Know your cannabis

By Des Humphrey

I am not about to tell you all how to suck eggs here, but when I recently asked a number of cannabis consumers if they knew the difference between the types of cannabis that are out there today, 80% of them did not have a clue.

Many British cannabis consumers think there is only one type of cannabis, and that’s the mythical type the government often talks about: the kind that supposedly has you stuck in a daze, or glued the sofa never wanting to do anything productive. Well there is a lot to learn for those who do not know much about the wide world of cannabis varities. Here’s a rough and ready introductory guide to cannabis types and their best uses.

Cannabis plants can be divided into four main species containing innumerable strains, each with its own characteristics and effects. Let’s go through the species one by one:

Sativa cannabis plants

Sativa cannabis plants

  1. SATIVA DESCRIPTION: These plants have long, thin-fingered leaves, and the plant can grow very tall, as tall as 20 feet. Internodes are usually further apart and when dried the flowering tops tend to be soft to the touch with plenty of pistles and trichomes.SATIVA EFFECTS: Sativa will give you a stimulating “head high”. You will usually feel energetic, cerebral, creative, and upbeat. These “get up and go” strains can help you feel more positive about yourself, think of new and creative ways to do things, and make you more of an outgoing person. These effects make Sativa a popular “daytime” medicine, as they tend to be more functional. Sativa take a long time to flower at 12 weeks-plus. If you need something to help you feel motivated, Sativa is the strain for you. Sativa usually has an average high THC content of around 15% to 20%.
  2. Indica cannabis plant leafs

    Indica cannabis leafs

    INDICA DESCRIPTION: These plants have wide-fingered leaves that will often overlap each other. The plant will be short, about 4 foot in height and usually very bushy. When dried the flowering tops tend to be very nuggety and hard to the touch with pistles and plenty of trichomes.

    INDICA EFFECTS: Indica will give you a “body high” which will make you feel totally relaxed. These strains are ideal for pain, anxiety, insomnia, and more. While Indica tends to be less functional than Sativa, its pain relieving and deeply relaxing effects make it an ideal “nighttime” medicine. Indica flower within 8 weeks. Indica usually has a THC content of 8% to 20%.

  3. HYBRIDS DESCRIPTION: Hybrids are a cross between Sativa and Indica and can show traits of both of their parents. The fingered leaves are wider than a Sativa, but not as wide as an Indica. The fingers do not overlap each other, and they do not grow as tall as Sativa but are bigger than Indica. When dried the flowering tops tend to be nuggety with plenty of pistles and trichomes.
    Hybrid cannabis leaf

    Hybrid cannabis

    HYBRID EFFECTS: Hybrids can give you a head high as well as a body high, depending on the breakdown of Sativa/Indica genetics. For example, a strain whose genetics are 70% Sativa and 30% Indica will tend to give you a head high with a little body high. If you suffer with muscle cramps or spasms, it will relax your muscles enough to ease them but not heavy enough to “couch-lock”, or mildly incapacitate you. The reverse, a 70% Indica x 30 % Sativa strain, will relax the body so effectively that it may “couch-lock” you, making you temporarily less able to physically exert yourself, while the Sativa has a stimulating and psychologically functional effect. So someone suffering with severe pain can relax on the sofa and still hold conversation or do work if they so wish. Hybrids flower within 10 weeks. These strains are becoming more popular in the UK within the medical/personal grower. Hybrids usually have a THC content of 12% to 24%.

  4. RUDERALIS DESCRIPTION: Ruderalis strains grow much shorter and have fewer fingers to their leaves. They can withstand harsher climates than both Sativa and Indica. These strains have a low THC content and do not require a change in the light cycle to make them flower. They are often crossed with either Sativa or Indica plants to make an “auto-flowering” strain, auto-flowering should be able to grow in constant light, and will not require any changes to the set up in order to kick start the flowering process. RUDERALIS EFFECTS: Having never tried a pure Ruderalis strain, I cannot personally comment on their effects. Saying that, I have tried many auto-flowering strains and while they had the effects expected of their Indica/Sativa makeup, I noticed that the effects do wear off a little bit faster than their non-auto fellows.
Ruderalis cannabis plants

Indica x Ruderalis cannabis

My personal preference is to consume Sativa in the day and Indica in the night, or a Hybrid both day and night according to my medical needs. Strains make all the difference in finding the right combination of effects to treat your illness or suit your mood. Under prohibition, most of us don’t have access to strain variety and we’re left to take whatever we can get. Ending the prohibition of cannabis and having a regulated market would allow cannabis consumers to find the strains best matched to their needs.

I should also like to take this opportunity to say that cannabis is not for everyone. We as humans are not all the same and it could cause some folks discomfort, just as alcohol and tobacco do not agree with many people, cannabis is not a pleasant experience for some. If you find yourself becoming anxious, paranoid, or otherwise discomforted after consuming cannabis, remind yourself that this is a temporary and fleeting experience. Find a place where you feel safe and comfortable, play some music, drink plenty of fluids, drink  something that contains vitamin C such as orange juice , and eat some food to keep your blood sugar stable. Your discomfort will pass well within the hour.

Remember, cannabis is not toxic and has never killed anyone. However, you might start to feel happy! You might get the munchies! You might like the way it makes you feel! Cannabis is medicine for many and helps them lead functional and fulfilling lives. Cannabis is a plant; it’s consumers who are criminalised.

Our body, our mind, our plant!


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