When a budtender asks me, “Indica Sativa or Hybrid?”, I can’t help but roll my eyes because it’s just not that simple. Correcting misunderstandings that are decades-old and deeply rooted in cannabis culture isn’t easy. Or is it? Can we nip this in the bud?
The words “Indica” and “Sativa” more accurately describe the physical properties and origins of the plants rather than their effects on one’s physiology. Furthermore, everything is a hybrid (more on that later).
A better question to ask might be, “What effect are you seeking?”. The effects of any given cannabis cultivar depend on a number of factors, including the profile of compounds (cannabinoids and terpenoids), your genetic compatibility with cannabis, tolerance, dose, method of consumption, mindset and environment (including who you’re with).
When we’re talking about effects, it’s unacceptable to leave terpenes out of the conversation. Terpenes are not only responsible for the aroma of cannabis, they also influence the experience and are thought to boost its therapeutic benefit.
For example, a terpene called Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in modern commercial cannabis and is thought to have sedative effects. So, is it more conceivable that a cultivar verified to have higher levels of myrcene is going to put you in “in da couch” more than a cultivar simply labeled “Indica”? I wish I could express an emphatic YES but it’s not that simple either.
Currently, I am not aware of any clinical trials that prove myrcene’s sedative effect on humans. However, a study done in 2002 on lab mice found sedative and muscle-relaxing effects with high doses of myrcene (200mg/kg of body weight). To put that in human terms, I’ll use myself as an example. I weigh approximately 100 lbs, which would equate to a 9,000-milligram mega-dose of myrcene! I’d love to see controlled studies on humans with various doses.
The inconvenient truth is that until we learn more, each consumer will have to be their own lab mouse and explore multiple cultivars to determine their choice chemovars that provide the effects they seek. What’s more is you can’t even trust a “strain” name. Stay tuned for my article entitled, “Will the real OG Kush please stand up?”.
Bottom line, cannabis is personal and this is a wonderful opportunity to learn about terpenes and follow your nose. Here is a great guide published by Leafly. If you’re not able to smell before you buy, ask to see the Certificate of Analysis (be prepared to receive an eye-roll). The COA will tell you the product’s lab results for terpenes as well as pesticides, mold, microbes and heavy metals.
Word to those in the industry at large, my hope is that WE, as ambassadors of cannabis stop perpetuating a misunderstanding of this gloriously complex plant. I believe we ALL play a role in education.
Word to the brands, I feel you. After meeting labeling requirements, there’s not much real estate left on the label. But is what we’re really doing just re-branding/re-defining the word Indica to mean “relaxed or sedated” and Sativa to mean “energized or uplifted”? If so, I think that falls into the realm of misleading advertising. I look forward to factual, science-based labels and transparency into the compounds that relate to the effects.
“Indica” and “Sativa” can be relevant to breeders and cultivators but once we’re in the realm of finished products, it becomes irrelevant and confusing for everyone else in the supply chain. I think the symbolism now being used in Leafly’s “Flowers” and Cannabinder’s Cannastamp™ are definitely a huge step in the right direction.
Budtenders, I feel you. You only have so much time with each customer and they can only absorb so much new information. Not to mention, many of them already come in with this antiquated understanding and the easiest thing to do is just go with it. Until we all get on the same page, we’re actually creating more confusion.
Dispensaries, I feel you. I encourage you to offer educational courses to your budtenders and your community of consumers. One simple and great idea is to have a True Terpenes Mini Terp Wall available as a show and smell demonstration for all.
With highest regards,