The overwhelming majority of people think weed is just weed – its not. There are hundreds of different strains of cannabis, each of which will induce a different ‘high’. The stereotypical “hungry, happy, and sleepy” feelings associated with smoking cannabis have prevailed largely for one reason; prohibition. The illegal status of cannabis has created an environment where the product has become so standardized by black market growers that it’s difficult to appreciate the different effects of cannabis.
Prohibition Is the Problem
Because cannabis remains illegal in most states, acquiring even the smallest amount of flower in a non-legal state can be very challenging. What does this mean? Lack of choice, high prices, and inconsistent quality – certainly not favorable market characteristics as a consumer. That’s why most people are happy just to get a text back from their dealer, let alone have the choice between various strains of cannabis. While most ‘street weed’ will get you high, it’s important to understand that there is, in fact, a large variance in the effects induced by different strains of cannabis.
It’s important to realize the black market cultivates cannabis solely for profit – in the cannabis world, profits are driven by harvest yield and frequency. As you might imagine, the result is growers cultivating large-output strains with short flowering times; indica dominant strains. These cash croppers are certainly not growing cannabis sativa, which takes nearly double the amount of time to mature relative to indica strains. If you are unfamiliar, cannabis indica induces a body high that makes you feel relaxed, tired, and hungry, while cannabis sativa induces a head high that makes you feel alert, energetic, focused, and creative. You likely haven’t associated the latter sensations with cannabis because these strains are rarely grown by cash croppers.
The reason you may not have experienced these different effects is because ‘cash croppers’ dominate the illegal cannabis market.
Misinformation & Perspective
Recall the last time you had a few glasses red wine, was it a relaxing evening? What about the last time you had a little champagne… were you feeling a bit more energetic and engaged? The buzz from those two types of grapes are extremely different, and those fundamental differences apply in the exact same way between cannabis strains. We have an entire article on this weed and wine comparison if you’d like more information, but the takeaway is that there are different kinds of grapes and different kinds of buds.
Hybrid Hybrids: Look Different, Hit the Same
In reality, the majority of the cannabis strains on the black market have been cross-bred so many times that there is very little variation between them. Without the time, space, and manpower to dedicate to proper cannabis breeding, these growers frequently continue to in-breed hybrid strains – as opposed to introducing new landrace genetics native to various regions of the world. Over time, this continuous breeding of hybrids has created what are known as poly hybrids – in essence, strains with relatively little variance as they all stem from the same general genetic pool (it’s plant incest). Thus, it’s not surprising that on the black market, the silly strain name likely doesn’t mean much, and you end up getting an indica dominant hybrid.
Business First: Quantity over Quality
The methods used to boost yield are typically at the sacrifice of quality. For instance, many operations will harvest plants early in an effort to complete more growing cycles in the same year. This means that much of the cannabis on the market was not grown to maturity and subsequently will not induce the full effects it is intended to. For example, if you harvest a sativa strain early, the sativa characteristics will not be as pronounced – once again, giving you the impression that weed is just weed. Given that cannabis remains largely illegal, producers are forced to operate in unapproved facilities like converted residential houses and guerilla grows in rural lands. These environments are risky and unpredictable, lacking many of the quality controls afforded to state-approved facilities. Additionally, these are businessmen growing for weight and not for quality.
Your Dealer is a Salesman
Does he tell you this is the best shit out every two weeks? The information you’re receiving from a dealer should be taken with a large grain of salt. What are the odds he actually knows a damn thing about where and how that cannabis was grown? What are the chances he knows enough about weed to distinguish between good and bad? If you do have a consistent connection, start asking them the same questions you’d ask in a dispensary. Sooner or later, you’ll be able to determine if he’s feeding you BS.
All You Can Buy is Flower
There are myriad different ways to use cannabis that induce a different experience. Smoking is only one way, and its rapid-onset approach can be unpleasant for some people. There is no financial benefit for dealers to bake up a nice batch of edibles for you, or extract the cannabinoids to make a concentrate for you. While you could make edibles yourself, most people don’t want their kitchen to smell all day. Regardless of indica or sativa, trying a different ingestion method and/or a non-psychoactive strain of cannabis could change everything for you.
You’ve Never Heard of CBD
Furthermore, there are some strains that don’t provide the usual ‘high’ associated with consuming cannabis. THC is the compound everyone mentions, but CBD is the 2nd-most prevalent cannabinoid and it actually counters the psychoactive effects of THC, meaning it gets you LESS high. Why don’t you know about this? Same problem… no money in safe, healthy, medicine on the streets.
What You Need to Know: The Truth
Although you may not have experienced it fully, there really is a large variance in cannabis strains. If you’re interested in learning more about how to choose between the various species of cannabis, check out our strain selection guide. If you are one those people still living in a less tolerant state, you can use our guide to determine the quality of your street weed. If you’re heading to a legal state, we can also help you prepare for your first trip to the dispensary.