Why the terms Sativa and Indica will soon mean nothing at all

Published Mar 26, 2021 01:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Serhii Moiseiev

We’ve gone up one side and down the other of nearly every argument pertaining to the real difference between Indica and Sativa. We might be familiar with these terms being used to describe specific qualities produced by each strain, and for now, that remains somewhat relevant to today’s cannabis market, but in 10 or 15 years, things are going to look quite a bit different. It’s an inevitable shift, and though it might seem nearly impossible, after decades of these labels being burned into our memories, it’s something that we should all be prepared to see.


Sativa cannabis strains sport thinner leaves, and they often have a larger stature, growing with ease upwards of 6 feet. Indica strains, on the other hand, are smaller, bushier types that produce much wider leaves. As you can imagine, to a grower, the choice between Indica or Sativa is one that is made based on a variety of factors, such as environmental preferences (light, heat, humidity) and limits on space, but these aren't the only kinds that are out there.

We’ve spent decades creating hundreds of fantastic new cannabis strains, with many of the best and most popular being neither Indica nor Sativa. The majority of designer strains these days include genetics from both types, which, when put together, creates a hybrid. Hybrid cannabis strains break all of the rules that we’d normally expect from either Indica or Sativa genetics. They could be tall, short, have giant fan leaves, or what’s more than likely, they probably fall somewhere neatly in the middle of the two.

How long until we drop these terms?

Indica and Sativa are two of the longest-running and most used weed names out there, often for nefarious or deceptive purposes, and this practice isn’t going away today or tomorrow. Some experts, however, say that the transition has already begun and that it will only pick up the pace as we blend the genetics even further, an inevitable reality that we cannot change, nor should we want to.

The long-running debate of which is better between Indica or Sativa isn’t doing much good for anyone, so it will be of benefit for both consumers and producers when they’re finally dropped from cannabis vocabulary for good. Of course, in this lifetime, we will probably always see some mentions of strain types, but this is something that should slowly fade away with the turn of time and our manipulation of the gene pool.

In the future, we will probably focus more on genetics and expected qualities

When these long overused “weed names” are finally off the table, our focus in terms of advertising and education will also need to shift. Many expect cannabinoid profiles, medicinal benefits, and felt effects to take over, filling the space that is currently a bit too oversimplified. Though knowledge of genetics is important, this information is most relevant to cultivators, not your average consumer.

Most cannabis consumers, experts, businesspeople, and advertisers would benefit greatly from an updated cannabis vocabulary that is designed to make understanding what to expect from each strain a bit easier. We need to know everything from how it grows to how it might affect those who take it, and we should be able to relay this information effectively, but that’s hard to do with the limited terms and weed names that we use today.

New cannabis vocabulary is essential

Sativa and Indica are labels that need to be tossed out alongside others that are so unfairly perceived, such as stoned or high. We will always remember the words we used to describe cannabis throughout life but being comfortable with them is not a good enough reason to ignore the fact that we need to do better. If not for ourselves, then for future generations who we hope will have the tools and information to navigate the green scene with far more confidence, elegance, safety, and control than any of us ever had.

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