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Cannabis Classification

Complete classification of cannabis still remains a debate. Some authorities believe that cannabis grown for fiber, resin, and other purposes all belong to the species C. sativa, which has subspecies, such as sub species indica to differentiate between types. Others believe that lack of cannabinoids produced in plants from European origin in comparison with high cannabinoid producing plants from India, as well as the way they grow, shows that there are two completely different species-C. sativa and C. indica. (*)(pb) The thought that C. sativa is primarily beneficial for growing hemp and resin, while C. indica is better for producing cannabinoids has changed since, now, all species can be selectively bred to produce fiber and/or cannabinoids. In addition to C. sativa and C. indica, two other species have been distinguished, C. ruderalis and C. chinensis. (*) Ruderalis is a species of cannabis that grows wild, primarily in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the northern Himalayans. It does not lend itself to being consumed recreationally because of its low THC content. (*)(pb) However, it is rich in Cannabidiol, and with recent interest in the benefits of high CBD strains, ruderalis is being used more for its medicinal value. C. chinensis is currently thought to be a subset of C. indica and believed to come from indo-chinese origins. (*)(pb) There has not been much information documented on this species, although one distinct characteristic noted is its ability to flower at the base of the leaf structure. Classification disputes aside, the cannabis that we consume can most commonly be categorized as sativas, indicas, and hybrids.

Sativas are native to equatorial regions and have a longer growing season than indicas. They have thinner leaf structure and the buds tend to be more elongated as well. Traditionally, this variety was grown for hemp purposes, as well as smoking and making tea.(*)(pb) Although sativas generally produce fewer trichomes than indicas, the high is distinct and is often referred to as cerebral, racy, and “electric”. (*) Many consider sativas to be an “uppity” daytime type of cannabis.

Indicas originated in the Hindu Kush region of Central Asia and have a relatively shorter growing season than other varieties. The leaf structure tends to be wide and the plants shorter and stockier than sativas. In the past, these plants were grown mainly for making hashish because of the large number of trichomes produced. (*)(pb) Indica is generally described as having a heavier, more sedative effect. Many consider indicas to be more of a night time, more “stoney” type of cannabis.

Hybrids are a combination of species and result in a variety of effects, flavors, and strain combinations. The majority of strains produced today are hybrids and usually lean higher in percentage one direction or the other resulting in a sativa or indica dominance. Most hybrids average 60% - 40% one species over the other, however, higher percentages of sativa or indica in a hybrid exists, and it is also possible to find strains that are a perfect balance or close. For example, the well-known Jack Herer strain, dependent on phenotype, is almost an even balanced hybrid at 55% sativa and 45% indica. Learning about different strains, lineage and crossbreed history, percentages, and flavors can help people select which strains suit them best.

-Ryan O'Malley, General Manager - 'Notes on Cannabis'

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