Technically, there is no difference between sativa and indica cannabis. It’s all about the terpenes.
Of course, among cannabis connoisseurs, it’s hotly debated. Sativas are supposed to be the coffee-like energy boost to your body and mind, while there’s a reason why indicas are sometimes known as “in-da-couch.” As in, don’t expect to be going anywhere when you consume it.
If you’re going to a concert or festival, take a sativa joint. If you’re off to bed and looking for a non-alcoholic “nightcap”, smoke indica.
But like I said before, technically, there is no difference.
What consumers are feeling may be the placebo effect. Just as there’s no difference in the alcohol of vodka versus beer. But, perhaps with cannabis, science hasn’t discovered exactly what is happening in the brain when one consumes. There are over 420 compounds in the plant, after all.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as THC) is the most famous. It’s the active ingredient getting you “stoned.” There’s no such thing as a “sativa” or “indica” type of THC.
Why distinguish between sativa and indica?
The answer is due to the plant’s botany. Sativas are taller and stalkier. Indicas are bushier and loaded with resin. Consumers can also choose hybrids, cannabis strains that are a mixture of sativa and indica.
Of course, any experienced cannabis farmer would admit that nearly all cannabis available to consumers is a hybrid of both. “OG Kush” may be labelled as an indica, while “Girl Scout Cookies” may be labelled sativa, but a more accurate classification would be “indica-dominant” or “sativa-dominant.” Ideally, percentages would indicate how far on either side of the sativa-indica spectrum the strain rests.
Cannabis consumers report more cerebral experiences with sativa, whereas indica sends a buzz across your body, giving you the classic cannabis stereotype of couch-lock. For farmers, it’s more of a technical matter. But “sativa” and “indica” are not cannabis compounds.
THC is a cannabis compound. So is cannabidiol (CBD)
There is no psychological effect on the mind with CBD like there is with THC. You can smoke joint after joint of CBD-heavy strains and come away only slightly buzzed, if anything at all.
CBD isolates, which extracts the compound completely and isolates it, give you zero buzz. So why consume it? CBD consumers report lower levels of anxiety when consuming it daily like a vitamin. Others report a reduction in their inflammation. And scientific papers back this up, as any quick Google Scholar search will demonstrate.
Due to prohibition, cannabis growers bred plant genetics high in THC and low CBD. The two compounds work like a see-saw, the more CBD in a plant, the less THC. Likewise, for consumers, the higher the CBD in their strain, the less effective the THC high.
With the end of prohibition in Canada, as well as many U.S. states, cannabis farmers are now selecting plant genetics high in CBD and low in THC.
But, regardless of whether the plant is CBD or THC dominant, sativa, indica or hybrid dominant, cannabis will produce terpenes. And terpenes are a more important factor. An experienced connoisseur is less concerned about whether a strain is an indica and more interested in what kind of terpenes the plant has.
So what are terpenes? That question we’ll leave for part 2.