With Canada dispensaries readily available, it will be the first time that many people will buy cannabis legally. While this is definitely good news, if you haven’t visited a dispensary until now, your first experience can be overwhelming.


A typical dispensary works like any other store, with a board listing all of your available choices and their price in grams. However, unlike a fast food menu, identifying what you actually want without knowing it beforehand can be a little bit tricky. How can one choose among White Widow, Girl Scout Cookies or Cherry Bomb?


Strain names are not very helpful so a little bit of prior knowledge might come in handy. In this article, we will look at sativa and indica, the two major species of marijuana that most of the available cannabis strains come from. This mini guide might help you navigate through the confusion and pick the product that is right for you. Also, we are going to shatter some long-standing marijuana myths along the way!


Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa and Hybrid Strains

Scientifically and legally, the two marijuana varieties have no differences. They are part of the same species and have the same effects. However, they are visibly different in appearance and are acclimatized to different parts of the world.

Cannabis Sativa

Sativa is generally taller with longer, thinner leaves. The plant’s lineage can be traced back to the tropical climates of Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia.  The heritage of sativas mean that they are very well suited to the heat and humidity. Cannabis sativa plants grow between 10-18 feet tall.


Sativas are said to have strong cerebral effects to the user and allegedly have a higher THC content than Indicas. Their psychoactive effects make them a popular strain among recreational users.


Famous Sativa Strains

  • Durban Poison
  • Jack Herrer
  • Super Lemon Haze



Cannabis Indica

Indica varieties are shorter, denser, with stockier leaves and a compact shape well suited to the harsh conditions of their Asian homeland. Their resilience also means that they produce more resinous flowers, as resin protects buds from harmful external factors.


Originally native to the Hindu Kush mountain region (where kush also takes its name), cannabis indica can grow in much colder and inhospitable environments.

Indica is often presented as the opposite of sativa, with strong narcotic effects and is believed to have a higher CBD content. Medical cannabis users often prefer indica varieties due to their -hypothetical- sedative properties.

Famous Indica Strains Variety of indica cannabis strains

  • Blueberry Kush
  • Bubba Kush
  • OG Kush






Most of the weed you will find in modern dispensaries is the result of selective breeding between high-yielding and extremely potent strains. Breeders have created some strains that couldn’t exist in the wild, with THC and CBD levels that are off the charts! Reputable Canadian dispensaries will be able to inform you about the genetic line of each hybrid strain they sell.


Famous Hybrid Strains

  • White Widow
  • Cheese
  • Chemdawg


Are Differences Between Sativa and Indica Real?

So it’s simple right? Sativa=high and creative, indica=mellow and relaxed. There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts in the dispensary or in the back alley ready to share their obscurely acquired wisdom with you. However, as much as we would all prefer life to be as easy as this, these classifications serve little to no purpose.


The “types of high” distinction between the two major cannabis families are total nonsense, according to Dr. Ethan Russo, a neurologist and president emeritus at the International Cannabinoid Research Society. According to Russo, “we would all prefer simple nostrums to explain complex systems, but this is futile and even potentially dangerous in the context of a psychoactive drug such as cannabis.”


With cannabis being still illegal at the federal level, research has been limited. Therefore, our knowledge about cannabis chemistry is often reduced to lore and largely distorted versions of reality. Russo and other scientists believe that the real effects of cannabis come from two types of compounds – cannabinoids and terpenoids.


Explaining Cannabinoids and Terpenoids

There are more than 110 cannabinoids in the marijuana plant, with THC and CBD being the most prevalent. Each one has different medical and recreational properties that we have adequately explained in a previous article.


Terpenoids are the compounds responsible for the aromatic oils that are concentrated in the cannabis resin formed in the trichomes. Terpenes have modulatory effects on cannabinoids and also add an extra set of effects. This detail makes classifying kinds of cannabis much more difficult and inconsistent.


These molecular structures appear in various concentrations in sativa and indica marijuana, rendering classifications practically useless. So, how do users report a cerebral high when smoking a sativa and a couch lock when smoking an indica?


Scientist Simon Oxenham hints at the placebo effect for answers. We expect that a certain strain will make us feel in a particular way and then we experience it. Of course, that is not to say that everything we knew up until now was a lie. However, it does point out a significant inconsistency.


Picking the Right Cannabis Strain

Cannabis research is still in its infancy. It will take a lot of future research to understand cannabis better. In time, everything we know about it might change and new knowledge will be produced about the properties of Sativas and Indicas.

Until then, finding a quality Canada dispensary and reading relevant user reviews on the various strains can help you make smarter purchases in the future. If you’re new to the recreational market, we recommend you buy a variety of strains in 1 gram bags so that you can test and see what suits you best.















Author: CannabisNearMe

CannabisNearMe.ca connects Canadians with local cannabis businesses, local events and the top branded products. Check out our map finder to discover new businesses and events near you!

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