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14 Dec 2017

Cannabis in the CV: Strains 101—A Primer on the Differences Between Sativas, Indicas and Hybrids

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So with legal recreational marijuana just around the corner, you want to buy a joint … but the last time you bought “the pot,” you were at the crossroads of pimples and AP algebra.

Well, medical marijuana, legal weed and even your old-fashioned pot dealer have all matured since then to compete in an ever-growing market.

Over the last few years, marijuana has become specialized, and pot heads have become cannabis connoisseurs, as exacting as any oenophile. Three basic words—indica, sativa and hybrid—make up the lexicon of the aficionado, with growers creating specialized varietals that vary in strength, taste and affect to satisfy demanding customers.

Let’s explore the difference between the strains—keeping in mind that within each classification, there are hundreds of sub-strains with their own flavor profiles, effects and fans. We have seen these classifications around for a long time, but in the last few years, users have started coming out of their basements and enjoying their herb casually in social situations—in much the same way they enjoy a fine wine or hand-crafted cocktail. Also, remember that your own life experiences and body chemistry will inform the way any strain affects you.

Sativa strains are believed to have originated in temperate growing regions between the equator and the 30th parallel (around the top of the Gulf of Mexico); they grow tall and have a thin leaf. If you are looking to grow your own plants outdoors here in the desert, these are the ones for you.  

Sativas tend to make the user feel more energetic, creative and happy. Going out with friends for the evening, embarking on a hike or taking a painting class? Sativa is the way to go. From personal experience, I can tell you this is what I prefer when I sit down to write during the day or want to be out and about with people. One of my favorite sativa strains is Tangilope, a super-tasty, citrusy strain that really helps me with creativity. But remember: It is always a good idea to test out any new strain in a small amount before making a commitment.

Indicas, on the other hand, originated further north, probably in the area around Afganistan. The plants tend to be short and bushy with a relatively short maturation time. If you are looking to grow inside your home, you will probably want to look for one of these.

Indicas tend to be more relaxing and act as a sedative for their users, while at the same time making a person feel somewhat social. Planning an evening of Netflix and chill? Have a lot on your mind and need to spend some time processing? Or are you planning a quiet evening at home with friends? If so, indicas are a great choice—but they do tend to make you hungry or sleepy, and they just may fuse your tush to the couch. I am fond of the Grape Ape strain of indica; I find its grapey smell and flavor really tasty. If I have had a tough day and just need to relax, I will often reach for some Grape Ape—not too much, though, or I may not move for the rest of the night.

As the name implies, hybrids are cross-bred plants with both indica and sativa genetics. Growers do this for a variety of reasons, including yield and growing time. Of course, they also want to produce plants with the benefits of both parent strains, and they are experimenting with hybrids that will create very specific effects. A grower may, for instance, breed some indica into a sativa to make it better-suited for an indoor grow operation, or decrease some of the associated paranoia; perhaps they’ll add some sativa to an indica to help the consumer stay awake.

Hybrids tend to be broken down into either sativa- or indica-dominant verities. (Truth be told, most strains these days have at least some hybridization in their ancestry.) Depending on what strain you choose, you will find a wide range of differences in both effect and flavor. One of my favorite hybrid strains is the sativa-dominant Blue Dream, a fairly mellow strain that will help you relax while still giving you the creative effects of many sativas. Blue Dream’s ancestry involves the indica Blueberry strain, which carries through to give you a lovely berry flavor.

With so many strains to choose from, it is important to both experiment and get guidance while you are discovering your favorites. Always talk to your friendly neighborhood budtender, as they are sure to keep abreast of the latest and greatest. When figuring out what strains work well for you, consider keeping a notebook with your favorites and how they each make you feel.

Whatever strain you choose … enjoy!

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