Richard Evans Schultes, the man who created the original taxonomy for cannabis in the 1970s, misidentified a Cannabis afghanica plant as a Cannabis indica plant. That one mistake began 40 years of confusion which has only been dispelled by McPartland’s research.
McPartland was the first researcher to look at the genetic markers on the three subspecies of cannabis using the plant’s genome to conclusively identify where it originated. He also proved conclusively that they are all the same species, just different subspecies. As it turns out, Cannabis sativa should have been identified as Cannabis indica, because it originated in India (hence indica). C. indica should have been identified as C. afghanica, because it actually originated in Afghanistan. Finally, it seems that C. ruderalis is actually what people mean when they refer to C. sativa.
This is reminiscent of the Brontosaurus, a dinosaur that never existed but we were all taught in school it was real. Sometimes science gets it wrong and it is up to modern scientists with better methods, like McPartland, to correct our old mistakes.
Cannabis Indica (Formerly Sativa)
Morphology: Taller (>1.5m) than their short and stocky Afghanica cousins, with sparser branches and less dense buds/flowers.
Physiology: Longer flowering time, between nine and fourteen weeks. Minimal frost tolerance with a moderate production of resin.
Chemistry: Much greater THC than CBD and other cannabinoids, this leads to the “head high” many users report.
Cannabis Afghanica (Formerly Indica)
Origin: Central Asia (Afghanistan, Turkestan, Pakistan)
Morphology: Shorter (<1.5m) than Indica strains with dense branches with wider leaves, and much denser buds/flowers
Physiology: Shorter flowering time, as little as seven to nine weeks. Good frost tolerance with high resin production. Afghanica strains can be susceptible to mold due to how dense the buds and branches are.
Chemistry: More variable than Indica strains. THC is often still the predominant cannabinoid but some strains have 1:1 ratios and some may have even higher CBD than THC.
Cannabis Sativa (Formerly Ruderalis)…ROPE
Origin: Usually feral or wild. From Europe or Central Asia.
Morphology: Variable, depending on origin.
Physiology: The flowering time is short and variable, many varieties exhibit autoflowering traits (flowering independently of sun cycles). Moderate frost tolerance with relatively low resin production.
Chemistry: More CBD than THC. Prominent terpenes include caryophyllene and myrcene, giving these strains a floral flavor and scent.
Psychoactivity: Usually lacking.