This article is presented by Curaleaf, partnering with the Veterans Cannabis Project to advocate for improved access to medical cannabis for veterans.
The service and commitment demonstrated by United States military veterans stir many Americans to their core. At the intersection of veterans and medical cannabis is the Veterans Cannabis Project – where Executive Director Doug Distaso works towards full legal cannabis access because he knows exactly what other vets are going through.
“I was in a pretty bad spot after I left the Air Force. I was taking the standard combat cocktail of benzos, opioids, and mood enhancers, and got my wake-up call one Christmas morning. I was following my doctor’s orders but couldn’t be fully present with my family on all those pills and had fallen asleep in the middle of opening gifts. My wife shook me awake, and that was when it clicked for me that something had to change. Days like Christmas are important to my life as a father and husband, and they are the entire reason why veterans sacrifice in the first place.”
The Veterans Cannabis Project thinks the sacrifices that the military veterans make are the reason they deserve access to the same solutions that have helped countless others and Doug leads the charge.
“At this moment, data suggests that 22 veterans a day commit suicide and that at least 1 in 5 are returning from places like Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. Those are alarming problems,” Doug says.
His personal experience gives him the ability to connect and empathize with other veterans, and it’s the clear focus of everything that happens at the VCP. With members of the organization on the ground all over the United States, the organization uses three pillars to spread its essential message: advocacy, education, and support.
“We believe that we need to get full legal access to cannabis for veterans, and we use advocacy, education, and support to achieve our goals. We demonstrate our advocacy every day on the Hill, trying to create a community of advocates with personal stories that can be shared with legislators. We fight to get laws changed because we know the discrepancy between state and federal law is what is anchoring many of our problems.”
“Education is equally important to our advocacy efforts. We look to countries like Canada that have started introducing cannabis to veterans, teaching them about it, testing its efficacy – and we mimic their education efforts. We also look for ways to get the correct research and information to veterans that want to begin a cannabis journey or addressing their doubts about using medical cannabis.”
Doug thinks that support is the most important part of all. The Veterans Cannabis Project has local advocates (referred to as VCP Force Commanders) who work within their communities to help other vets that are struggling, undereducated about cannabis, or confused about the particulars of medical cannabis programs, including details about how the Department of Veterans Affairs views cannabis use.
“In the military, we say that you have to win the current fight, and the current fight is full legal access that includes comprehensive support from the VA. Veterans rely so profoundly on the VA due to the types of injuries sustained, the lack of income we bring in when we get home, and the treatment level we need to heal, so we need them on board and at our side, not working against us.”
Though getting the support of the VA is a massive part of the fight, it isn’t the only thing that vets worry about when they consider using cannabis to combat the symptoms that impact them most. As they take care of their physical and mental health, many also have to navigate the post-military workforce.
“Maintaining security clearance is a big topic in the veteran community, which is made up of a lot of rule-following, law-abiding people. Their clearance is a symbol of their hard work, and sometimes all they have after leaving active duty. Interacting with cannabis, a Schedule 1 drug, can put their security clearance at risk, so it’s not realistic for them,” Doug says. “As long as there is threat and stigma from the drug schedule, veterans are going to be wary of cannabis, even if it is to their detriment.”
Amongst other things, vets worry about their second amendment rights, making adequate money to live a full and happy life, and staying balanced throughout the day. Eventually, the choice became a no-brainer for Doug.
“Personally, a security clearance does me no good if I’m not awake, aware, and alive enough to have a life. I always upheld my end of the bargain with my clearance, but it did lead me to choose to have this life outside of working for the government,” he says. “The reality is, I struggle to see the point of penalizing people who seek out cannabis when alcohol and pills have the same, if not greater, detrimental effects. Under current federal law, cannabis use voids your second amendment rights and security clearance, and the VCP wants legislators to rectify these things so that all veterans can have a better quality of life and do the work they have the skills and training to complete.”
The Veterans Cannabis Project’s efforts on the ground have already started to expand to meet the unique needs of veterans. Along with local team members that they have on the ground to meet with doctors and canna-curious vets, they’ve also started recruiting for an art program created to help veterans express themselves and their feelings.
“I almost didn’t know I was allowed to paint. I think that’s the case with a lot of veterans. We don’t know what we are allowed to do. I joined the Air Force Academy at 17 years old. Twenty-five years later, I’m 42 and realize that I’ve missed out on a lot. I hadn’t done a lot of the things that many other people had done. I had never picked up a paintbrush until a year ago or so, but I found that it gave me such a sense of calm.”
Doug believes that any treatment veterans receive should be backed up with outreach so that they never feel alone. After all, the whole point of the Veterans Cannabis Project is to bring help and support to like-minded vets in every aspect of their post-military service.
Curaleaf supports nationwide visibility of the Veterans Cannabis Project by offering VCP branded pre-roll 5-packs in six of the states where they have dispensaries, with more launches planned in the next few months. One dollar from every box sold goes directly to the VCP to support their advocacy for improved access to medical marijuana for veterans.
Veterans in the U.S. and Canada are becoming increasingly open to trying cannabis when first-line drugs aren’t working. But their governments aren’t making it easy.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs still refuses to prescribe it, even though many veterans report finding relief from chronic pain and PTSD by using medical cannabis. In Canada, the federal government continues to move the goalposts for veteran access to medical cannabis–most recently reducing the amount of cannabis that Veterans Affairs Canada will help subsidize.
One of the many ironies inherent in this situation: Today’s plethora of cannabis strains, legal cannabis industry, and the tax dollars they generate, were created in part by veterans of past generations.
The most influential generation of veterans may be those who served in the Vietnam War. Soldiers not only used locally-grown cannabis to cope with the stresses of war while in country; they also brought seeds home to North America, where they would become the progenitors of some of today’s most popular strains.
During the Vietnam War about two-thirds of American troops volunteered for service. The rest were drafted. At 18, Bob Luciano entered his local draft office in The Bronx, and at 19 he found himself in Vietnam serving the first of two tours of duty. “That’s where I found out that cannabis is better than drugs,” Luciano, now 69, told Leafly in a recent interview.
The possession, sale and use of cannabis wasn’t legal in Vietnam. But that didn’t stop American troops from developing a taste for southeast Asia’s indigenous varieties.
Bob Luciano recalled the tenor of the times. “In the naval base, when I went to Vietnam, we started smoking weed–pot, at that time we smoked pot,” he said. “The reality was that it was able to prepare us for battle and all the unknown things. We were 18 and 19-year-old kids. The things that you’d see, you’ve never even seen before. It wasn’t like watching the news.”
Veterans often face one or many of several conditions that persist well after they have served. Chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are two of the most common. Typically, when a veteran displays signs of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and pain, government doctors put them on a combination of prescription medicines that some veterans ruefully call a combat cocktail.
“Pot, or weed, or cannabis, we found out, enables you to go through what you were going to go through,” said Luciano. It also, he said, helps veterans survive the aftermath of war: “It enables you to deal with what has happened.”
Prescription drugs provided by veteran health care providers, Luciano said, tend to dull the senses for a short period of time–but the mental trauma and pain would only return, amplified, later on.
“Beyond the horrors of Vietnam, I learned a lot of medicinal benefits of cannabis” during his two tours, said Luciano. “It enabled you to go into battle, complete your mission, talk about it, and then go back in to complete another mission.”
When he could, he found some escape. “During battle, we watched what [farmers] did with the soil because we just wanted an escape. You’d smoke weed, and you’d watch the monkeys play in the trees, and watch the farmers grow.”
While others around him drank or used heroin to dull the sensations of war, he was discovering the soothing effects of the local cannabis crop. “Even God and religion wasn’t enough,” Luciano said. “I could never understand why they were allowing me to kill people.”
Between 1961 and 1975, the ongoing war claimed the lives of an estimated 10 percent of the population of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In the same period, 56,869 American troops were killed. 153,329 were seriously wounded, and three million soldiers continue to experience long-term psychological damage, the social effects of which are still unravelling.
“Because of the huge trauma they’ve gone through, it’s something unique; it’s almost like the PTSD brain is different because of what they’ve been exposed to,” explained Dr. Mandeep Singh. A psychiatrist with Apollo Applied Research and the Be Well Health Clinic in Toronto, Singh specializes in post traumatic stress. “Because of that, [the brain] actually reacts to both cannabis and traditional medications differently” from a brain that hasn’t experienced similar trauma.
Singh trained in the United States, but when he started practicing in Canada he noticed that many veterans were enduring rounds of medications that negatively affected their quality of life, or just didn’t work.
With PTSD, he explained, “it’s not just the brain that’s affected.” The rest of the body remains on high fight-of-flight alert. These patients “have high cortisol levels,” Singh said, “and their whole body is out of balance.”
In the course of his work with veterans, Singh has observed that most civilian patients will use one or two grams of cannabis per day, while a typical veteran will need up to ten.
“Ten grams: You’re talking about almost twenty joints worth a day,” said Singh. “But they’re functioning well. They’re not looking euphoric, or high, or out of it. I think that’s something to do with the PTSD brain being different in how it reacts to CBD and THC and so forth.”
In 2016, Veterans Affairs Canada reduced the amount of cannabis per day that it pledged to reimburse for veterans whose healthcare providers recommend the medicine. The government agency previously allowed up to ten grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in fresh marijuana or cannabis oil, per day. After 2016, that allowance topped out at just three grams.
Meanwhile, in the US, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs still won’t allow VA doctors to recommend cannabis to the nation’s military veterans. Up until a few years ago, VA doctors weren’t even allowed to discuss it with their patients. That’s a hard policy to square with many veterans who’ve seen the help cannabis can offer.
“Weed was like the healing of everything,” Bob Luciano told Leafly. “The war happened in the sixties, we weren’t even over segregation yet, we weren’t over equal rights. We had a lot of issues that were happening, like the demonstrations with the burning of the bras. It was a lot of different influences that were in Vietnam, sharing the same gulch or bunker, and whether you like the next person or not, it unified you. It allowed you to discuss why things were changing. It stopped the war, man. Pot stopped the war.”
American soldiers were so moved by Vietnam’s potent sativa that some of them returned home with pockets full of seeds. Today’s “thank you for your service” culture didn’t exist back then. In fact, many soldiers received cold welcomes. Instead of returning to the US, Luciano took his seeds and headed for Jamaica. For five years he honed his skills as a cannabis grower, operated an organic restaurant with his wife, and developed his Mr. Natural brand of cannabis products, from dry flower to salves.
His years in Jamaica allowed Luciano to experiment with cross-breeding, and learn how environmental factors like air quality and soil affected the plant. Local growers turned him on to the mighty cultivation powers of nutrient-rich Jamaican bat guano.
“I knew Columbian Gold at that time period used to make you very relaxed, and a Kush strain that we had developed in California generated more energy and made you forget what you were thinking of; it made you happy when you were negative,” Luciano recalled, telling the origin story of his Cali Gold variety.
Learning as he went, but always adhering to organic growing practices, Luciano began creating genetic variations that made the most sense for veterans like himself–strains that calm the mind, ease physical pain and stimulated the appetite.
Today, Luciano medicates daily for chronic pain and PTSD. He reaches out to other veterans, helping them navigate the byzantine ways of the VA so that their cannabis use doesn’t negatively impact their treatment. In the past, testing positive for THC would have automatically ended a VA patient’s ability to receive pain medication prescriptions, but that’s no longer the case.
Because of a change in VA policy, American veterans are no longer denied benefits if they are found to be consuming cannabis. VA medical officials now advise patients to disclose their cannabis use, as it may affect the course of action taken by doctors.
Still, some veterans choose not to reveal details of cannabis use to their physicians. Luciano had the VA note his cannabis use on his medical records ten years ago, and he encourages others to do the same. His message is simple: “Notify the VA that you’re getting more medicinal benefits from it,” he said, to force the agency to recognize the value of cannabis and change its policy.
The latest cannabis news
Legalizing marijuana has little to no impact on rates of violent or property crime, according to a new study that was funded by a federal agency. The policy change did seem connected to a long-term decline in burglaries in one state, however.
While previous attempts to understand the relationship between legal cannabis markets and crime have turned up mixed results, researchers involved in this study used an enhanced methodology–a “quasi-experimental, multi-group interrupted time-series design”–to produce stronger evidence.
The study, published in the journal Justice Quarterly and funded by the federal National Institute of Justice, found that violent and property crimes rates were not affected in a statistically significant way in the years after Colorado and Washington State became the first in the nation to legalize marijuana for adult use.
“Our results suggest that marijuana legalization and sales have had minimal to no effect on major crimes in Colorado or Washington,” the paper concluded. “We observed no statistically significant long-term effects of recreational cannabis laws or the initiation of retail sales on violent or property crime rates in these states.”
The study authors explicitly cited claims made by prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana and author Alex Berenson as being contradicted by their findings.
To determine the impact of legalization, researchers designed experimental models that compared crime rates in Colorado and Washington to those in 21 non-legal states from 1999 to 2016. The analysis was based on FBI data on violent, property, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny and robbery crime rates.
Following legalization, there were one-time increases in property crime in the two states, as well as a spike in aggravated assault in Washington, but those did not reflect long-term trends, “suggesting that if marijuana legalization influenced crime, it was short-lived,” the study authors wrote.
There was one statistically significant long-term impact that the researchers did attribute to state marijuana laws: The burglary rate in Washington decreased, and that trend has held.
It’s not immediately clear why that is the case, and the study’s conclusion encourages future research that replicates and refines the design used for this experiment to solve answered questions.
“In summary, our results suggest that there may have been some immediate increases in crime at the point of legalization, yet there have been essentially no longterm shifts in crime rates because of legalization, aside from a decline in Burglary in Washington. Though the short-term increases might appear to suggest that marijuana increased crime, we caution against this interpretation as the increases do not reflect permanent shifts (that is, these are shifts in intercepts, not slopes) and could be artificially induced by the small number of time units between legalization and sales.”
Dale Willits, a study coauthor, said in a press release that in light of the “nationwide debate about legalization, the federal classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act, and the consequences of legalization for crime continues, it is essential to center that discussion on studies that use contextualized and robust research designs with as few limitations as possible.”
“This is but one study and legalization of marijuana is still relatively new, but by replicating our findings, policymakers can answer the question of how legalization affects crime,” he said.
Study authors also noted that their analysis did not take into account other crimes such as drug impaired driving.
“Given the likelihood of further liberalization of state and even federal marijuana laws, it is imperative that policy makers and research funders allocate the necessary resources to conduct these more rigorous and intensive types of contextualized studies,” they concluded. “Large-scale policy shifts can take a considerable amount of time to produce stable and understandable effects.”
This is the second recent study that’s received Justice Department funding and arrived at a conclusion that runs against the logic of prohibition. Another example looked at the impact of legalization on law enforcement resources and trafficking trends.
You’ve heard it before when it comes to cannabis strains: Sativas will pick you up for energetic daytime activities, while indicas will put you in the couch when you want to relax and wind down at the end of the day.
But the indica/sativa classification is incomplete. There’s a better way of predicting the effects of a cannabis strain before you buy and consume it: by looking at its cannabinoid and terpene profile. Leafly has designed a new visual system to help you easily understand.
Rooted in science and incorporating test data from lab partners across the US and Canada, Leafly’s new Cannabis Guide will help you select a cannabis strain for any activity, mood, or time of day, suited to your particular body and needs.
In this first part, we’ll show you how to use the new system, whether you’re a novice or connoisseur and regardless of what you are looking for: happy or euphoric feelings, a calm or energizing state of mind, or particular wellness benefits.
We’ll get into why Leafly has created this new system for looking at cannabis, what cannabinoids and terpenes are, and why the chemical profile of a cannabis strain is so important in Part 2 of this series.
Jump to a section in Part 1:
- Get started
- What do shapes mean?
- How do I find a euphoric strain with THC?
- How do I find a strain without the high?
- What do colors mean?
- Why do some flowers appear without color?
- The importance of exploring different strains
- How to use the Cannabis Guide to find the perfect strain for you
- How do I find a related–or unrelated–strain?
To learn why Leafly has created a new visualization system for cannabis, check out Part 2 of this series.
Don’t let change overwhelm you: Leafly’s new system uses simple shapes and colors to help you find the best strain for you. Let’s dive in.
The above strain card shows all of the elements of a Leafly flower in the new Cannabis Guide. When looking for a strain, we recommend you go in this order:
Find your shape (cannabinoid), find your color (terpene), find your cannabis (strain).
Shapes are one of the most integral pieces of the system. They represent cannabinoids (ca-NA-bi-noids), which are compounds like THC and CBD that drive the effects of cannabis. More on this later.
Most cannabis strains are mainly composed of either THC or CBD, or a mix of the two. The center shape–or nucleus–represents THC or CBD dominance:
- Diamonds are THC-dominant strains
- Circles are CBD-dominant strains
- Strains with a balanced amount of THC and CBD have a mix of circles and diamonds in the rings; Harlequin is a good example
The larger the shape, the higher the percentage of THC or CBD–longer, pointier diamonds mean more THC, and bigger circles mean more CBD.
A few minor cannabinoids, such as CBG, are also included in the system. Today, however, most cannabis strains contain THC and CBD.
If you want a strain with high THC levels (for more of a high), look for longer and pointier diamonds. If you want something with just a little bit of THC (and less of a high), look for smaller, shorter diamonds.
CBD is the non-intoxicating compound in cannabis that provides many wellness benefits, so you’ll look for circles. CBD can even help decrease some of THC’s side effects like anxiety or temporary short-term memory problems.
Something with a lot of CBD will have big circles. Small circles means it has just a little bit of CBD.
Colors represent terpenes, which make up the flavors and smells of cannabis, including sweet, citrus, skunky, or diesel scents. Terpenes are oils secreted by trichomes, the sticky glands on cannabis plants. Other plants and fruits also produce terpenes.
Terpenes help give each strain its distinct personality and may also influence the effects of cannabis through something known as the “entourage effect” (more on that in Part 2). More research is needed to fully understand how terpenes affect the body.
More than 100 terpenes have been identified in cannabis, but some are more common than others. Leafly’s Cannabis Guide highlights eight of the most common.
Each Leafly flower shows the three most abundant terpenes: The large, medium, and small rings around the center shape indicate primary, secondary, and tertiary terpenes, respectively.
Different terpenes may lead to different experiences. Experiment with different colors (terpenes) to find which combinations produce the right feelings and effects for you. If you find a strain with a dominant terpene that you like, you will likely enjoy a different strain with that same dominant terpene.
When searching for flowers in the new system, you’ll notice that some don’t include colors. These strains do not have enough terpene data yet to establish a reliable terpene profile (colors), but they do have enough data for a cannabinoid profile (shapes).
In the US, cannabinoid and potency testing is required by state law in legal markets, so all cannabis sold through state-legal stores will have cannabinoid data. But testing for terpenes is not required by law and costs extra money, so a lot of growers don’t elect to have it done.
Similarly, in Canada, licensed producers (LPs) must provide cannabinoid potency for all cannabis products. Although some LPs may elect to test for terpenes as well, this information can only be communicated on supplementary materials, not directly on packages.
Leafly is working to create a terpene profile for every strain. We intend for our new Cannabis Guide to encourage both growers and consumers to take more of an interest in terpene data and how it can help ensure a reliable, enjoyable experience.
It’s still hard to predict the effects a strain may have on a specific individual because every individual, every experience, and every set and setting are different. Even if the same individual smokes the same exact strain at two different times, it can affect them differently.
An analogy for using the Cannabis Guide to find a strain for yourself is online dating: You can get a sense of someone’s personality from a dating profile, but you’ll have to go on a date to see if you really match.
Similarly, in telling you the cannabinoid and terpene profile of a cannabis strain, the Cannabis Guide will give you an accurate depiction of a strain’s chemical profile, but you still need to try different strains to find the right type of strain for you.
Once you find a shape and color combination that gives you desired feelings and effects, you can keep going back to that kind of strain. Also, if a strain has negative effects for you, a strain with a similar profile will likely lead to negative effects as well.
You’ll see a few options when you go to both Leafly’s app and homepage:
- The Cannabis Guide homepage, which includes a brief explainer on how to use the new system
- Suggested strain lists–curated groups of strains based on feelings, activities, or experiences
- The Flower Finder, which allows you to create a flower by picking your preferred cannabinoid levels and terpenes; the system will then pull up strains based on the parameters you put in
To create a flower, remember: Find your shape, find your color, find your cannabis.
First, pick your shape, or THC and CBD levels. You can have all THC, all CBD, or a mix of both.
Next, pick a color, or terpene. These are the eight terpenes in the Cannabis Guide–ordered from calming to energizing–and information about each based on research and thousands of customer reviews:
- Linalool (purple): Floral, also found in lavender; it’s reported to promote pain relief and relaxation.
- Myrcene (dark blue): Earthy; it’s the most abundant terpene found in cannabis; commonly believed to have sedative and muscle-relaxing effects.
- Pinene (green): Pine flavors; also found in rosemary and many other herbs; it has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effects and may combat short-term memory impairment from THC.
- Humulene (light green): Woody flavors; reported to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Caryophyllene (fuchsia): Spicy and peppery; rodent studies have shown that it can act as an anti-inflammatory, relieve pain, and may even treat anxiety and depression.
- Limonene (yellow): Citrus flavor; rodent studies reported have shown that it can provide relief from anxiety and stress.
- Ocimene (bright red): Sweet flavors; commonly used in perfumes; reported to have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Terpinolene (orange): Fruity flavors; reported to have antibacterial and antifungal qualities.
With your cannabinoids and terpenes locked in, the Flower Finder will then give you a list of strains you might like based on your inputs.
We encourage you to test out and explore the system!
After you try a strain, note how it makes you feel. You can do this by signing up for an account and leaving a review on Leafly, or by keeping a personal diary at home. Then use the Cannabis Guide to find the strain’s chemical makeup. Because a strain’s effects are related to its chemical profile, a strain with a similar chemical makeup is likely to provide similar feelings.
To find a similar strain or feeling, first look for a similar cannabinoid and cannabinoid level (shape and size), then look for similar terpenes (colors).
In the above graphic, the shapes differ slightly, meaning the amount of THC is a little different between the two. You’ll also notice that the secondary and tertiary terpenes have switched places.
Regardless of this, the two strains will still have a similar basic chemical profile, just slightly more of one terpene than the other, and they will likely lead to similar feelings and effects. So if you enjoy Kosher Kush, give Forbidden Fruit a try.
Conversely, if you experience a strain that you don’t like, you can look for a strain that has a completely different chemical makeup and go from there.
The graphic above shows two very different strains with different chemical profiles: The strain on the left has dark blue and green (myrcene and pinene), and the strain on the right has orange and fuchsia (terpinolene and caryophyllene). The left strain has lower amounts of THC (small diamonds); the strain on the right has higher levels of THC (long diamonds).
To find a different strain, ask yourself:
- Do you want to get high? If so, look for diamonds (THC). If not, choose something with circles (CBD).
- Was it too strong? If so, look for shorter diamonds, or a mixture of diamonds and circles, for a more balanced strain.
- If it didn’t feel too strong but you just didn’t like the effects (e.g., too calming, too energizing, negative effects), try looking for completely different colors. For example, if the first strain had fuchsia and yellow, try something with dark blue and green, or vice versa.
Explore cannabis strains with a new perspective
Why has Leafly created a new visualization system for cannabis?
For a how-to explainer on Leafly’s new Cannabis Guide, check out Part 1 of this series.
Jump to a section in Part 2:
- Reimagining the indica/sativa system
- Increased hybridization and the entourage effect
- The reliability of strain names
- Begin exploring cannabis strains on Leafly
Cannabis consumers are ultimately concerned with the effects of a strain–how it will make them feel after smoking or ingesting it. Leafly’s Cannabis Guide is a tool to help consumers answer that question for themselves.
“It’s really about helping cannabis consumers find the right strain and the right product as quickly and easily as possible,” says Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s Principal Research Scientist. “We want people to see the difference between products when a real difference exists. We want you to be able to see with your eyes what you can’t smell with your nose.”
Back when Leafly first started in 2010 and up until now, we have used a three-tile system, which classifies cannabis strains as indica (purple), sativa (red), or hybrid (green).
That static system wasn’t based on lab data from growers. The new Cannabis Guide is a dynamic system that uses a combination of lab-sourced data and hundreds of thousands of customer reviews from app and website users.
Leafly works with the best cannabis labs in the US and Canada and is constantly onboarding more lab partners for data; the more data samples of cannabis strains, the better.
For decades, cannabis has been classified as either an indica, sativa, or hybrid. These terms refer to the forms of cannabis with different physical features, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, with hybrid being a genetic cross of the two. Typically, sativas grow tall and thin, while indicas grow short and stout.
Because indicas and sativas can have specific physical traits, it has led to the assumption that each also has certain effects, but this is insufficient. Regardless of whether a strain is an indica or sativa, its chemical profile–that is, the cannabinoids and terpenes in it–will determine how it affects you, not its physical features.
The above graphic shows a flaw of using the indica/sativa system. All three strains are commonly classified as sativas, yet they all have very different terpene profiles. Because a chemical profile leads to feelings and effects, even though all of these strains are sativas, they likely will not have the same feelings and effects.
Due to decades of cannabis prohibition, research on the plant is limited. One thing we do know, as shown in a 2017 study and a 2015 study, is that it’s difficult to find a true sativa or indica. Decades of crossbreeding and hybridization has made it so strains that are thought to be sativas can actually turn out to be indicas upon genetic analysis.
A 2010 review article by Dr. Ethan Russo, a pioneer in the study of the body’s endocannabinoid system, points to the importance of cannabinoids and terpenes and the benefits they can provide. Their importance comes from the entourage effect–how cannabinoids and terpenes work together and with other compounds in the body to unlock the wellness benefits of cannabis.
This theory describes how certain components of cannabis might work together to provide benefits, such as relief from pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, and much more.
For more information on the indica/sativa debate, the entourage effect, and the importance of cannabinoids and terpenes, check out our article Indica vs. sativa: What’s the difference between cannabis types?
The flowers you see in Leafly’s Cannabis Guide represent the average of all data from our lab partners. When you look at the Blue Dream flower or any other flower, its chemical profile is an aggregate of data samples from hundreds of growers.
Let’s say a grower produces a product that they market and sell as “Blue Dream,” but it doesn’t align with the average of Leafly’s data from our lab partners–is it really “Blue Dream?”
Above you’ll see the most common profile of Blue Dream on the left, which appears in Leafly’s Cannabis Guide. This is an average of all the data samples from Leafly’s lab partners.
The flower on the right is a version of Blue Dream that falls outside of the average of all the data; it’s an extreme outlier. Although it does contain myrcene (dark blue) and pinene (green), its dominant terpene is terpinolene (orange), which will likely produce different effects.
Although the strain on the right may be marketed as “Blue Dream,” it is probably not a true Blue Dream cultivar because its chemical profile doesn’t align with the average of data. Having this information will allow you to better tell if a product actually is what it says it is.
Now that you understand how to use Leafly’s Cannabis Guide and how cannabinoids and terpenes affect the experience of cannabis, you’ll be able to find a cannabis strain for your body and needs.
Remember that exploring strains that suit your unique body and needs is an important part of the process. Because all bodies and settings are different, the same strain can affect two people very differently, and it can also affect you very differently in two different circumstances.
The Cannabis Guide will give you a baseline so you can understand what’s in a strain. Depending on whether or not you like a strain, you can branch out and find another strain that’s similar, or you can try something different that might suit you better. You can sign up for an account and leave a review on Leafly to report how certain strains affect you and keep track of your favorites.
We encourage you to explore the Cannabis Guide. Learning the science behind cannabis and its effects will help you better understand and enjoy this wonderful plant!
Explore cannabis strains with a new perspective
Why has Leafly created a new visualization system for cannabis?
By MORGAN SMITH August 22, 2019 02:21 PM. SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Utah legislators were moving Thursday to scrap a planned state-run medical marijuana …
BATON ROUGE, LA — Two weeks after Louisiana patients began receiving medical cannabis, the program is humming along without supply disruption and with thousands of people receiving the drug for medical use, regulatory officials and the head of one growing operation said Monday.
Louisiana has 5,000 patients, two weeks after opening dispensaries.
John Davis, president of GB Sciences Louisiana, one of two state-sanctioned medical cannabis growers, said Louisiana has about 5,000 patients so far.
Louisiana became the first Deep South state to dispense medical marijuana on Aug. 6, four years after state lawmakers agreed to give patients access to medicinal-grade cannabis.
Nine medical marijuana pharmacies have been permitted to dispense the products, with the first cannabis available in a flavored liquid tincture, a bottle containing a dropper.
“The feedback that we’re getting from patients is really overwhelming, with patients who were having epileptic seizures of 18 a day now down to two,” Davis told a panel of state regulators who meet regularly to update the public on the medical marijuana program.
Concerns that patients could face interruptions in supply since only one of the state’s two growers has a product in pharmacies haven’t panned out in the early days of the program.
“It appears the supply chain is working perfectly, or as well as it can be,” Davis said. “We’re able to satisfy the demands that are out there.”
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, whose department oversees the medical marijuana program, urged: “We don’t want to run out” now that people are taking the drug to ease pain and other medical conditions.
Law Passed in 2015
Louisiana is one of 33 other states that allow medical marijuana in some form.
Under the 2015 law and additional changes passed since then, Louisiana is allowing medical marijuana to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
Only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow medical marijuana. GB Sciences is LSU’s grower. Southern’s grower, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, estimates its first product could be available by fall at the earliest.
Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients–but not in a smokeable form. GB Sciences currently offers only the liquid tinctures, in three different concentrations.
Strain said 4,700 doses of therapeutic cannabis were in the first batch of mint-flavored tinctures. The second batch contains 4,300 doses in cherry-flavored product, he said.
Davis has said he expects to have dissolving strips taken by mouth available soon, followed by topical creams.
Arizona-based researcher Dr. Sue Sisley is spearheading an extraordinary lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), demanding that the agency stop dragging its feet on a years-old promise to end the federal government’s monopoly on growing cannabis for clinical research.
The DEA has two weeks to explain why it’s stalled these applications from expert growers.
Sisley is a medical doctor who recently made history with her federally-approved studies regarding the effects of cannabis on military veterans with PTSD. The results of those PTSD studies are expected to be released later this year.
Her next scheduled study will look at how late-stage cancer patients can perhaps use cannabis for pain relief.
With the help of two Texas attorneys who are working pro bono, Sisley’s Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) is calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the federal government to follow through on the DEA’s 2016 announcement in the Federal Register.
In that announcement, DEA officials said they would permit other facilities to grow and manufacture cannabis for clinical trials and research.
Applications Put on Ice
For more than 50 years now the federal government has relied on a farm at the University of Mississippi, via a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to produce all the cannabis used in research projects across the nation.
But that government-grown cannabis has come under criticism in recent years, including from Sisley and her colleagues, for its poor quality and low potency. There are also concerns by Sisley and others that the phenotypes and cultivars produced by the University of Mississippi’s crop are deliberately unrepresentative of the cannabis consumed by adults and patients in legal states.
According to the petition to the court, SRI repeatedly contacted the DEA about growing its own cannabis, to “improve drug quality and give it tighter control over dosages.” DEA officials have yet to respond. “With new trials around the corner, SRI can wait no longer.”
“We simply want them to make good on this pledge to the public,” Sisley told Leafly. “They promised the U.S. citizenry that they would finally end this monopoly and license other growers for research. And they’ve not followed through on this pledge.”
Demanding an Explanation
DEA officials have declined to comment on the litigation. “We are still working through the process and those applications remain under review,” an agency spokesperson told the Associated Press last month.
The DEA ‘isn’t saying yes, and it isn’t saying no. Until they respond, there’s nothing to go to court with, nothing to appeal.’
Matt Zorn, attorney for Dr. Sue Sisley
Sisley wonders if this three-year-long delay might be due to something outside of the DEA’s control, and perhaps involve other federal agencies.
Matt Zorn, one of the attorneys at the Houston-based Yetter Coleman law firm working on the SRI lawsuit, declined to comment on that speculation. Instead, he’s focusing on the damage done by the government’s inaction.
“They’re not saying yes, they’re not saying no,” Zorn told Leafly. “Until the agency says something, there’s nothing to go to a court with, nothing to appeal. It’s stuck in purgatory. So what we’re trying to do is get the agency to explain why they’re not processing these applications. It’s gotten to the point where we think a court needs to step in and do something about it.”
Unleashing the Writ of Mandamus
Zorn and his colleague Shane Pennington are using an unusual procedure to get the legal wheels rolling in this case: a petition for a writ of mandamus.
“We’re asking one judicial branch of government to order a different branch of government to do something, and they don’t like doing that,” noted Zorn. “What we’re essentially arguing is that there’s agency action that by law was required to have been done. Not only hasn’t it been done, but it hasn’t been done and then some.”
Zorn added that there aren’t many times when a writ of mandamus gets granted by a court.
“It’s a very extraordinary remedy reserved for extraordinary circumstances,” he said, “but we carefully investigated the facts and thought there was substantial merit to this case.”
The DEA’s response to this lawsuit is due before the end of August.
For their part, Sisley and Zorn are optimistic their legal strategy will have results which, if SRI prevails, could set a legal precedent.
“It’s really about unshackling science,” Sisley said. “It’s been shackled by politics in the U.S. now for over 50 years, ever since this monopoly was granted to the University of Mississippi.”
“We’ve been trying to ignite a national conversation about this,” she continued, “and trying to persuade people to pressure the government to license other growers for (cannabis) research. I don’t want to be a farmer, but I want to do research. I know what it takes to have good compliance. We’re trying to open the door for all researchers.”
Dr. Sisley, said Zorn, did everything required of her by law, “and it’s still not working.”
In cases like these, in order for change to take place, he added, “you need to show someone followed the rules and did everything right, and it didn’t work out. And that’s what we got here. We got a person who tried to work within the system and encountered system failure, at least at this juncture.”
On a recent episode of his podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson told rapper Jim Jones that he consumes about $40,000 of cannabis per month at Tyson Ranch, his future cannabis “resort.” As Jim’s mind is blown by this number, Eben Brriton, Tyson’s co-host, follows this up by saying that they smoke 10 tons of weed per month.
We call bullshit. Let’s look at the numbers.
How Much Weed Does $40,000 Buy?
Let’s look at that figure of $40,000. I live in Washington, where eighths of That Fire cost about $45 on average. So by the numbers, that would be about almost 900 eighths per month (if you broke it down to the usual retail value of cannabis).
As a blunt/joint smoker, the eighths I buy tend to go quickly. An eighth is like 3 to 4 blunts. By my personal consumption, 900 eighths would add up to about 2,700 blunts per month, which would be 90 blunts per day, which would be about four blunts per hour. And that’s without ever stopping, for an entire month.
Even on the expensive side of things (looking at you, California), where eighths could run for the hellacious $70, that would still break down to about three blunts per hour, nonstop, for a whole 30 straight days.
Solo, that would be completely impossible. With a Tyson Ranch full of consumers, very possible; however, that smoke squad would have to literally sit there for an entire month and do nothing but face L’s all day and night. No food, no water, just doinks.
So either Mike is stretching the truth, or his team of weed-smoking superlungs are just reinforcing stoner boi stereotypes.
10 Tons of Weed in a Month
Now that we’ve established that $40,000 of cannabis in a month is technically possible, it’s time to address the most absurd claim of all:
“We smoke 10 tons of weed at the ranch a month.” – Eben Britton, former NFL player and Mike’s co-host.
Beau Kilmer, co-director of RAND Drug Policy Research Center, told Leafly that on average, the cannabis consumers who smoke at least 21 days per month smoke about 1.6 grams a day.
Ten tons of cannabis is 20,000 pounds, which equals 320,000 ounces, which equals a little over 9,000,000 grams per month.
You don’t have to be Ptolemy to see that this would be physically impossible. Even with 100,000 humans visiting the ranch per month, this would come out to 3 grams per person per day, which would be double the aforementioned average of consumption amongst people who smoke all the time. Not possible. And even if you look at it from a grams standpoint of “Yeah, you can smoke 3 grams in a day easily,” it would still be unlikely for Tyson Ranch to host 100,000 visitors per month.
So in the end, only one truth remains: men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.
The world’s leading medical cannabis patient advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), reports that residents of the Pacific island territory of Guam have better options to treat chronic pain and other ailments than their fellow Americans in Texas and the Southeast. That’s according to ASA’s 2019 State of the States Report, an annual evaluation published recently.
“No state has more quickly and effectively implemented a medical cannabis program than Oklahoma.”
David Mangone, Governmental Affairs Director, Americans for Safe Access
ASA aims the report at lawmakers each year, prodding them to make progress relative to their neighbors. Each US state and territory gets a grade, yielding an annual map of unequal protection for 126 million Americans with chronic pain, which is cannabis’ number one qualifying condition.
On the positive side, we’re seeing medical cannabis deployed against the opioid epidemic in Illinois (A-), New York (B-), and California (B+). Oklahoma, Ohio, and Florida all made heartening progress–two Bs and a C (up from Fs in 2015).
That contrasts with the frustrating stasis happening in Texas and throughout the Southeast–all of which got Fs. Guam got a C, by the way.
New Points for Fighting Opioids
ASA’s point-based grading system gave out the organization’s first-ever A minuses to Oregon and Illinois this year. Opioid patients in Illinois can trade in their prescriptions and get a digital medical cannabis card–on the very same day.
“It immediately reduced the number of individuals who were turning to opioids after surgery or acute pain issues,” said David Mangone, director of government affairs at ASA. “They did not have to undergo a trial-and-error period with dangerous opioids and run the risk of addiction.”
“We certainly applaud Illinois for those efforts and hope they are modeled around the country,” Mangone said.
US Cannabis Cost Is Too Dang High
The 2019 report included first-ever points awarded for patient feedback. A 500-patient US survey revealed 88.5% of respondents believe that in some way their medical cannabis was not affordable.
“To have over 400 respondents in the survey say, ‘My program isn’t serving me well because medicine is so expensive,’ should be a red flag to state regulators and lawmakers,” Mangone said.
In California, for example, local cannabis bans and excise taxes still decrease affordability in both the medical and adult use market. “Even though this program exists, many people have to turn to the illicit market because of pricing and the incredibly high excise tax,” Mangone said. “It’s one of the chief concerns year after year.”
No health insurer in the United States covers medical cannabis, so patients must bear the entire cost of cannabis meds on their own.
And that’s strange, because 131 people die every day from opioid overdoses, among 70,237 annual prescription drug deaths in the United States in 2017. Cannabis has no risk of lethal overdose, and the National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2017 that medical marijuana worked for pain.
“Anything that reduces a tax burden or makes insurers more incentivized to cover medical cannabis is going to be tremendously helpful looking to 2020 and onward,” Mangone said.
Heartening Progress in Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma
Who knew we’d live to see the day where Ohio and Oklahoma got a B score in medical cannabis and Florida eked out a solid C–all part of a cannabinoid awakening in conservative states. ASA awards each state up to 400 total points based on patient rights, access levels, and consumer safety. Passing medical cannabis laws, implementing them, or fixing programs all boost scores.
“No state has more quickly and effectively implemented a medical cannabis program than Oklahoma,” said Mangone.
In Florida, court rulings enhanced dispensary access and product variety. Now patients can use smokable formulations of cannabis, and judges removed the licensure cap on dispensaries.
Frustrating Stasis in Texas, Southeast
ASA’s F scores track across regions noted for their above-average rates of mortality, obesity, and overdose deaths. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana–all Fs. “These programs really inadequately serve large patient populations,” he said.
Texas legislators passed a small but critical improvement to the state’s medical cannabis program in late May, adding eight conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis access. Prior to passing that law, intractable epilepsy was the only condition that qualified a patient for legal cannabis.
Texas’ Legislature meets just once every two years, removing the possibility of further reform at the state level until 2021. “Texas is incredibly frustrating,” said Mangone.
Again, that’s odd because medical cannabis is bipartisan–support polls at 93%. Even water doesn’t poll at 93%.
“I don’t think there’s a politician in the US in any district that polls the same way that medical cannabis does,” Mangone said.
Hopeful for Health Freedom
Mangone said he’s hopeful about the possibility of change in Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, where lawmakers are planning to introduce medical cannabis bills in early 2020.
“We’re really interested in breaking this stronghold in the Southeast,” he said. “It is much less of a political risk to come out and support medical cannabis [than it used to be].”
ASA Medical Cannabis 2019 Factbox:
- 47 states have some medical cannabis law
- The three holdouts are Idaho, South Dakota, and Nebraska
- 33 have some form of medical cannabis access
- 14 are CBD-only states
- 0 have an A+ score from ASA
- There are an estimated 3 million medical cannabis patients in the US
- There are 95 conditions for which medical cannabis can be useful
- Top 3 medical cannabis uses are chronic pain, spasms, nausea
- 126 million Americans live with chronic pain
- There are 9,000 patient-years of clinical trial data on cannabis for pain
- There are 30,000 studies on the endocannabinoid system
- There are now 5 hours of AMA-accredited continuing medical education (CME) courses available to physicians via ASA
Let’s talk about our beloved Blue Dream for a quick second. On paper, Blue Dream is the single-most searched cannabis strain in all of the lands. It currently has over 12,000 reviews on Leafly, most of them “Exceptional,” resulting in a rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.
And yet, if you say Blue Dream is your favorite cannabis strain, the true stoner bois of the cannabis community look at you like you’re some kind of poser n00b. As if your lungs haven’t put in the time to justify such an opinion.
Enough is enough.
No more will we let people disrespect us for loving something that is great, something that has such an influence on cannabis culture, something that is arguably the best strain in all of the game.
It is completely OK that Blue Dream is your favorite strain, and if you run into someone that disagrees, this is what you tell the canna-snob that takes themselves so seriously they can’t enjoy that beautiful green-budded, orange-haired cross of Blueberry and Haze.
It Feels Fucking Great
For one, Blue Dream tastes and makes you feel fucking amazing. That sweet, sweet blueberry flavor with an almost citrus kickback delivers on the euphoric feeling that people associate most with being high.
True to its namesake, this strain really does feel like you’re getting lost in the happiest daydream possible. You get a full body relaxation and creative stimulation, and overall, your mind, body, and soul feel stupendous. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not okay to feel stupendous.
The Availability Is Unmatched
Second of all, you can literally get Blue Dream at any time, in any place, so your favorite cannabis strain doesn’t have to be a local. Some cannabis consumers like to hop around and try every flavor or new batch of genetics, some like to find one favorite strain and smoke that endlessly.
Wiz Khalifa and Khalifa Kush–the only strain he smokes–is a perfect example of this. If that’s the case, wouldn’t you want to be able to get your needs wherever you go? Uh-huh.
It’s Perfect for Any Time of Day
You can smoke it any time of day and it’ll pair with whatever activity you want. Daytime? Fuck it. Roll up some Bluey, and then bam–15 minutes later you’re ready to run up a mountain barefoot. Nighttime? Roll up some Bluey and 15 minutes later you’re in a shark kigurumi watching the series finale of Euphoria. Straight cozy mode activated.
No matter when, that perfect balance of up and down effects produced by those sweet and sticky buds is the perfect treat.
Jhene Aiko Made A Whole Song About It
Lastly, and probably most importantly: JHENE AIKO MADE A WHOLE SONG ABOUT IT. And it’s a bop! Do you know how inspired by something you have to be to write a song about it? Bruh. Blue Dream had her feeling so good that she took time out of her busy schedule to write:
Don’t wake me up ’cause I’m in love with all that you are
You make me see the truth in things, I think that you are
The remedy for everything it seems that you are
The truth itself because nothing else can take me so far
Now go type “Granddaddy Purple” into Spotify and tell me what you find. Exactly. Nada damn thing.
So the next time someone gives you grief about Blue Dream being your favorite strain, just look them right in the face and say: Stop that.