12.12.2016
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Study: Your Budtender Might Be Giving You Bogus Strain Information

If you hear the phrase "in da couch" to describe indica strains, run for the hills.

Going to the dispensary is at times a fun-filled mission to procure dank nugs. Upbeat budtenders fill your jar with only choice selections. They tell you about daily specials, and top-shelf strains that only just arrived that morning. You may even be friends with your bud retailers on social media. Other days, long lines, poor selection, and the general malaise engendered by non-knowledgeable or ill-informed budtenders makes the task less of an adventure, and more of a chore. Which, I realize, is a bit of a stretch when describing what it’s like to purchase legal weed.

But according to a recent study completed by Stanford University clinical psychologists, which examined just where and how the gatekeepers to your next ganja re-up score their cannabis-information, and published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research––not all budtenders possess an all-knowing sensibility when it comes to the varied strains of the green machine. 

From Training and Practices of Cannabis Dispensary Staff:

“Fifty-five percent of dispensary staff reported some formal training for their position, with 20 percent reporting medical/scientific training. A majority (94 percent) indicated that they provide specific cannabis advice to patients. . . Although many dispensary staff are making recommendations consistent with current evidence, some are recommending cannabis that has either not been shown effective for, or could exacerbate, a patient's condition. ”

The Stanford team, led by Nancy A. Haug, PhD, arrived at the disheartening conclusion by polling a group of legal-weed-slanging participants via online survey. The findings are said to indicate a fragmented legislative landscape, where rigorous training for those recommending different strains of herb to patients and consumers is not required; industry standards are lax. 

“Although each state has created its own legislation to govern the cultivation and distribution of cannabis to individuals, there is currently little to no guidance or oversight of associated patient care,” the study’s authors write. “Indeed, with the exception of a few states that have mandated cannabis-specific physician continuing medical education (e.g., New York), the majority of states do not require any training for either those providing ‘recommendations’ for patient cannabis use (i.e., physicians) or those actually dispensing cannabis to consumers (i.e., dispensaries and/or ‘bud tenders’).”

"It's not like there is a single, all-encompassing, definitive source for such information and cannabis data." 

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The study’s result aren’t hard to reconcile with experienced reality. The reasons and motivations behind most medical and recreational cannabis use are myriad, as are the methods of consumption. But the variance in quality, consistency, and reliability of cannabis products currently on the market is greater still. And budtenders might be more inclined to recommend personal favorite strains, or weed grown by their friends––rather than cannabis that could realistically alleviate particular symptoms to individual qualifying conditions. 

“Although many dispensary staff are making recommendations consistent with current evidence, some are recommending cannabis that has either not been shown effective for, or could exacerbate, a patient's condition,” the Stanford team notes.

But it's not like there is a single, all-encompassing, definitive source for such information and cannabis data. Sure, there are marijuana-education outfits such as Oaksterdam, a California-based weed college. Or Colorado’s Trichome Institute, which actually teaches the art and somewhat-science of tending bud. But there are gaps in the disbursement of pot-facts. The strain guide on Leafly, an online cannabis information hub, is partly sourced from user comments. And a staggering 62 percent of WeedMaps reviews were exposed as possibly fraudulent; written by retail partners of the dispensary-locating app, or by patients and customers incentivized by free product.

“Findings underscore the importance of consistent, evidence-based, training of dispensary staff who provide specific recommendations for patient medical conditions,” the study’s authors conclude.

And they couldn’t be more right.

Perhaps as cannabis legislation spreads to more states, and weed-use becomes more widely normalized, information and data will be as potent, abundant, and as easily obtained as the weed itself.

 

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