Classifying Cannabis: A Guide To Terpene Profiles & Percentage Scales

Article by Travis Cesarone, Cannabis Life Network


For the uninitiated, the terminology of the cannabis industry can seem like its own language- a jumble of words like indica, sativa, landrace, THC, CBD, terpenes, edibles, extractions, shatter, flower, budder, concentrates… the list goes on and on.

Where it all started

Cannabis originated from landrace varieties. It was interbred hundreds of times to become your coffee table weed; done in a mix of black market and professional settings. The few original strains, which are defined by region, are all ancestors of the cannabis we smoke today. They are frequently labelled between indica, sativa, or hybrid.

As it turns out, even when discovering the early cultivations that were bred from wild ruderalis crops, no one could agree on which definition to use. This confusion can explain why so much misinterpretations exist now.

Beyond the plant’s physical attributes, cannabis’ actual effects are not clearly defined through this indica/sativa definition.

Some sativa varieties may not be uplifting, while not all indica varieties are sedating. Sometimes, smokers just can’t seem to agree, while some completely understand each other’s reactions. An even bigger mistake arises from within strains themselves. Many different variations of a single strain exist in the form of phenotypes.

Some examples include Girl Scout Cookies, which can be a 60:40 indica:sativa hybrid, or vice versa. The strain known as Critical Mass grows into a 20% THC, mildly sedating strain, while there are other Critical Mass varieties that can be a mild 1:1 THC:CBD strain with as little as 7% THC.

This variety and subsequent splitting of outcomes demands a need for immersive databases.

Percentage Scales

I mentioned above a percentage ratio between a strain’s “indica and sativa” dominance. This system has been commonly used at the consumer level for quite some time. In this setting, these don’t necessarily define a plant’s physical characteristics. They rather define its actual effects. A grower’s understanding of indica and sativa may be far different than a consumer’s; however, the cultivator should be speaking to us in our language, but a fluency in translation is rare, indeed.

Strains can be evaluated and labelled under this scale with an approximation disclaimer. It would have to be evaluated by dry-labbing, which is producers essentially performing a sampling survey before labelling- much like most beer and wine production- and although the evaluation of cannabis would go beyond mere flavour and aroma, there are many who’d jump at the chance to be product testers.

The Indica vs. Sativa dichotomy

For most individuals, a 100% indica should be sedative; whereas a 100% sativa may be commonly very bright. Some may find highly indica dominant strains to be far too heavy, whereas not everyone is very keen on a full sativa’s psychoactive euphoria.

Regardless, practically all strains are hybrids, with many crossing eight or ten strains – some with an Indica Landrace origin.

Taking out that uncertainty and bringing us a consumer-based scale beyond “sativa vs. indica” has great advantages. Some are even trying to do away with the sativa/indica scale altogether because it’s not a viable description for clinical use.

Incorporating a new system that involves more defined dimensions, such as relaxation and focus, or night-time or day-time use, would be beneficial, although a new language altogether may need to be formed. But it would be vastly more detailed and designed for a consumer and hopefully, it will be a systematic scale defining all aspects of a strain’s effects.

Why we need scales and profiles

The percentage scale spells the terminology death of “Hybrid”. It will also eliminate a lot of math when someone asks which way a phenotype bends; turning a terpene puzzle into an easier equation. The full map of information should still be presented for anyone needing to predict all biological interactions.

Read the full article here.

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