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For those in 420-friendly states, knowing what you’re smoking on is one of the easiest things you can do. Just walk into a dispensary, choose from a selection of strains with catchy, sometimes descriptive names and listed potency, then walk out with an accurately-labeled medicine jar of the sticky-icky. But for those who receive their stash from a “friend” or acquaintance, the luxury of knowing exactly what they’re smoking isn’t one easily had. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you determine exactly what it is you’re smoking to help you sound like a true “cannasseur”.
Nowadays, with legalization and decriminalization spreading across the globe, thousands of new weed strains are being developed. Many of these strains are considered hybrids between the two popular cannabis types: sativa and indica. But how can you tell which is which? There are special attributes that each type of weed offers -- and even most hybrids will lean toward one or the other. Sativas and indicas tend to be vastly different in their effects, with most smokers preferring one over the other.
The Difference Between Sativa and Indica
Sativas are mostly associated with a cerebral high: creativity, inspiration, problem solving, and energy. Very potent sativas can even be associated with some hallucinatory effects. Sativas tend to be higher proportionately in THC and CBD. When artists and writers smoke, the sativa high is generally what they're looking for. Sativas can also be associated with other types of high productivity -- such as getting housework and chores done. On the flip side, sativa is also more often associated with some of the negative aspects of weed smoking, such as high anxiety and paranoia. Physically, sativa plants are usually light green with thin leaves and a tall build.
Conversely, indicas are associated with a heavy body high. In other words, couch lock. Indica is the relaxing type of weed: the type of weed that leaves you comfortable and melting into your sofa. Many people use indica for recreational purposes, such as sitting around with friends and enjoying their company. Because of its relaxing effects, indica tends to be more often used for medical purposes. Indicas tend to have proportionately higher CBD than THC when compared to sativa strains. Physically, indica plants are usually dark green with thick leaves and a short build.
Maui Waui is a sativa-dominant strain originating from Hawaii
But of course, both sativas and indicas are different types of cannabis. Though the 'high' may seem different, there are common characteristics between each. Many people try to fine-tune the high for specific effects by creating hybrid strains. Many of the most popular strains today are hybrids, popular ones including Girl Scout Cookies and White Widow.
Signs Your Bud is a Sativa or Sativa-Dominant Hybrid
- You feel energetic and creative when smoking it.
- Your thoughts race, but you still feel very productive.
- Your weed smells sweet, light, fruity or floral.
- Your weed may have a corresponding citrus-y taste.
- Your weed has buds that are light and fluffy.
Signs Your Weed is an Indica or Indica-Dominant Hybrid
- Your mind feels a little cloudy and distracted when smoking it.
- You may easily forget what you're saying or lose track of time.
- Your weed smells skunky, spicy, or heavily like pine.
- Your weed may have a corresponding chocolate-y or earthy taste.
- Your weed has buds that are heavy and dense.
Identifying Individual Strains of Weed
It isn't just the strain that is important -- it's the environment. You can easily see this when you go to the farmer's market. Tomatoes picked ripe from the vine look, taste, and smell vastly different from the tomatoes that are at the grocery store. Because of this, identifying individual strains of weed can actually be very tricky. If you've smoked hydroponic Girl Scout Cookies, you might not even recognize an outdoor grown version of the same strain.
Though it may be difficult to say for certain, some characteristics of your bud can be used to narrow down strain options to only a few possibilities. In general, identifying an individual strain of weed will come down to three key things: the look of the weed, the taste of the bud and the feel of the high. More often than not, it is the taste of the weed that will tip you off. Different weeds may have chocolate-y, citrusy, or piney tastes. These will always remain similar regardless of the potency of the weed itself. Thus, this is mostly down to your own personal experience of the different weed strains.
Knowing what kind of weed you're smoking is the first step towards discovering the type of weed that you like most. Once you find "your strain", you'll find it far easier to get the effects that you want when smoking. To help you figure it out, let’s start with the following:
How does it look? Looking at your biggest, most attractive bud, what do you notice? Is it bright green or does it have hints of other colors as well? Is it dense or is it fluffy? Are the buds large or small? Knowing this can help you determine whether you’re smoking an indica, sativa or a hybrid of the two. That’s because indicas and sativas exhibit different grow patterns based on their area of origin.
For example, indicas grow smaller and produce denser buds with less pigment because of their origins in the middle east. Accustom to the shorter grow season in the area, indicas produce buds that are larger and denser with less accessory pigments (like purples and reds) to help them absorb more UV light. Conversely, sativas, which originate near the equator, tend to produce smaller, fluffier buds (because they can grow and stretch for a longer period of time) with more pigment to help shield them from excessive sunlight.
How does it taste? Though strain attributes vary greatly (even within the same genetic line), they will often be named after characteristic flavors (diesel strains have a gasoline flavor just as lemon strains will have a lemon flavor). If you know whether or not your bud is an indica or sativa, pulling out characteristic flavors will allow you to narrow down your options even farther. Keep in mind that kush strains tend to lean indica while haze strains tend to be sativa strains. Skunks are often sativa-dominant hybrids.
How does it make you feel? Thanks to the countless strain reviews online today, it’s easier than ever to plug a few keywords into a search engine to find strains that match your high. Whether you find yourself nodding off, lost in thought or chatting up a storm after smoking, there’s likely a reviewer who thought the same thing. To find out for sure, just search for strains that create the high you’re experiencing while keeping in mind what you’ve already discovered about your bud.
With thousands of cannabis strains available in America, it can be difficult to know which one is your favorite (especially if they don’t come labeled). While many purport that the most important thing to know about your cannabis is that it is, in fact, cannabis, many others prefer intricacies associated with each individual strain. If you’ve been gifted a sack-o-weed that’s lacking a label or other descriptive info, use these tips to help you get a better idea of what it is you might be smoking.
PS: If you enjoy the process and want to hone your skills farther, come to Colorado to learn to be how to be a cannabis sommelier and better prepare yourself for this budding cannabis industry. Or just hone your skills for your next pot party :)
How do you figure out what strain you’re smoking?
Photo Credit: Southern California Public Radio