Cannabis growers and sellers have defined different strains of cannabis as ‘indica’ or ‘sativa’ for decades to describe their different effects. But scientists have now found that there is in fact no difference between the two.
‘Indica’ cannabis is known to have a sedative effect and relax the body. Sativa is thought to be energizing and lead to more of a ‘high’. Meanwhile, hybrid strains are considered to be a midway of both strains, providing both effects to some degree.
The cannabis classification system was first proposed by French biologist Jean Baptist Lamark in the 18th century. Through his observations of various cannabis plant samples from India, he described cannabis indica plants as being shorter with thick, stubby leaves, while sativa plants were taller and had feather-like leaves. Due to their different appearance, he then proposed that each plant had different uses and effects.
Although botanists challenged his theory in the years that followed, his classification system still became well known, and widely used. It was only more recently that researchers have been able to prove his classification wrong by analyzing cannabis samples at the molecular level.
Upon closer inspection, they found that just one species of cannabis exists. Known as cannabis sativa L, the reason why it can look and act differently in the body is actually due to how the plant grows in different environments. The researchers found that factors such as temperature, humidity, nutrients present in the soil, altitude and sunlight can affect both its appearance and its effects once ingested
As the marijuana industry is still relatively under-regulated, uniform guidelines still don’t exist. This means that this knowledge has had very little impact on popular culture. Moreover, as the substance is still relatively new to the mass market, retailers prefer to keep its classification as simple as possible. The situation is further complicated as strains are often crossbred, meaning that even if cannabis growers and sellers would want more accurate classification, it would be hard to calculate.
This of course results in problems for consumers who may take the substance and become disappointed as it did not give them the desired effect. Would a more accurate classification system exist, this of course would happen less. Until then however, the researchers recommend users take a trial and error approach to find their ideal strain of cannabis.