'Sativarin' or 'Gorilla Glue?' A look at why CT's cannabis has different names

Photo of Jordan Nathaniel Fenster

There are well known cannabis strains. “Sour Diesel,” for example, or “Purple Haze,” “Wedding Cake” and “Gorilla Glue,” to name a few. 

No cannabis product sold in Connecticut will bear any of those names, or any name a cannabis consumer might be familiar with, let alone any name that sounds like a non-cannabis product.

In fact, the name of the strain of cannabis bought in Connecticut will be totally different from the name of the cannabis bought in Massachusetts, even though the plant itself might be nearly identical.

Connecticut law stipulates that “the names cannot be identical to or confusingly similar to any existing non-cannabis product, cannot appeal to children, and cannot be obscene or indecent,” according to Kaitlyn Krasselt, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. 

The name of every cannabis strain sold in Connecticut must be registered with and approved by the state, and that registry lists hundreds if not thousands of product names, and they are all unique to Connecticut. Instead of “Purple Haze” or “Sour Diesel,” you might buy “Auralex” or “Baccaden.”

“I'm pretty sure everybody thinks these names are silly,” said Paul Kirchberg of Milford, founder of Dabbin-Dad.com. His site tracks names of cannabis strains. “Anybody who is not a regulator or a politician, anybody who actually consumes cannabis realizes how silly this is, and really how big of a disconnect all this really is.”

It’s a regulation that may be unique in the United States.

“Connecticut’s program is fairly unique relative to the state’s requirement that cannabis operators rename legacy strains before sale,” said Grace Bondy, a spokesperson CT Pharma parent company Verano, which operates in 13 states including the largest cannabis cultivation and processing site in Connecticut.

Verano’s website says the company grows more than 160 individual strains across its nationwide operations, and plants at the Rocky Hill facility are labeled with well known monikers, not the specific-to-Connecticut trade names.

Rino Ferrarese, executive vice president for Verano’s north region, explained that strains are named by the breeders, who either work for or sell their seeds to growers like Verano.

Some are named for what they smell or taste like.

“Some of the names are useful and descriptive,” Ferrarese said recently. “Lemon Skunk might smell like a lemony skunk.” Others might be pop culture references or “legacy” names that have been used for decades as plants are re-propagated year after year. 

“Our seed-to-sale process is specifically structured to ensure our operations maintain clarity, consistency and quality across our cultivation and processing teams, while also strictly adhering to all required state regulations,” Bondy said. 

Kirchberg has worked to bridge the gulf between the trade names sold in Connecticut and the strains cannabis users have come to know. His website and phone app allows Connecticut cannabis consumers to find out what the strain they are smoking might be called outside the state, linking the names registered in Connecticut with the cannabis sold elsewhere.

What would be “Lemon Skunk” elsewhere is “Lexikan” in Connecticut, according to Kirchberg’s database. “Wedding Cake” is registered in Connecticut as “Auralex.” “Hybridol” is a hybrid of “OG Kush x Sour Diesel,” while “East Coast Sour Diesel” itself is registered in this state as “Petrolen.”

The Dabbin-Dad.com database currently has more than 630 cultivars listed.

“I do track them as far back as when the state medical program was still using numeric values,” he said. “When the medical program first started, you weren't even buying ‘Sour Diesel’ or ‘Sativarin X.’ You were buying ‘1515075.’ That's what you're buying.”

Krasselt said the state does not “confirm the genetic identity of products and genetic testing is not required, so it would be near impossible to confirm any product is the same as a product that didn’t come from our market,” but Kirchberg believes his method is accurate. 

Every cannabis product is assigned a National Drug Code (NDC), which is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s tracking system. Strains can then be followed by their NDC code, regardless of the name on the package.

In addition, every strain is lab-tested by law, and the chemical profile of each product - the chemical balances that give a strain its distinctive flavor or specific effect on the brain - is logged by NDC code.

“That NDC code is specific to that offering,” Kirchberg said. “There's test results associated with that offering. So now I can compare ‘Sativarin X’ to, say, the first time I used it, the latest time I've used it, and I can have a numerical value to compare the terpenes and cannabinoids to see if there's any different expectations I may experience.”

Kirchberg was a medical cannabis patient long before Connecticut legalized recreational cannabis use and retail, and he believes the state-specific naming convention does a disservice to consumers. 

When the law was passed, he said, “The politicians at that time thought there was no value in street names, that people would essentially learn over time.”

“As a medical patient, I want to know what I'm consuming,” he said. “I want to have a conversation with other people about it, or even to my doctor, and I really can't do that because now the state has broken that communication and that educational connection.”