We’re Making This Too Complicated (An ‘Indicas and Sativas Are For Dummies’ Response)

Earlier this year Jimi Devine penned a piece for this column called “Indicas and Sativas are for Dummies.” While I do, for the most part, agree with his sentiment, I don’t believe his proposed solution of “Afghani” & “Equatorial” to be viable. As it’s the end of the year and I’m not sure what traffic’s going to be like on these final Fridays, we’re experimenting a bit over here. We always intended for WEIRDOS to feel like a public discourse, so in that spirit, here’s my response to Jimi’s idea, and some proposals of my own.

Why Afghani & Equatorial Are Doomed

Let’s face it, America isn’t actually the most accepting place in the world. Although we love to dub ourselves as the world’s melting pot, we’re actually far better at drawing lines than finding common ground. Because of this, I don’t think nomenclature like Afghani and Equatorial will ever be commonly accepted because it sounds foreign to most of our citizens. In fact, I’d argue if many people fully understood what they were saying with “Indica” (Latin for “Of India”) they’d probably use that a lot less too – because most of what they’re cultivating isn’t actually from India, it’s from America. Even further, “Sativa” in Latin means “cultivated” – so they’re both Sativa by definition. And by species, but that’s another story.

It’s worth noting that cultivars that formerly had “Afghan” in their name have all seemed to drop it in recent years. I am willing to bet that started post-9/11, but I wouldn’t know. I was 11 at that point. I’ve only heard about the mythical Afghani varietals, but I know a lot of Kush. Maybe I’m looking too far into it, but assuming America to be a racist place seems to be on the nose.

But more than that, what people are TYPICALLY trying to describe with Indica & Sativa – or Afghani & Equatorial, as proposed – is the effect the plant will provide, not the place it was from. While I get there’s correlation there, aren’t we leading consumers down the wrong path with that type of information anyway, since we know most of the effects are driven by terpenes and the other psychoactive chemistry found within the plant? To me this isn’t as black or white as it is a color wheel. That said, if we have to break it into two specific groups…

Stimulating vs. Sedative

What about categorizing them as stimulating or sedating? This way there’s variance, for sure, but to me, that’s what we’re really trying to say with the forbidden bro-science, right? We’re trying to tell you if it will get you lifted, or stoned. If you’ll be energized or couch-locked, so aren’t these more appropriate terms anyway? Eventually I believe this is what terpene science will tell us, and where we’ll really be able to get prescriptive with effects consumers can expect, but for now I believe this encompasses what we have been trying to say in a more accurate way.

That said, determining which of these categories said products will fall into can’t only rely on the information we’ve had in the past. For example, we know short and fat plants can sometimes present a profile that is closer to what we consider historically Sativa, even though the plant looks Indica, as Todd McCormick suggested for your piece, so there is far more research required for this to become a perfect system. And while we’re here, traditional science today says we pretty much only have anecdotal evidence to prove the effectiveness of terpenes, but any regular consumer knows smoking something that smells like gas will cool you down, so we’re in some degree of a holding pattern while the research picks up.

My only worry here is that these are still complicated terms for some. Not to sound like an asshole but some people need it to be super simple to understand, and we need this to be approachable. So I have another proposal, and this one may be more digestible for that lot.

Uppers & Downers

I choose this because it’s familiar terminology for drug users of all types. While there’s admittedly a ton of gray area here, as most of what we’re dealing with is a hybrid anyway, is there a simpler way to dumb it down? People commonly know most alcohol is a downer, but that tequila riles you up. They typically know that a Xanax puts you to sleep while Adderall will keep you up, so why not lean into what’s already understood? What’s actually wrong with likening our vice to other more common, and today socially accepted, ones? 

Looking past it’s usage across other drugispheres, does it get any easier for the layman to understand? We’re already using things like arrows up and down to describe how products will make us feel, so why not take it all the way? I understand this will be complex for hybrid classifications, but there’s someone out there who’s been saying “This is a 70% Sativa, 30% Indica,” so I’m sure that guy would love to decide just how much of an angle each of those are pointing.

Obviously there’s no clear right answer here, but I think it’s important we keep evolving this conversation, especially as the scientific understanding increases. Not only will this help us to be more accurate, but it will actually help people understand what they’re getting if they’re not as well versed as you or I. We’re not doing anyone any favors by continuing to push the misinformation, and we don’t know the unintended consequences this lack of understanding can have down the line. Look at THC percentage, and states that are now taxing products over a certain limit. It really sucks to have to pay for someone else’s stupidity, especially for something that your consumer doesn’t understand and doesn’t actually want – despite what they may think or say. 

Thoughts?

For those reading at home, what are you thinking? Do either of these make sense to you? Do you have a better solution? Feel free to respond below or in the comments on social media to join the discussion, and help us crack this. While I don’t think either of us have proposed perfect solutions, I think any are better than where we’re at today – and being better tomorrow than we were today is the best we can hope to do.

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