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What are hybrid cannabis strains?

When you visit a cannabis dispensary for the first time, you’re going to be overwhelmed by options.  Chief among them, the differences between marijuana flower buds, which are generally divided into three main classes: Indica, Sativa, and Hybrid.

The thousands of strains we enjoy today are the result of several decades of cross-breeding old and new genetics into “hybrid” strains. But what really are “hybrids”? Here’s what you need to know:

What are hybrid strains of cannabis?

They are mix (a hybrid) of the other two main classes of cannabis — “indica” and “sativa”. Hybrids often provide a more balanced combination of indica and sativa’s effects. The names “hybrid”, “indica”, and “sativa” are part of the folk taxonomy of cannabis, and they predate modern chemical quantification of the plant. The terms are often not the whole picture, but continue to be useful both to breeders, growers and consumers of marijuana.

Why should I care about hybrids vs indicas vs sativas?

Unlike drinking alcohol, where there is one psychological endpoint — being drunk — different types of cannabis can result in vastly different effects. Knowing what type of cannabis you are consuming can help you achieve the type of effect you might want to feel.

By contrast, sativas are categorized as daytime strains, because they are prone to providing an uplifting and energetic head high.

Since hybrids are a mix of sativa and indica, they can provide both mind and body effects. Most strains are hybrids. There are very few pure indicas and sativas due to global breeding programs.

Science behind the difference between strains?

Yes! Unlike alcohol, where the active ingredient is a single molecule, ethanol — cannabis has dozens of active molecules, called “cannabinoids” and “terpenes”.

Each breed of cannabis can have different ratios of these molecules, which work in concert to create cannabis’ diverse effects. A plant’s genes control its expression of its active molecules. Also, the way the plant is grown, harvested and stored can affect the chemical composition of the plant.

“Sativa-dominant” or “Indica-dominant”?

Hybrids can be either indica or sativa-dominant, meaning they will express the characteristics of the dominant parent with less character­istics of the secondary variety. For example, an indica-dominant hybrid like Cookies will most likely effect the body and offer more sedating effects. A sativa-dominant-hybrid like Super Lemon Haze will lean toward energetic sativa effects.

Other times, a hybrid can be a “true” hybrid, meaning that it is an even mix of both varieties. Blue Dream is considered a true hybrid, balancing the indica sedation of the parent Blueberry with the sativa energy of Haze.

Who are hybrids right for?

Everyone’s personal chemistry is different and discovering the cannabis affects you like is often a matter of trial and error. That said, hybrids are great for beginners, who might not know how cannabis makes them feel, or know how they want cannabis to make them feel. Hybrids can also be great for medical cannabis patients who are going to be using the product regularly and need “balanced” effects they can tolerate all day long.

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