Researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the University of British Columbia have teamed up to analyze the genetics of cannabis. So far, they've discovered that we don't really know what we're inhaling.
Cannabis is generally divided into two species: the Indica type, which is believed to produce a relaxing body high, and the Sativa type, which is believed to produce the uplifting, cerebral high.
Dr. Sean Myles and his team challenge those notions in a shake-up that - in the world of weed - is like when Copernicus and Galileo discovered that the sun didn't revolve around the earth.
According to their genetic analysis, strains labeled as one type of cannabis actually belonged to another.
"For instance, a sample of Jamaican Lambs Bread, which is classified as C. sativa, was almost identical at a genetic level to a C. indica strain from Afghanistan," according to UBC's press release.
This problem is common according to Jon Page, the head of the UBC's Anandia Labs, which co-led the study.
"Cannabis breeders and growers often report the percentage of Sativa or Indica in a cannabis strain, but they are not very accurate," he told Dal News.
The study has massive implications for the medical and commercial cannabis industries. Understanding the genetics of cannabis will help researchers breed strains that are optimal for medical use. For recreational users, classifying strains properly will elevate the culture to the same level as wine, whiskey or cigar connoisseurship.
Unless growers sort out the strains, cannabis aficionados won't be able to develop a sophisticated pot palate. People are basically buying a bottle of chardonnay and drinking riesling - or worse yet, Welch's grape juice.
Dr. Myles is appealing to commercial growers to help clean up the taxonomy, which he argues will be a boon for their bottom line.
"Marijuana producers need to step up their genetics game so they can capitalize on the benefits of telling their customers" exactly what they're consuming.