Consumers and the cannabis industry are confused about what indica, sativa, and hybrid strains are, and why there’s a better way to predict your high.

We’ve trained Michigan’s dispensary customers to think about cannabis in three groups: indica, sativa, and hybrid strains (we touched on the subject in two recent blogs). 

And since there is so much marketplace confusion over just what the three strains are -and what you can expect from them – we want to dig deeper. 

What are indica, sativa, and hybrid strains, and how did they become the prevailing cannabis categorization system?

People across the planet have experimented with cannabis for thousands of years. But it wasn’t until the 18th century when Swedish botanist Carl Linneaus identified cannabis sativa, and French naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck later identified cannabis indica that we made a distinction between the two. 

We’ve recently derailed the centuries-old cannabis debate with discoveries about the biological functions and active chemical compounds in cannabis, giving consumers new tools to understand and anticipate how they’ll react to different strains.

Cannabis Sativa Plant

Sativa versus Indica.

Most Michigan dispensary customers understand that indica strains can be relaxing and mildly sedating, and sativas are often psychoactive and energizing. But, as it turns out, things aren’t so simple. 

Linneaus and Lamarck developed Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica to describe the plant’s appearance, not its effects. 

Adding to the confusion, nearly all cannabis varieties today are hybrids—most with hazy parentages from crossbreeding and prohibition. And strain names outside of indica, sativa, and hybrid have mostly lost whatever usefulness they once had. 

A plant’s appearance doesn’t always predict its chemical makeup or effects. A 2015 study observed the chemical compounds in more than 400 flower and concentrate samples. They noted that the observed data doesn’t support the current cannabis classification system of indica, sativa, and hybrid. The researchers suggest a new classification system is needed to help medical cannabis patients communicate better with healthcare providers. A new system also helps recreational customers understand how to select strains from a Michigan dispensary.

How can consumers find their favorite strains if the three-strain system isn’t accurate?

It will take work by the cannabis industry and its consumers to transition out of the three-strain debate. Consumers need to know (and understand) the cannabinoid and terpene makeup of their selected products. These compounds are a far better indicator when it comes to figuring out if your flower is energizing or sedating. 

Most Michigan cannabis fans gravitate toward high THC strains since its the plant’s primary psychoactive ingredient. But THC does more than give you a head high; it’s also responsible for food cravings and short term memory impairment. We’ve trained customers to think they’re getting more bang for their buck out of high THC strains. But other active cannabis compounds can amplify, minimize, or change the effects of THC along with providing unique characteristics. 

CBD has recently taken the stage with THC as the second most well-known cannabinoid. Though CBD is seeing a meteoric rise in popularity among new cannabis consumers, it’s underappreciated by many THC-obsessed cannabis connoisseurs. THC and CBD share some benefits and characteristics, but consumers who embrace CBD enjoy its anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic effects, since CBD is known to reduce the side-effects of THC. 

And though CBD and THC are the most significant cannabinoids impacting your cannabis experience, they are only two out of more than 100 different cannabinoids identified in recent decades. Researchers and cultivators are selectively breeding cannabis cultivars to produce higher concentrations of lesser-known cannabinoids and terpenes. We predict you’ll soon see strains high in cannabinoids like CBN, THCV, THCA, and CBC.

Cannabis Indica Plant

What does this mean for Michigan’s cannabis consumers?

Indica, sativa, and hybrid strains won’t disappear overnight. Michigan dispensary shelves are still lined with products that adhere to the three-strain classification system. But understanding the other variables impacting your cannabis experience within the context of indica and sativa can help you make informed selections. The labels are an excellent first step toward discovering your favorite strains, but they’re not the only step. 

We’ll make the strain selection process simple. Between our easy-to-understand product categories and our knowledgeable budtenders, we’re here to help you find the right products. 

Just ask.