“The retail establishment wants to keep it as simple as possible for consumers because they’re often coming fresh into the space without knowledge” of marijuana, said Jake Pasternack, the CEO of marijuana brand Binske. Crystal Cox/Business Insider
- For decades, marijuana growers, sellers, and consumers have classified strains as “indica” or “sativa” to explain the type of effect they would have when consumed.
- But that classification system was faulty to begin with, and the advent of molecular testing proved that there is no sense in splitting them up into indica and sativa.
- There’s not a simple way to create a more accurate system, however, so the indica-sativa dichotomy endures.
When you enter a marijuana dispensary you’re met with sterile white walls and glass-encased counters that hold marijuana flower, vape pens, chocolates, gummies, and other psychoactive goodies.
Whether a dispensary has a menu hung on its wall, a digital list patrons can scroll through on an iPad, or a physical paper booklet they can flip through, these informational materials, at the very least, classify each marijuana strain as an “indica,” “sativa,” or “hybrid,” and may also include information on the effects and THC concentrations of the Sour Diesel strain or the Blue Dream strain, for example.
This setup, adopted by breeders, dispensary owners, and consumers, suggests there’s a dichotomy of marijuana types: indica, which is said to physically relax the body and give a sedative effect, and sativa, which is said to be energizing and provide more of a head-high. Hybrid strains are also sold and considered a midway point between indica and sativa marijuana strains.
In reality, no scientific evidence supports this dichotomy because on a molecular level, indica and sativa strains don’t have pattern differences that set the two “types” apart from each other. As a result, consumers may inadvertently buy marijuana strains that don’t actually align with the perceived effects they’re marketed to provide.
Still, consumers and retailers still use the classification system because it’s the only one available, which makes pinpointing the best strains for each person’s end goal a trial-and-error process.
“In the absence of any other useful system to classify marijuana, strain and indica-sativa dichotomy is all breeders and distributors have, kind of like what Winston Churchill said about democracy,” Jeff Chen, the Director of the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, told Insider. “It’s the worst system invented, but the best we have.”
Published: April 20, 2020
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News