Removing "Indica & Sativa" From Cannabis Edibles

An honest assessment of an assumption that impacts every cannabis edible purchased today.

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A saying that perfectly encompasses my viewpoint of the cannabis industry is that “the only constant is change”.

This change materializes itself in many different forms from nation-states changing their policies that pertain to adult’s ability to legally purchase cannabis, to the form factors of cannabis that consumers have a preference for, as well as our most basic understanding of cannabis itself.

One such change that is now well underway across the cannabis industry today is how we present products to consumers. 

Some Context To Set The Stage:

In the past, and for the most part in the present moment, the model that has been adopted by the cannabis industry to present products to consumers is a basic dichotomy of an Indica vs. a Sativa.

Recounting my first few days working as a budtender I was “educated” by my then store manager that an Indica = in the couch and Sativa = stimulating. 

The simplicity of this model had certain perks, one such being that it made it all too easy for someone such as myself with no prior experience selling cannabis to present myself as a somewhat reputable source of information to consumers. 

Equipped with this basic understanding, I like my co-workers would quiz each customer as to whether they were seeking an Indica or a Sativa. 

Curious as ever, I also began quizzing the customers whom I had built a strong enough rapport with as to whether this dichotomy held true when they actually consumed the products which they had purchased. 

Slowly but surely, it became very apparent that these labels that were applied to just about every product in-store to help customers purchase the right products, were in reality having the opposite effect. 

As opposed to helping customers find the right products based on their desired experience from consuming cannabis, we were trading accuracy for sake of simplicity by neglecting to take into consideration that cannabis affects each of us differently.  

Okay, So Now What?....

This feedback provided quite the reality check — I was far from the cannabis expert I had thought I was at the time, and with this, I had to disregard every assumption I had previously taken at face value up until this point in my pursuit of understanding how I could actually perform my job without peddling misinformation to customers.

As previously explained, after spending many hours trying to answer this question and finding many different versions of the truth along the way, I arrived at a conclusion based on the most reputable sources of information I could find.

The terms Indica & Sativa are representative of the physical structure of cannabis plants, not the effects products produced.

An Indica is a cannabis plant with broad leaves and is typically shorter in height when compared to its Sativa counterpart — a cannabis plant that is commonly taller in height with narrow leaves.

As part of my “re-education” of cannabis, understanding the factors that determined the effects cannabis products produced was top of my list.

Soon enough, I stumbled upon a theory developed by Dr.Ethan Russo, whereby he suggested that the actual variables responsible for determining the effects cannabis products produce are the terpenes present in the product.

And Here Lies The Problem…

A far majority of all edible products available on the Canadian market today, and in most markets in the United States (that I’m aware of) are using distillate — a product that does not contain terpenes due to the extraction process.

When a person consumes an edible, the Delta 9 THC present in this product is converted by their liver to 11 Hydroxy THC - a very psychedelic like compound.

The effects 11 Hydroxy THC produces can greatly vary depending on each individual's metabolism and how their liver completes this conversion, however, we are yet to substantiate that terpenes have ANY impact on the effects of cannabis edibles (11 Hydroxy THC) produce.

“The fact that many edibles are made with a distillate negates any correlating cultivar information. It has been reduced to its chemical structure and where it came from is no longer relevant.” - Jermey Jones, CEO @ Triple J's Canna Space.

As things stand today there is no literature that suggests that terpenes play the same role in influencing the effects cannabis edibles produce as is currently thought to be the case with dried cannabis flower (Delta 9 THC).

So What’s Next?

First & foremost we need to establish that terpenes influence the effects of 11 Hydroxy THC, and assuming this is the case, we then need to ensure that unless a product actually contains terpenes — then the terms Indica (relaxing) & Sativa (energizing) have no place on cannabis edibles packaging.

As much as I would love to provide a definitive answer as to whether we should outright abandon the usage of these terms as they apply to edibles — the truth is that we are operating with insufficient information.

That said, until such a point is reached whereby we can speak with certainty, I would strongly recommend that we err on the side of caution when informing consumers that these labels are an indication as to how edibles will affect them

That is unless we are seeking to create expectations that can never be fulfilled.


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