The average medical-cannabis patients' tastes have evolved from merely being satisfied with having some buds to understanding types of buds, such as indica and sativa. Still, patients can do better. Here are some of the leading strains of this summer, based on my notes from the beat, and adapted from your editor's debut book, The Medical Marijuana Guidebook, out this July on Whitman Publishing.
Summer means sativas — the generally more-energetic of the two broad classes of medical cannabis flower. Sativas evolved for the tropical sun. They're taller, rangier, and lankier than their short, squat, indica cousins, and they evolved different ratios of molecules to beat the heat.
Some of those are smell molecules called terpenes, which can mimic lemons, oranges, strawberries, and candy in certain sativas. These aromas alone can have anti-depressant effects, research shows. When combined with the often-high levels of THC (cannabis' main active ingredient) found in modern sativas — they can cause serious elevation. Used judiciously, sativas can help manage certain depressive disorders, or the chronic stress of summer's packed schedule.
Spotted at the High Times NorCal Cannabis Cup this June, Florida Juicy Fruit from Legion of Bloom delivery has a muy tropical aroma and a manageable amount of THC for a regular patient.
For new patients, get low or middling THC sativas such as outdoor-grown strains, or the "shake" found in "pre-rolls" — which are already-rolled cannabis cigarettes sold at dispensaries (spotted for as low at $20 per five-pack at Purple Star in San Francisco's Mission District).
On the high-end side, topping the THC-charts for chronic patients is award-winning sativa Super Lemon Haze from Berkeley C.R.A.F.T. delivery. No finer specimen of the super-sweet, lemony cut exists.
Other great Haze family options include Strawberry Cough, spotted at Harborside Health Center, and All Star Hazy OG, spotted at Berkeley Patient Group, as well as All-Star Jack Frost.
Warning: Haze's spaciness can be a desired effect — or an unwanted side effect, depending on your intent. For more grounded feelings, anchor your sativa in some indica, which is the secret to summer anxiety stalwart Blue Dream, seen at Phytologie. You too can replicate its mix of sativa Haze and indica hybrid Blueberry. Try Boost (Blueberry and Sweet Tooth cross), spotted at Harborside, or Santa Cruz's award-winning Lemon Tree, or Papaya at Blum Oakland, or Strawberry Banana at Oakland Organics.
The Gas Station
Speaking of hybrids, this year is also the official summer of Gorilla Glue No. 4 — a triple-back-crossed Diesel and Chocolate Thai topping the charts in THC and trendiness. For OG Kush lovers, this is OG's cousin Sour Diesel bred three times with its own kind, and some Chocolatey-smelling sativa Thai to boot. Not for novices, Gorilla Glue No. 4 is for veteran patients.
Other sativa-leaning options from the "fuel" line include Headband and the Cookies chain's Gasoline. All of these strains share a sativa mother — Colorado's mythic Chem Dawg, a high-THC hybrid so astringent-smelling, pungent and biting, it launched the modern cannabis era.
You can find notes of Chem tucked away in the best indicas of the summer, too, which can help shut down insomnia or nausea and pain.
The Girl Scout Cookies trend evolves this year with cuts of Hi Tech, following Gelato, and Sunset Sherbet. They all share a common indica core of sedation, wrapped in varying layers of sativa energy and creamy berry smells.
But the lady to watch out for this year is DoSiDos — spotted at 7 Stars in Richmond. It's a local cross of OGKB and Face Off OG where the breeders focused on a maximum-THC, maximum-flavor indica hybrid that can leave newbies spinning.
One day, chemists hope to replace vague words like sativa and indica with the precise chemical fingerprint ("chemotype") of each strain. Until then, this rich folk taxonomy remains. And, hey, expert pot breeders perform pretty admirably with their bare senses. Take the case of the molecule cannabidiol: Long-before breeders had a gas chromatograph to confirm CBD, they chucked out weed that didn't get them high.
Today, CBD is back and being bred into the best-tasting buds ever. Patients who want an anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, or analgesic option that causes low or no euphoria have more choices. Chief among them, Dr. Cookies, spotted at Urban Pharms and grown by Northstar Holistic Collective. As well as CBD OG, at C.R.A.F.T. and Chill Up CBD at Phytologie. High-CBD flower can be mixed in to dampen the euphoria of your favorite summer strain for pain relief during outdoor activities, or managing PTSD and other anxiety disorders in crowds.
David Downs' The Medical Marijuana Guidebook is available this July through Amazon and Whitman Publishing, as well as finer dispensary shelves.