We’ve all heard the names–OG Kush, Sour Diesel, Orange Peel Moses–but how many of us actually know what they mean? Most stoners are content to hear a name and know it’s “good shit,” but when it comes to using pot as medicine, strain names are, at best, mystifying.

Many of these names originated in the black market. I remember the first time I heard about weed with a name; Sour Diesel was described as “this really sweet shit from New York.” I had no idea what made it sour or diesel, but I knew it was good. In 2006, High Times listed it as their second favorite strain. Did we smoke the same thing? Probably not.  Illegal bud isn’t regulated–duh–so there’s no way to guarantee that the sack of “White Rhino” you just bought is the same strain your bud in Cali said was “totally killer, man.”

So when it comes to medical marijuana, surely there’s some policing when it comes to naming strains, right? Actually, there is no standard for growers or sellers to follow. You can safely assume that each strain you find at a single dispensary is unique–especially now that they must grow the majority of their product–but if you pick up a bag of Hindu Kush at one dispensary, there’s no guarantee you’ll find the same weed under the same name at another.

White Rhino?

This isn’t a big deal for some patients, who don’t mind sampling different varieties until they find the right fit, but it can be a problem for others. First-time marijuana users might not know what hit them when they pick up a super-potent strain from the dispensary. For someone who’s never smoked pot before, knowing how much of what kind to smoke can be baffling.

Dispensary workers can point newbies in the right direction, but not many can provide specific recommendations. CBD-rich strains, for instance, are not easily identifiable by name. These strains come in handy for those who want the medicinal benefits of pot, but not the psychoactive side-effects–it’s easy to forget that not all marijuana patients want to get high.

Luckily, there is a solution for those who seek out specific strains. Genetic profiling lets cannabis connoisseurs get an in-depth look at what’s in their weed. Testers like Full Spectrum Labs can tell you everything from THC and CBD potency to whether your strain is named accurately. A number of dispensaries now get their products tested–there are even a few in Denver.

Remember, regulation doesn’t just mean age limits, traffic laws, and tax revenue. It also means product testing. And a better understanding of cannabis is sure to lead to better cannabis all around.

So, Denver, do you know what you’re smoking?

Austin Wulf is a freelance writer and cannabis activist who questions the veracity of his Banana Kush.
Read more of his THC-infused coverage of the pot industry here.