Beyond Indica & Sativa: The Future of Cannabis Strains Waits for You at SXSW

(Leafly)

So often, the opening line in any exchange of cannabis is, “Do you prefer indica or sativa?” Assuming that sativas always provide a burst of energy while indicas consistently lend a dreamy and relaxing high, your budtender is operating under a deep-seated cultural understanding of cannabis that has shaped nearly every market worldwide.

It was only a matter of time before high-minded curiosos began asking the question, “But what makes a sativa energizing and an indica sedating?”

Before cannabis legalization caught on like wildfire, we lacked the research and data that would inform more useful organization of cannabis strains. We knew that sativa and indica cannabis strains look different—so it wasn’t far off to assume that they were chemically different, too.

But here’s what we know now: cannabis is so much more complex than that, and we need a system of organization that’s as sophisticated as the many expressions of the plant.

Prepare to have your world turned upside-down as Leafly’s principal data scientist, Nick Jikomes, explains how lab-verified data will pave a new future for cannabis—one in which we can explore strains on a deeper level than achievable through the indica/sativa system.

What: Reimagining Cannabis With Lab-Verified Data

When: Friday, March 15 from 5-6 p.m.

Where: SXSW in Austin, Texas — Hilton Austin Downtown Salon G

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Join us to learn how cannabis prohibition produced incomplete knowledge that affects consumer decisions today, as well as how legalization is ushering in a new era of science-informed strain organization based on chemical profiles.

Other burning questions Nick will address include:

  • Are strain names meaningless?
  • How can we accurately segment strains based on their similarities?
  • What makes lab data reliable and accurate?

Leafly is the leading voice in strain information, and as our understandings of cannabis evolve, so do we. We’re excited to share with you a glimpse into the future, and please join us in the Leafly Lounge afterward to kick back, relax, and talk cannabis with the Leafly squad.

Before you attend Nick’s talk, or if you can’t make it in person, check out these resources to get a better understanding of how our knowledge of strains is starting to evolve as trustworthy lab data emerges.

Indica vs. Sativa: An Overview of Cannabis Types

Takeaway: There’s little evidence to suggest that indicas and sativas exhibit a consistent pattern of chemical profiles that would make one inherently sedating and the other uplifting.

Indica vs. Sativa Strains: Which Has More THC & CBD? 


Takeaway: You don’t need huge amounts of data to realize that THC and CBD profiles are specific to plant types. Peruse the lab-tested flower on dispensary menus and you’ll see that THC and CBD contents can vary widely, no matter its sativa or indica designation.

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? 

Takeaway: High-CBD strains tend to deliver very clear-headed, functional effects without the euphoric high associated with high-THC strains. They’re typically preferred by consumers who are extremely sensitive to the side effects of THC (e.g., anxiety, paranoia, dizziness).

How Strain Genetics Influence THC to CBD Ratios

Takeaway: THC and CBD are both made from another cannabinoid called cannabigerol (CBG). Within cannabis plants, each of these compounds is actually present in a slightly different, acidic form. The plants are really making either THCA or CBDA out of CBGA. It’s only after THCA and CBDA are decarboxylated by heat that we get significant levels of THC and CBD.

Why Strains Have THC and CBD Limits

Takeaway: Because CBD and THC are ultimately derived from CBGA, and strain genetics limit how that happens, there are serious biological constraints on the THC:CBD ratios that strains can have.

What Is the Endocannabinoid System and What Is Its Role?

Takeaway: The endocannabinoid system (ECS), comprised of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoid molecules, and their metabolic enzymes, is a crucial molecular system that the body uses to help maintain homeostasis.