Searching for the perfect strain of weed? It just got a lot easier

A new system for classifying weed helps users find the best bud strains based on their taste, smell and effects.

SHARE Searching for the perfect strain of weed? It just got a lot easier

Many pot smokers have had to endure buzz-killing bad trips while searching for the weed strains that are just right for them.

Folks sparking up to find some creative inspiration can be left feeling lethargic, for example, while tokers hoping to catch some sleep can actually wind up feeling wired. That’s largely because the limited designations for different types of cannabis, particularly during its prohibition, haven’t actually been steeped in science — until now.

Seattle-based Leafly, the world’s largest cannabis website, launched an exhaustive guide last month “that redefines the way people understand cannabis and find the feelings and effects they want,” the company says. Maria Sharp, Leafly’s marketing manager of education and evangelism, laid out the new resource during an event earlier this week in West Town that marked the seventh stop on a 16-city tour.

“It’s about graduating from an antiquated, inaccurate and unreliable system” of labeling marijuana simply as indica, sativa or a hybrid of both, Sharp said. “For years, we’ve been using those as descriptors of what a final product can make us feel like, with indica being more sedative and sativa being more uplifting.”

“That system just doesn’t work,” she said. 


Maria Sharp, Leafly’s marketing manager of education and evangelism


To devise a more reliable option, Sharp explained that Leafly scientists worked with select laboratories to test strains grown by hundreds of cultivators from across the country. In the process, she said, researchers learned there is really no significant difference between indica and sativa strains after decades of cross-breeding.

Leafly’s new system instead identifies marijuana strains based on their taste, smell and chemical makeup using sleek, snowflake-like graphics. 

Cannabinoids, or the chemical compounds that impact how the drug will make you feel, are identified using shapes. The two main cannabinoids are THC, the psychoactive compound that gets pot users high, and CBD, which is used to treat a range of symptoms without creating the same stony effect.



“With cannabis, it’s not just about THC,” Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s principal research scientist, said in a video explaining the new labeling system. “If you go to a bar and order a beer, you’re not going to order a beer just based on alcohol content. You’re going to think about taste, aroma, aftertaste. It’s similar with cannabis.”

The colors of those shapes in the labeling system are then dictated by a strain’s terpenes — aromatic compounds that not only add flavor but have mental and physical benefits.


Gelato, Leafly’s 2018 strain of the year, is heavy on THC and contains peppery, citrus and hoppy terpenes that create both calming and energizing effects when they’re combined. In comparison, a powerful CBD strain called Remedy has fewer intoxicating effects with herbal, pine and peppery terpenes and is mostly known to calm users down.


“You don’t have to fall back on just being okay with gambling every single time you buy weed. You should be able to dial it in and have targeted trial-and-error rather than just shooting in the dark,” said Sharp, who claimed the resource is also a boon for “budtenders” who have a huge influence over customers shopping for legal weed.

Some attendees of Monday’s event who work in the legal cannabis industry said the system would indeed help their customers get a better sense of which strain was right for them.

Nick Johnstone, a budtender at 3C Compassionate Care Center in Joliet, said using a more scientific approach to explaining pot’s effects helps undercut the “reefer madness” narrative that has kept the drug illegal.

“This is what’s happening,” he said. “This is the growth of the new cannabis industry.”


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