I have been consuming marijuana since 1993. The first time I smoked marijuana with a name attached to it was 'The Project' during that year. The strain was created by my friend's step-dad who crossed two unknown strains that he obtained in Hawaii while on vacation in the late 1980's. He originally just called his grow room his 'project' and the name became attached to the strain that was produced by the grow room. He said it was a pure sativa strain, and it packed a punch the likes of which I have rarely seen in all of my years of traveling and toking.
For a long time I wasn't concerned with strain names. I had seen so many people take an unknown strain, create a name themselves, and pass it along to the people they sold it to. Just because someone thought they were smoking the White Widow strain didn't really mean that they were actually smoking that strain. I've seen new strain names pulled out of thin air, which didn't come about from a new strain being created, but merely from someone taking a marijuana they bought and giving it a catchy name to help sales. For a long time I kind of considered strain names to be unreliable at best, or a total sham at the worst.
A question I often get is, 'how many marijuana strains are there?' It's not an easy question to answer. As I previously stated, just because a strain name is out there, doesn't mean it's a unique strain. This is especially true of celebrity strain names. CNN reporter Sanjay Gupta is a great example. After Mr. Gupta announced his support for medical marijuana, a few weeks later the Gupta strains started showing up at dispensaries out West. Clearly there was not enough time to create a new strain from seed, veg it, flower it, dry it, and get it in a jar to be sold. Someone took an already established strain, simply changed the name on the jar, and started selling it as a new strain.
That scenario has occurred who knows how many times all over the world. The answer I offer up to people when they ask how many strains there are is to point them to Leafly, which has the largest database of marijuana strains that I know of right now. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, Leafly currently has 779 marijuana strains on file. How many of those are unique, I'll leave that up to them to determine. I would say that there are at least that many out there, but since Leafly adds new ones each week, and I have personal friends that have created strains that aren't in their database, there are clearly more than that.
I wonder how many there will be five years from now, or ten years from now. We have a few hundred on The Weed Blog right now, and I add new ones as often as I can. I'm getting my medical card again soon, and with legalization on the way in Oregon, I'll be able to visit dispensaries and stores to find new strains to add to our site. Stay tuned!