If strains were like royal families, Blue Dream has clearly reigned over the cannabis kingdom since recreational marijuana sales began in 2014.
For the most part, the sativa-dominant hybrid has been the top-selling strain in Colorado, Washington and Oregon since each state began selling recreational cannabis. But Blue Dream’s prominence has been losing ground to a fast-rising competitor — the chest-thumping hybrid known as Gorilla Glue #4.
There wasn’t much competition between these two hybrids until recently, when Gorilla Glue, also sativa-dominant, began its rapid ascent among the thousands of strains sold in marijuana retail stores in Washington, Oregon and Colorado in 2016.
The Gorilla Glue variety began the year slightly ahead of Blue Dream in Oregon, selling $575,100 compared to Blue Dream’s $533,800. Blue Dream pulled ahead the following month and stayed there until June, when Gorilla Glue nudged past it briefly in sales. By September, however, Gorilla Glue had pulled firmly ahead, bringing in more than $300,000 in excess of Blue Dream. And by December, Gorilla Glue remained the top-selling strain in Oregon with $659,600 in sales compared to Blue Dream’s $410,800, according to BDS Analytics, a data analytics and market research firm that collects point-of-sale data from cannabis retailers across the country. All the data in this story comes from BDS Analytics.
The Gorilla in the Room
As the Gorilla Glue #4 strain climbed its way up the charts in 2016, it drew the attention of not just growers and retailers, but of the company that holds the trademark on the name.
Like other companies and nonprofits that have found cannabis strains named after their trademarked property — such as the Girl Scouts of America — the folks at the Gorilla Glue Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, have sent cease-and-desist letters to a number of cultivators selling the increasingly popular strain.
One of the growers to receive a letter was TKO Reserve of Oregon. Though TKO Reserve has stated it had nothing to with the original name, its website indicates that the strain has been rechristened “The Glue” in order to avoid a potential trademark infringement.
In Colorado, Gorilla Glue #4 first appeared near the bottom of the top 10 strains in January 2016 and it bounced around the basement until September, when it suddenly leapt to the No. 2 spot with $1.6 million in sales. By December, Gorilla Glue remained strong, but in the middle of the pack, with Blue Dream in the top spot.
Finally, Gorilla Glue #4 first appears in Washington’s top 10 in January 2016 with $465,200 in sales — well behind Blue Dream’s haul of $1.1 million. But by the end of the year, during which Gorilla Glue experienced a steady climb up the sales ladder, it reached the No. 2 spot in the state with $1 million in sales, just behind Blue Dream.
It’s been a remarkable rise for a strain that didn’t even appear Colorado or Washington’s top-10 selling strains in either 2014 or 2015.
When the first customers for legal recreational cannabis began lining up at retail stores in Colorado in January 2014, they bought quite a bit of Blue Dream — $810,000
worth in that first month, placing it just a smidgen behind Sour Diesel, which sold $980,800. The following month, Blue Dream vaulted ahead of Sour Diesel and it’s held the top spot ever since.
Washington’s sales were similar beginning in July 2014. Blue Dream nabbed first place in sales during that first month, and has yet to relinquish its position atop the cumulative sales numbers.
In Oregon, Gorilla Glue #4 rose through the monthly ranks earlier than the other states. It first cracked the rankings at No. 10 with $5,700 in sales in the medical sector. It remained in the top 10 for a few months until the state began allowing recreational sales in October 2015, when it quickly jumped to the third-highest selling strain at $574,800.
The fast-rising strain has already usurped Blue Dream in monthly sales in Oregon, but the battle for the top spot remains fierce in Washington and Colorado.
Of course, with so many strains jostling for position every day at retail outlets, who knows? By 2018, there may be another strain rising through the ranks and vying for the throne.
By staying ahead of tough-to-predict strain trends, growers may be able to capitalize on ever-changing consumer preferences.
Douglas Brown worked as a journalist for more than 23 years, covering the White House and Capitol Hill, crime in New Mexico, politics in Florida, food and sex in Colorado and much more. He currently runs Contact High Communications, a Boulder, Colorado PR and marketing agency that works with cannabis companies across the country.