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What's in a name? Is it time to ditch the "strain"?

So this topic has come up many times over the years: is it time to ditch the popular nomenclature of “strain” in favor or something more scientific or agricultural such as “cultivar” or “varietal”?

Let’s hear your opinions here, folks: how do you feel about “strains”?


we are trying our best to only use “cultivar” now as “strain” really is not proper.


We come from the horticultural industry. We use the term Variety instead.

Speaking as an outsider coming into the industry Strain sounds like another one of the cannabis industry only terms.

When cannabis becomes legal in the US the term plant variety will be used in the patents.


I have preferred the terms variety or cultivar for a very long time, but I can see why cannabis varieties were referred to as strains by those who do not study botany, and I would not at all say that “strain” used as in relation to a plant is a ghetto term from the cannabis industry: as it has been used with wheat and rice for a very long time.

Or maybe we have ghetto stoners at Oxford writing their dictionary:



  • 1A particular breed, stock, or variety of an animal or plant.

Something tells me this is in the right direction. The farmers, botanists, and general horticulture enthusiasts will likely stick with Variety or Cultivar, but the common populous, main consumers, and dispensaries will probably stick with strain. Sometimes, you got to go with what the people know and talk their language.


You may be right, the naming is familiar and people rarely want to change their ways! Like a bad virus, the “strain” may be here to stay!


Thanks for asking this question, @Growernick.

I use the term “cultivar” most often, as it is scientifically correct.

However, in some cases (usually informally), I’ll use the word strain. Scientifically it’s incorrect, but something feels wrong about brushing such a strong vernacular aside and telling people that they’re wrong. It’s a cultural affront, in some ways.

It’s like telling people from the south that “y’all” isn’t a word - technically, it’s “you all,” but if you tell a southerner that they are wrong for using that vernacular, they will likely run alla y’all out of town. (PS I am a southerner - born and raised in Atlanta, GA, and I will never stop saying y’all – even in Oregon! – or its possessive, y’all’s, for that matter.)

All of this said, there is a need to have more informed conversations based on actual science. I think it’s appropriate to push the use of “cultivar” and “variety,” but let’s not be jerks to people when they use the word “strain.” The more we can do to bring the scientific community and the old school grower community together, the better, and use of language is one way to either invite people into the conversation or shut them out.


I’ve got no dog in this fight, but I’m always for calling something what it is (unless you pronounce “Gif” with a soft g :wink: ) so if the pros think cultivar is a better description, I’m all for it. But as others have said, it’s hard to change the common vernacular. It’ll take some time, but I think as more laws relax and the conversation (and market) opens up to a lot of uninitiated folk, the pros will be able to steer the language the way it needs to go. #normalize


Cultivar is for clones normally, Variety is for a seed variety.
Strain is for viruses and bacteria…
You are free to use what you think is best.


Varietals and cultivars are used by every other agricultural endeavor. Its time cannabis did the same.


Thanks for that thorough explanation, @watson. We all grow together! Very interesting to watch the evolution of this industry.

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Am I doing it right?


Hahaha I would ditch that strain in a heartbeat!

Maybe he’ll chill out after he burns down that doober!

I think there are a lot of valid points made so far in this thread.

Customers and patients will likely always ask: “What’s your best strain?” We all know there are bud tenders everywhere who simply wont say “cultivar” or “varietal”, but will stick to such tag lines as “I’ve got a killer strain here for you…check this out!” The bud tender will continue to sell under this misnomer and the customers will continue to buy… and we will all continue to lament.

The best we can hope to do is continue to educate!