Boomerang Smokers #3: Straining to understand

Are you confused by the numerous strains of cannabis?

We are too. The L.A. Times says there are 779 different strains. The nifty interactive Venn diagram is pretty and all, but it's not all that helpful. And the story is 3 years old, and a lot has happened since then.

Their source for the info that corresponds to the plot points on the Venn diagram is the website  

That website currently has a Cannabis Strain Explorer that lists 2389 strains! (But, when you add up the 724 indica + 463 sativa + 1207 hybrid strains, you get 2,394. Hmmm... Math + cannabis = wrong.) 

But that strain explorer, as colorful and sprawling as it is, isn't really packed with all that much helpful data. For example: Say I wanted to know how many of those strains have high levels of CBD along with low, or zero, levels of THC, I am out of luck. 

The "Advanced Filters" option lets the user sort the various strains according to "Medical Usage" (ADD, PTSD, Anxiety, etc.), "Effect" (Focused, Uplifted, Relaxed, etc.) or "Flavors" (Citrus, Berry, Nutty, etc.), but this is still all very unscientific and lacking in precision. Let's face it: One man's "focused" is another man's "creative" is another man's "tingly." And all this talk about "nutty" and "spicy" and "citrus" is uncomfortably close to the wine snobbery (and its insufferable lexicon) that we've been trying to avoid all these years. And, as for the medical usage filter, I get the feeling that the Leafly data is drawn largely from strain reviews on their website, or, to put it another way, it is "crowd-sourced" or anecdotal.

So... what is a novice supposed to do?  Can someone returning to cannabis after a long layoff make sense of the thousands of strains? How can a cannabis consumer make his way through the thicket of strains?

There is much emphasis placed on the difference in the respective characteristics of  indica and sativa. The high from the former species is said to be sedating or relaxing while the high from the latter is said to he "invigorating." But on that distinction, even the Los Angeles Times seems skeptical: 
But all pot comes from two parent strains – indicas, which are associated with a sleepy body high, and sativas, which are believed to make users feel more energetic.
Emphasis ours. This is all very grey and subjective. (And, of course, all of this places a heavy emphasis on the THC and largely ignores the effect of CBD. But we will delve into that in another post.) The simple truth is that nobody really knows for sure. And also: Your mileage may vary.

To truly figure out what kind of flower is right for you (or if flower is right for you at all) is to try it for yourself. Fortunately, if you live in a state where marijuana is legalized in some way (or if you are visiting a state... like, say, Nevada!), trying it for yourself is neither difficult nor expensive.


Sometimes you can pick up a "pre-roll" (or, as they used to be known, a "joint") for as little as $7 (or, if you're savvy, you can get one for free!) So, for relatively little cash, you can pick up one sativa joint, one indica joint and one hybrid. Or you can pick up a pre-roll that contains weed with an eye-popping 30% THC (Jet Fuel OG, perhaps?), another that contains a more manageable level of THC, say, 17% (Skywalker OG) and yet another that contains only 5.9% (Fire Angel). Puff away, take notes, keep score!

The Gram
The price of a gram around these parts varies from $7 up to $16 or so. (If you're rusty on your metric system, a gram is 1/28th of an ounce. If that doesn't help any, think of it this way: It's not a lot of weed, but it's not a little.) If you don't mind rolling your own, a gram is a great and inexpensive way of sampling cannabis. (And of course, there's the pipe if you have two left thumbs and you're not that handy with the papers.)

Ask Around
If you know people who have been sampling legal weed-- and you think they can offer coherent, usable advice-- solicit their suggestions.

Ask A Budtender
Do budtenders know enough about marijuana and its effects to help you make a decision?  They know some numbers and they are familiar with the lingo and the conventional wisdom ("The sativa strains are great for daytime use, Brah!"), but navigating the chemistry and the pharmacology of marijuana in order to give a customer an accurate suggestion is extremely difficult. And, when we consider that the customer may have difficulty articulating exactly what he wants, it's not really the budtender's fault if the product doesn't match up with the consumer's needs. All of this is really so subjective, after all.)

If you just rumble into a dispensary armed only with "sativa vs. indica," chances are slim that you'll come out with flower that perfectly suits your needs. (And chances are good that you'll emerge with $60 worth of weed that is totally inappropriate for your needs.)

We suggest that maybe it's wise to pay attention to the numbers. It might be better to focus on THC & CBD. More on that in an upcoming post.

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