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A strain refers to the named variations of cannabis that differ in appearance, aroma, and effect. Cannabis grows natively in different regions of the world and has been selectively bred for various characteristics. Terms like “sativa” and “indica” describe different structural differences in the plant: narrow vs. broad leaves, tall vs. short stature, etc. Cannabis strains that has been crossbred are called hybrids, which make up a vast majority of cannabis available today.

“My favorite cannabis strain is Gelato.”

“Do you have any strains in stock that are similar to Blue Dream?”

What is a strain?

In popular cannabis culture, a strain is a specific variety of cannabis that has been bred for particular characteristics like aroma, potency, appearance, and effects. These strains are given names, often based on those characteristics. For example, Sour Diesel is a strain named for its sour, fuel-like aroma; White Widow is named for its thick coat of white resin that forms on the buds; and 9-Pound Hammer is named for its powerful, heavy effects that can fast-track a nap.

Today, there are thousands of named cannabis varieties to choose from due to the limitless possibilities in crossbreeding. When looking for a strain, consider which characteristics you prefer, such as THC vs. CBD content, a sweet or earthy aroma, calming vs. stimulating effects, and so on.

Why are strains important?

Named strains of cannabis allow for some degree of consistency in the cannabis experience. Once you have found a strain that delivers the optimal experience for you, you now have a reference point for future purchasing decisions. 

In other words, if you love the strain Chocolope, you can look for that strain at your local cannabis shop or ask the budtender if they have any strains that are similar. Likewise, if you have had a bad experience with a particular strain, you will have an idea of what characteristics to avoid.

However, strains can vary from grower to grower and batch to batch. In other words, the OG Kush you bought from one farm may differ somewhat in potency, appearance, and aroma from another. The best way to find a consistent experience is to find your favorite strain grown by your favorite farm and stick to that.

Are indicas and sativas strains?

For a long time, cannabis consumers based purchasing decisions on whether a strain was categorized as an “indica” or “sativa.” According to popular belief, indicas were said to be relaxing, sleepy strains and sativas were believed to be energizing and uplifting, for example, the indica strain Northern Lights vs. the sativa strain Laughing Buddha. 

Today, chemical analyses tell us that this effect-based categorization isn’t always true—that there may not be a chemical basis by which indicas are sedating and sativas are energizing. However, most consumers still shop by “indica strains” and “sativa strains,” regardless.