Categorizing Cannabis


Many cannabis consumers identify their choice through the general Sativa, Hybrid, Indica spectrum. Especially with flower--you have a strain, its genetics and lineage from where it came from--those classically known effects. Of course, nowadays a lot of cannabis is hybrid, due to cross breeding and demand of innovation. HelloMD explored whether or not the classification of marijuana for effects as sativa, hybrid, and indica, is a thing of the past. The article mentions geneticist Mowgli Holmes, who has began mapping the history of cannabis genetics through his company Phylos Bioscience. He and others believe that recommending strains for effect is becoming outdated--that we should start looking at cannabinoid and terpene profiles to choose which varieties will work best for us.

How did we get here? To understand the support for his argument, we look at the history of cannabis, especially the evolution of landrace strains and selective breeding. Cannabis is believed to be domesticated in Central Asia around 8,000 B.C. Then spread throughout nomadic cultures and trade routes around the globe. In areas where cannabis was cultivated by settlers, they would selectively breed for needs like oil, fiber and psychotropic effects. Thus producing landrace strains respective to their region. Modern strains on the shelves today are linked to their ancestor landrace varieties. Examples would be Thai landraces that have characteristics associated with sativas' tall plant growth and long, narrow leaves and uplifting or energetic effects. Afghanistan varieties, associated with indica strains, tend to have broader leafs, shorter 'bushy' like plant growth and a sedating high. "In the mid-1700s, naturalists Carl Linnaeus and Jean-Baptiste Lamark incorrectly dubbed these landrace varieties as two separate species: Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, respectively, based off of their morphological characteristics. Though we now know that all cannabis is one species, Cannabis sativa, this way of thinking about cannabis has been around for decades. If you’re referring to landrace varieties as indica and sativa in the context of their physical traits, you’d be somewhat correct. But to use these terms when purchasing modern strains—especially when you’re looking for a particular effect—doesn’t make a lot of sense," says HelloMD. Mowgli is concerned that some dispensaries and breeders base their product labels off of look alone. Mowgli says, "You can have a tall plant with broad leaves that's sedating, or you can have a short plant that's energetic and has broad leaves. You can have all these different combinations, but there's no reason why any of these traits would go together." He does believe that the indica-sativa labeling is 'good shorthand' for what can be sedative or energetic though.

In his journey to map cannabis genetics, Mowgli found that versus an easy to understand tree-like structure, due to hybridization through time has created more of a 'messy, intertwined hairball.' Therefore, he ended up with the Phylos Galaxy to portray the relationships between cannabis samples he's sequenced. Each star on his map represents a sample of cannabis. Depending on how closely two samples are to each other, represents how closely their effects and characteristics are. He also found that in the 1960s in California, many people started breeding varieties, creating many strains we know today--but diminishing the original landrace varieties.

It should also be known that if you receive two clones from the same plant, the environment the plant is grown in affects the amount of cannabinoid production in that plant. Though you may have a genetically identical cannabis plant, the characteristics and profiling may be different. Therefore, taking a look at cannabinoid and terpene profiling may be the best bet, when targeting which product you should use for your case. This is a big reason why we comprehensively test all our products at HERB! You may have even noticed certain brands no longer use the sativa, hybrid, and indica scale. Brands like dosistTM or Canndescent classify their products in line with the effects experienced. Products like calm by dosistTM are higher in CBD and contain terpenes of beta-caryophyllene, limonene, myrcene and work as a light anti-anxiety. Canndescent cultivates and packages cannabis flower with the names of 'Charge 504' or 'Calm 101,' indicating the feeling you'll experience.

As we navigate through this evolution of categorizing cannabis, know that HERB has your back! We're always looking for new and informative ways to educate everyone (ourselves included) about all things cannabis--therefore you'll see our products classified with the traditional sativa-hybrid-indica scale, along with cannabinoid and terpene profiling and any descriptive effects for each product. Call or email us with any questions you may have about the interaction of any product we carry too!

Information and resources courtesy of HelloMD and Phylos Bioscience.

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