If you’ve run a search through Wikileaf’s database of cannabis strains lately, you’ve probably noticed something. Weed strains have weird names. From the cute to the horrific, strain names run the gamut which can have both endearing and annoying consequences. On the positive side, it’s a big part of cannabis culture, and that is entertaining to the insiders. On the other hand, it can be a little confusing. While a name like Green Crack is shocking, it at least gives a pretty vivid hint to what the effects of consuming that particular sativa will be like. But your first-time smoker is probably going to be a little unsure of what to expect from Cat Piss. Or Shark’s Breath. Or Deep Cheese, for that matter.

The Sometimes Random Process of Naming Strains

Breeders name their strains for different reasons. Some strain names pay homage to a celebrity, politician, or activist. Some names are meant to make fun of these public figures. A strain name might be a reflection of its physical, recreational, or therapeutic attributes, or it may be a symbolic gesture toward a social or political moment. Strain names may be a creative combination of its parent strains’ names, and sometimes, a strain’s name is only meaningful to the breeder.

In no way is there a regulated way to name a cannabis strain, and that is why the range of diversity is so vast. However, the legal market may begin to change that. For one thing, a governing body could ban certain types of names for a legally justifiable reason. In Oregon, for example, the state is allowed to restrict strain names that may be appealing to minors.  Oregon is banning names that are marketable to childrenNames like Girl Scout Cookies, Cinderella, Charlotte’s Web, and Bruce Banner all refer to products originally marketed to children, and so they are prohibited from dispensary labels. It is likely that Oregon won’t be the last state to require these kinds of limits on strain naming.

Legal cannabis also means that testing strain genetics is far more accessible and prioritized. Tests may reveal that some strains are genetically identical to others, their distinct names mere marketing ploys or rookie mistakes. As the genetic mapping of cannabis becomes a more universally appreciated practice, cultivators and consumers alike may discover that there aren’t quite as many strains out there as they thought there were.

Finally, the burgeoning industry has generated intense competition between breeders. Quality can vary significantly from grower to grower, and because of that, more cultivators are adding their own names to the product they sell. This practice will help consumers differentiate the best brands, and the demand for high quality is good for business.

Five Strain Names with Unexpected Origins  

For the most part, breeders can do what they want when it comes to naming their strains. While some strain names are already super popular or clearly indicative of that strain’s potential effects, other names are ambiguous. The following names carry connotations that are just a little disturbing.

Agent Orange

While its name might at first glance seem humorous, it is actually a tribute to TGA Subcool Seeds MzJill’s father. The grower’s father was a Vietnam veteran who died of cancer because of his exposure to Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant and herbicide used by the US as a weapon of war. The sativa-dominant strain is the child of Space Queen and Jack’s Cleaner. Agent Orange doesn’t have a super high THC content, but it is still known for producing an intense euphoria great for medicating stress, anxiety, and depression.  It’s also likely to leave users an inch or so removed from reality.

Pennywise

If you’re not into horror movies, this strain’s name kind of sounds cute. However, if you’ve ever read or seen Steven King’s “It,” you will be familiar with the murderous clown’s name. In short, Pennywise is an other-worldly creature that prefers to disguise itself as a demonic looking clown. For fun, Pennywise lures children into its clutches and eats them. Pennywise the cannabis strain, on the other hand, is not so bad. In fact, Pennywise is a highly therapeutic strain because of its 1:1 THC to CBD ratio. While most strains have a much higher THC than CBD content, Pennywise’s breeders (again, TGA Subcool Seeds) gave it an extra medicinal punch by aiming for relatively high CBD levels.

Gorilla Glue 

Gorilla glue is a strange strain nameNot unlike the lore behind Agent Orange and Pennywise, Gorilla Glue’ name has some dark undertones. While the name’s origins aren’t definite, glue sniffing is a well-known means of getting high at a deadly cost. Thousands of people have died from this dangerous inhalant. Gorilla Glue is an even more powerful type of glue—so powerful, it can kill dogs if ingested. Thankfully, smoking cannabis is not going to kill you, but the strain Gorilla Glue definitely packs one heck of a punch. With an average THC content of 25%, this strain is going to trigger some heavy psychoactivity in even the seasoned smoker.

Chernobyl 

In a nuclear power plant located in Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, a flawed reactor design operated by poorly trained personnel resulted in a radioactive accident. The accident killed two workers the night it occurred, and in the subsequent weeks, claimed the lives of 28 people due to the effects of acute radiation exposure. In the decades since the accident, there has been an increase in thyroid cancers believed to be connected to the explosion’s radiation. The strain is a cross between Trainwreck and Jack the Ripper, so it’s safe to say that the breeders of Chernobyl gave it its name as a clever way to say it’s a murderous accident.  If this list hasn’t already made it clear, these diabolical connotations are a good thing. The more violent and disturbing the name’s lore, the more powerful the strain.

Quasar

One of the best named strains is QuasarFinally, a name that isn’t shrouded in horror—though it is still, quite literally, dark. A quasar is a very powerful galactic entity consisting of a black hole orbited by a gas accretion disk. The gravitational pull of the black hole on the accretion disk generates electromagnetic radiation with power far surpassing an entire galaxy in some cases. If any message is to be extrapolated from the strain’s name, it is that Quasar is some pretty powerful stuff.

Dianna Benjamin

About the author: Dianna Benjamin is a freelance writer, teacher, wife, and mom horrified and fascinated by social justice and our inability--yet constant pursuit--to get it right.