It’s a new world of cannabis out here; gone are the days of unidentified shake in ziplock bags. Today, Canadian dispensary shelves are brimming with choices. So many choices, in fact, we’ll help you get a basic understanding of the science behind cannabis right here right now. Before you know it, you’ll be cruising through dispensary menus and choosing products like a pro!

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Choosing the right strain
Dispensaries marking strains primarily by indica and sativa can leave us without much of a guideline for the expected effects of that strain. That’s why as smart consumers, it’s important to look closely at strain descriptions. Individual descriptions of each strain provide a lot more information about the strain’s actual effect than relying on indica and sativa stereotypes alone. It’s especially important to pay attention to THC and CBD levels and anything smell descriptions that indicate which terpenes a strain contains. Have any questions for your online budtender? Weed be happy to help! Check out our FAQ to get started.


Human intervention has changed the cannabis plant a lot in the past few hundred years. Before modern breeders and technology, it may have been more accurate to say that the effects of indica plants were felt more in the body and less in the mind than their sativa counterparts.

Modern breeding is usually aimed to increase the psychoactive effects of cannabis, so this is rarely the case any more. It’s very common to find indica strains from dispensaries that are more than “heady” enough for any seasoned smoker, like this Marmalate . So what is an indica?

When they’re growing, indica plants are shorter, wider and darker than sativa plants. The leaves are also broader with shorter digits (think maple leaf). Indicas generally have shorter grow cycles and better yields than sativa strains, so they’re a favorite for new growers.


Sativa strains, like Durban Poison or Strawberry Cough, are generally considered to be more energetic and uplifting with less of a body high compared to indicas. However, dispensary veterans can attest to smoking a supposedly cerebral sativa with the intention of getting something done, only to find themselves still on the couch hours later, elbow deep in a bag of Cheetos.

To growers, sativa plants grow taller and skinnier than indicas. Their leaves are lighter green and more spindly (think japanese maple leaf) than indica leaves. In nature, sativas grow in warmer climates than mountainous indicas, causing them to develop distinct physical differences since they’re not required to adapt to the cold. This can also make them more of a challenge to inexperienced growers.


If we’re being honest, every strain you encounter in a dispensary is actually a hybrid on a genetic level. Cannabis has been used in human culture for so long, and been subject to so much scientific interference, that there are almost no pure indicas and sativas today in the same way they would have occured in nature. Strains have been bred and cross-bred a hundred times over, so even plants that are very characteristic of indica, like Grandaddy Purple for example, are almost guaranteed to have a sativa great-great-great grandparent, or at the very least a sativa great-aunt twice removed.

When a strain like Alien OG is labeled as hybrid on a dispensary menu, it means that it’s an intentional crossbreed of an indica strain and a sativa strain. Breeders love hybrids and are constantly creating new varieties, because crossbreeding can improve the effects of existing strains. Hybrids are created to get the best of both worlds from their indica and sativa parents, and often have highly specialized effects and flavors due to their intentional breeding.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t plan to grow any of my own cannabis, so what should indica and sativa mean to me? The answer is honestly not that much. There’s a better way to get an accurate reading of the effects of a strain, and that is the strain’s cannabinoid makeup.

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