Informed High - Becoming Informed about Cannabis

Cannabis Strains: Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica

Disclaimer: My Rationale for Understanding the Science. Not everyone loves learning the scientific specifics, but lucky for you I do. And what I like to do with this information is gather it up, trim the fat, translate the jargon, and present it to you. Everything I explain has a point. I want you to experience an Informed High. I want to help create informed consumers making informed decisions.


This post will explore what we know about various Cannabis strains, their ancestry, and their supposed effects. Cannabis is a highly adaptive annual plant that grows throughout temperate and tropical zones worldwide.  The known composition of Sative and Indica continues to progress. At the same time, breeding and cultivation are creating new strains and various structures.


Sativa and Indica: A Classification System In Progress


The classification system of Cannabis is unfortunately incomplete and in flux. The reasons for this involve the clandestine nature of Marijuana over the past century, among others. Due to tight government regulation, especially in the US, research has been slow to accumulate. Only recently has the full map of the Cannabis genome been analyzed. Another reason involves the fact that Cannabis is highly varied (heterozygous) and many strains are clonally propagated. In short, this means Cannabis strains are like Apples or grapes, where parts of one plant are grafted to produce an identical plant. However, Marijuana strain names are used even if the Cannabis plant is grown from seed. This means that the seed creates a similar but not identical product (due to environmental factors).



Hemp and Cannabis


Hemp was discussed briefly in a prior post (Cannabis and Hemp). From a genetic standpoint, it is thought to be more similar to Cannabis Indica than Cannabis Sativa.


The Cannabis Strains


  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica
  • Cannabis Ruderalis


Medical strains are referred to as Sativa or Indica ‘dominant’. These terms are meant to describe the morphological characteristics and therapeutic effects of each. They are broadly describing two subspecies that evolved from a common ancestor due to various environmental pressures.


Cannabis Sativa


  • Tall plant with narrow leaves
  • Widely thought to produce a stimulating, cerebral psychoactive effect
  • Ideal for mood elevation and cognitive enhancement
  • Fragrant aroma, smooth smoke, and clear high



Cannabis Indica


  • Short plant with wide leaves
  • Widely thought to produce a calming and relaxing effect
  • Ideal for chronic pain, getting to that “couch lock”, sort of a feeling of heaviness that can help with sleep
  • Dense buds with a rapid growth cycle and heavy harvest





Combining Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica plants helped create a sort of best-of-both-worlds situations. These hybrid variations combine the two subspecies to various degrees. Generally, the effects are just what you would expect, a cross between the two type of high. Due to much in-breeding and cross-breeding over the years, the stated ancestry (Sativa or Indica) is not always representative of the bud in your bong or pipe. Providers of Cannabis will label whether a strain is Sativa, Indica, or a hybrid, along with the percentages of each strain. Consider these rough guidelines as we each develop different preferences. One way to find out is to buy some of each, roll each one into a joint by instead, and try the three over three separate occasions (starting from sober, it can be difficult to identify differences smoking one after the other). Let us quickly look at a third and less important subspecies.


Cannabis Ruderalis


  • This alleged species may represent wild populations or those adapted to northern regions.
  • Short and stalky compared to the other strains
  • Rarely seen in the current market (I’ve never seen it)


Genetic Agreement


However, the genetic structure and the reported ancestry of common Cannabis strains may only partially agree. For this reason, genetic identity cannot be reliably determined by the indicated name or ancestry. Further scientific inquiry will expand our understanding of Cannabis strain ancestry and the effects of that on our current Cannabis consumption.



Legalization and Scientific Progress


One of the benefits of legalization will be the ability to create a national registration system according to accurate scientific investigation. This system would facilitate realizing the enormous potential of Cannabis as a multi-use crop (hemp) and as a medicinal and recreational plant (Marijuana).



An Informed High


Furthermore, as recreational or medicinal consumers, we should know what we are consuming and what effects it will have. We no longer will have to take the word of illicit dealers and unlabeled plastic bags. As scientists, cultivators, and legislators work together to create this specificity and transparency, new information will continue to surface, just like the genome mapping project mentioned above. The further we progress our understanding of the Cannabis strains, the better able we will be to ensure that individuals make informed choices regarding their medicinal and recreational Cannabis use.


Arnold Warkentin

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