It used to be that if you wanted to buy marijuana fifty years ago, you found a street dealer and bought a bag of weed. There were no designer strains. It was all weed. That’s no longer the case. To buy what you really want these days, you at least have to know the difference between cannabis indica and sativa. Once you have that nailed down, there are some eight hundred commercially available strains to work with.
Botanically speaking, cannabis strains are actually cultivars. What is a cultivar? It is a variation on an existing plant. The best way to think of cultivars is to think of them as varieties. Cultivars are created by breeding plants to enhance certain characteristics. This can be accomplished through grafting, seed production, or even tissue culture.
Cannabis Species vs. Strains
All the confusion about marijuana strains actually goes back to the cannabis plant itself. The cannabis genus is a fairly broad genus with multiple plants under its umbrella. Both hemp and marijuana are species of cannabis. So are indica and sativa. Having said that, there is some debate over whether indica and sativa are cannabis species or cultivars. We will assume they are species for the purposes of this post.
Growers can take indica and sativa plants and manipulate them in a number of ways to come up with new cultivars. They can then crossbreed those cultivars to come up with new ones. Why do that? Because creating new cultivars allows them to create customized plants.
One grower might want to create a cultivar with an exceptionally potent amount of THC. Another might want a moderate amount of THC along with some additional cannabinoids and terpenes. Likewise, processors might want specific cultivars to make unique retail products that are only offered by their house brand.
Read the Labels
As a user, it is easy to be overwhelmed on any visit to a recreational or medical cannabis dispensary. The biggest dispensaries can have hundreds of different products on their shelves. According to the good folks Utah Marijuana, it is up to customers to read labels carefully.
Medical users do have an advantage inasmuch as they can consult with their cannabis pharmacists to determine which products to try. A pharmacist is going to have more medical knowledge than your friend down the street.
It also pays to know the difference between hemp and marijuana. Hemp was legalized at the federal level by the 2018 Farm Bill. Meanwhile, marijuana is still illegal by federal standards. This makes an enormous difference if you are choosing to buy cannabis products containing delta-8 THC.
A Different Kind of High
Delta-8 THC is an isomer of Delta-9, the type of THC regulated by federal law. But Delta-8 is currently not regulated, except in a few states. Thus, processors can add it to hemp products, like CBD oil for example. The important thing to note is that Delta-8 does make users high. It is just a different kind of high.
The Delta-8 question plays into cultivation in the sense that, while the isomer occurs naturally in cannabis plants, it doesn’t occur in high volumes. Most of the Delta-8 sold on the open market is synthesized from Delta-9. But you can bet growers are working on cultivars with higher Delta-8 concentrations.
The take-away in all of this is that there are hundreds of different strains being sold at recreational and medical marijuana dispensaries around the country. But that’s not all. There are thousands of existing strains. Most of them are not available for retail sale. But they are out there.