What's in a name? The Agent Orange marijuana strain and the history behind the Vietnam War-era defoliating chemical are an uncomfortable juxtaposition. (Photo illustration, The Cannabist; credits: AP Photo/Department of Defense and Ry Prichard, The Cannabist)

Ask The Cannabist: Naming strains, federal rescheduling riddle

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 100-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to Ask The Cannabist at askthecannabist@gmail.com.

Hey, Cannabist!
Why would someone name a strain of weed after a bio weapon that killed thousands of people? — Put Off Pot

Hey, Pot!
You must be talking about Agent Orange, eh? I hear your concern, strain names can mean one thing to a potential customer and something else to the plant breeder naming the strain. While Agent Orange is not a peaceful, happy or euphoric name if you view it in historical context, there is the other view that the name suggests an orange scent and the potency is the bomb!

I chatted with Adam Dunn, host of “The Adam Dunn Show” and founder of Amsterdam-based seed company THSeeds. “Having owned a seed company myself for 21 years, I can attest that many cannabis seed companies are run by people who have a bit more of a juvenile attitude, especially when it comes to the names game,” Dunn says. “Names like Agent Orange, AK-47, Green Crack and Wheelchair Weed, though quite distasteful, conjure up images of something really strong and devastating.  I doubt the people who named Agent Orange really considered this was a bio weapon that killed thousands of people and destroyed lives of countless more.”

Often, strain names are creative combinations of the names that make up the genetic lineage, or other plant attributes.

“Having been there at the naming of AK-47 and my own MK Ultra, I am guilty of joining the hype,” Dunn says. “I was dead wrong back in 1993 when I said AK-47 was a terrible name. It was named for flowering on 47 days, and AK-47 went on to become one of the most famous strains in history.”

With the start of the legal adult use market this year, the reactions of consumers to strain names is a recent development in marijuana marketing.  Dunn points out that “the cannabis industry is very young and will go through many changes.” XO

Favorite strains: 25 ranked reviews from our marijuana critics

Hey, Cannabist!
I have a question regarding the rescheduling of cannabis.  If the feds ever moved cannabis to a Schedule II or III (or even something less restrictive, not likely), wouldn’t that be bad for the recreational cannabis movement?  If this is recognized as something medicinal, doesn’t that imply that it shouldn’t be used for recreational purposes?  I’d love to hear your take on this. –Schwag Schedule Suspect

Hey, Schwag!
Holy smokes, good question!  As you may know, the current Drug Schedule is part of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA is federal legislation that first passed in 1970. It legally defines some drugs into five categories, called schedules based on medical use and abuse potential.  Schedule I, where marijuana is listed, is in the most dangerous drug category, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Schedule II drugs, which include cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone among others, are defined as less addictive than Schedule I with some medicinal benefit. Schedule III drugs have a moderate or low addiction potential and so forth down to Schedule V cough syrups.

I asked marijuana business attorney Sean McAllister for his legal opinion. If marijuana moves to Schedule II or III, McAllister says, “The rescheduling would allow marijuana to be prescribed by doctors and distributed by pharmacies.  This would undermine the current medical marijuana dispensary system. 

“Rescheduling could also hurt recreational marijuana by requiring it to be distributed in pharmacies and limiting access to those with prescriptions, which is not the same availability as recreational use.”

It’s worth noting that the pharmacy system is the foundation for Uruguay’s national marijuana program.

For recreational cannabis to move forward, McAllister says that “descheduling is the answer.” If completely descheduled, marijuana could join alcohol and tobacco, defined as regulated recreational drugs.  McAllister adds, “Marijuana needs to be regulated like alcohol or any other herb and not require a doctor recommendation or connection to pharmaceutical companies.” XO

Editorial: ‘Wake up, Congress. Approve D.C.’s vote. Take pot off Schedule I’

In the realm of possibility: AG Eric Holder is open to the idea of potentially rescheduling marijuana