The Fundamentals of Cannabis: What Is a Cultivar?

What’s in a name? If you know anything about cannabis you probably know that the word “strain” is commonly used to describe different varieties of cannabis, like Sour Diesel, Granddaddy Purp, and Harlequin.

But here’s the thing: Calling each of those specific plants a strain is useful up to a point, but it doesn’t really capture the different characteristics of each variety. And when your business is delivering cannabis, using the right terminology is important. That’s why one Sacramento marijuana delivery service is gently urging its customers to switch to a more descriptive and appropriate term: cultivar.

What is a cultivar, and how can it help us better understand the marvelous complexities that set each type of cannabis apart from each other? Strap yourself in and get ready for a deep dive into the world of cannabis classifications!

Sacramento Marijuana Delivery: Origins of Cannabis Classification

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As you probably already know, we humans have relied on marijuana effects for literally thousands of years. But as far as researchers can tell, it wasn’t until the 1500s that botanists started to have serious conversations about what they should call all its different varieties.

Things were different then. Hemp—cannabis’s wild cousin—was a critical cash crop, used for everything from making sails and ropes for ships to clothing and other industrial products. But botanists believed that all cannabis was a single species, native to India. 

It wasn’t until 1785, when pioneering French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed that the cannabis family consisted of two species, indica and sativa. From there, European plant breeders began replicating what traditional growers in Asia had been doing for centuries: selecting cannabis plants for their specific characteristics and properties, a process that continues today in the form of all the types you can order from a Sacramento marijuana delivery service.

“Strain” vs. “Cultivar”

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If you’ve ever spent any time sampling different types of cannabis, you know they’ll have very different characteristics and effects. But while you may be used to calling them “strains,” that’s not exactly correct. Here’s why.

“Cultivars” is short for “cultivated variety.” It means a specific subtype of plant bred for specific characteristics. That’s why Sour Diesel smells, well, a little like diesel fuel, and imparts energizing and dreamy cerebral effects. It’s been bred over countless generations to produce reliable results.

By comparison, the word “strain” is rarely used in botany. Instead, it usually refers to a variant in microorganisms such as—to use one recent example—COVID. That’s why scientists talk about a “South Africa strain” or an “India strain.” 

And for another thing, “strain” refers to a variation within a particular cultivar. According to the experts at the Sacramento marijuana delivery we consulted, because cannabis cultivars are bred for specific characteristics like potency and consistency, it’s not really appropriate to call them “strains,” which are inconsistent by their very nature. 

Does that mean your delivery person is going to give you a hard time the next time they deliver a bag of fresh, premium cannabis to your door? Because “cannabis strain” is such a widely accepted terminology, there’s no fear of that. But hey: If you’re looking to impress next time you visit a dispensary, try using the term “cultivar” instead of “strain.” It may just earn you some mad respect from your budtender….