have experienced "monoculture" and declining quality, such as strawberries and bananas.
Pallor's insights echo the goals of the Cannabis Framework Project, an advocacy group focused on accelerating the mainstream adoption of cannabis through policy solutions and best practices. The Project aims to develop an intuitive classification system and standardized nomenclature for cannabis to make the shopping experience more navigable, especially for newcomers. They also seek to issue recommendations around social equity, sustainability, product standards, and transparency.
According to the Cannabis Framework Project, progress depends on inclusiveness, pragmatism, and prioritizing public benefit over private interests. They aim to develop solutions through collaborating with experts and stakeholders across sectors. By reflecting diverse voices, outcomes may better serve the shared interests of community and industry. However, the scope of the Cannabis Framework Project's goals also poses challenges, as there are many complex factors and needs to consider regarding cannabis policy and regulation.
Pallor highlights similar themes in his article, arguing the need for a scientifically valid classification method to empower consumers and healthcare professionals with clarity, as well as help establish norms to build customer trust. He cites industry leaders advocating for a "chemotype" or "terpene tag" model to categorize strains based on their compound and terpene profiles, which could provide more precise information about effects and therapeutic properties than the Sativa/Indica distinction.
While innovative, these chemovar-based models may also be too complex for inexperienced consumers without education. The Cannabis Framework Project's proposed solution is developing an intuitive classification system and simplified terminology to make cannabis more accessible, based on a strain's compounds and effects, while still honoring culture. Their adaptive approach, which balances simplicity and scientific accuracy, may help address the issues Pallor outlines regarding the current model.
Overall, Pallor's article and the Cannabis Framework Project highlight the need for a more sophisticated and innovative means of classifying cannabis that empowers consumers with accurate information and helps guide the industry toward higher standards. Transitioning to a classification model based on chemotype or chemovar could significantly enhance the consumer experience, clinical guidance, and integrity of the market. However, this model would require education and adaptation to be viable and equitable.
Balancing scientific accuracy with practical applicability, as the Cannabis Framework Project proposes, may provide the most ethical path forward. Their inclusive, multifaceted approach to developing policy solutions is promising, although executing across the scope of their aims will undoubtedly present challenges. Still, through open collaboration and community participation, progress can be made. Articles like Pallor's provide valuable insights to help inform new frameworks and shape a more just future for cannabis. While the path remains open, advocates are beginning to walk it.
You can read the full article by Gerald Pallor on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cannabis-notorious-product-names-dilemma-from-farm-gerald-pallor/
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