6 Suggestions on Choosing the Best Marijuana Strains: Buy What Feels Right

Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions. (Antoinette Brown Blackwell)

We’ve all been there, at least in the beginning. You walk into a cannabis dispensary for the first time, and it’s the proverbial “kid- in-a-candy-store” feeling. The smell alone is pungent and intoxicating. Dozens of marijuana strains line the shelves, their tender green buds, encased in large glass vats, beckoning you, an aromatic ganja army, a  cannabinoid cacophony of epic proportion. 

You check out the names of the ganja selection. Strawberry Cough. Purple Haze.  Granddaddy Purple. Cookies and Chem. Gorilla Glue. Sour Diesel. Green Crack. Blue Dream. Forbidden Fruit. Gelato. Bubba Kush. Romulan. Apple Fritter. Peanutbutter Breath. LA Confidential. Purple Urkle. Sour Diesel. Durban Poison.

Wait a minute, is this weed, or is this genetically modified produce smorgasbord? Or a bizarre, psychoactive bakery? Perhaps a marijuana mashup of popular sci-fi shows? And what the hell is poison doing here? Is that shit laced with paraquat, or worse, Roundup?


There are many types of strains to chose from, but it comes down to experimentation and personal preference.
Source: goodcannabisguide.comRest assured, you are not alone. It can, and still is for me, a bit overwhelming. And while I would never offer myself as some kind of expert on choosing the best bud for you, I have learned a thing or two about marijuana. (Come to think of it, “a thing or two” is a cool name for a marijuana strain. But I digress; it’s a marijuana article, after all. Dude.) 

But there are some basic guidelines, or suggestions, I can offer. They are definitely not “rules.” The last thing we need is more “rules” in the weed world; it kinda kills the vibe of the whole thing, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean, don’t you? I can hear the song Signs, Signs, by 5 Man Electric Band playing: 

Sign, Sign everywhere a sign

Blocking out the scenery breaking my mind

Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign

With that chill tone in mind, here are my suggestions, in a generally logical order. 

Suggestion # 1: Forget the indica vs. sativa distinction
Suggestion # 2: Go for aroma and flavor 
Suggestion # 3: Don’t “go for broke” on THC
Suggestion # 4: Ask for recommendations
Suggestion #5: Think about the delivery method 
Suggestion # 6: Experiment a little 
Okay, let’s get into it. 
Suggestion # 1: Forget the indica vs. sativa distinction

I know I’m stepping on some cannabis toes here (that is also a medical condition referring to the state of numbness in your little piggies from quaffing too much of the chronic).

Seriously, the term carries more marketing cache than it does convey anything classificatory about the effects of the weed. That’s because these terms actually refer to the morphology, or structure more than psychoactive effects. The differentiation between the types is based on the classification scheme of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French naturalist and botanist with a penchant for, well, classifying things.

Lamarck was also a bit of a revolutionary, or heretic, at least in the naturalist world, because he proposed that evolutionary forces could happen not just exceedingly gradually, like Darwin proposed, but also rather rapidly, within a few generations. Shannon Pauls, a senior editor for Slate, offers the following amusing example:

“In the Lamarckian theory of evolution, changes in species occur not slowly over generational mutations, but within the lifetimes of individual animals. A horselike creature, for example, faced with tall trees with yummy leaves, could, with stretching and straining, make its neck longer to better reach them. Voila—the stubby creature is now a giraffe.”

Don’t think about that too much, especially when high. You might end up in your backyard trying to grow your verticality in order to much on some leaves.

According to marijuana marketing consultant Alexia P. Bullard, Lamarck applied his knowledge and perspective to marijuana, distinguishing between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica, according to their respective physical, or structural characteristics.

As Bullard points out, “The cannabis indica plants are said to originate from India, and they are shorter, stubbier, and have broader leaves. Cannabis sativa plants are lankier, thinner, have longer leaves, and are taller overall. However, this distinction was based only on appearance, rather than the effects. The problem with this is the chemical composition of a strain cannot be determined from morphological features.”

The reality is that the difference one feels in the strains, with sativa being more  “cerebral” and  “uplifiting” and indica being more “body heavy” and “sedating,” have much more to do with the presence of terpenes and CBD (as well as other cannabinoids) than the type of marijuana. Bullock explains it this way:

“The couch-lock’ that supposedly comes from indica strains is actually due to high levels of myrcene, a terpene with strong sedative effects. These heavily sedating effects also come from CBN and terpinolene, an extremely sedating terpene.  The uplifting effects from sativa are actually due to a higher concentration of the terpenes pinene and limonene. These are known to create a euphoric, “high” experience. Sativas have low concentrations of sedating myrcene, which is why they are not considered to be sleepy strains.”

I can think of a great personal example. One time after imbibing with a friend, I got tremendously high, a very uplifting experience,  as if a psychic elevator was taking me to the top of my brain. I was absolutely convinced it was a sativa-dominant strain, but later found out it was heavy indica. The same thing happened when I tried the strain Peyote Cookies. My experience was highly euphoric and cerebral, despite the fact that it was an indica. 

Of course, the distinction does matter if you are a grower. After all, sativa plants take up more growing room, and therefore are more expensive, and ultimately less profitable by volume than indica. This is why there is such a predominance of indica varieties because it is an expression of supply-side preference driven by growth efficiency. 

However, there are limitations with respect to Bullock’s recommendations. Most research, in fact, shows that the vast majority of terpenes exert an overall calming, and potentially sedating effect. This happens because most terpenes have an affinity for the “benzodiazepine binding site of GABa receptors,” the same site that benzodiazepines such as Valium or Klonopin, commonly prescribed anxiolytics, target. 

Suggestion # 2: Go for Aroma and Flavor

While it’s okay to use the sativa vs, indica dichotomy as a general distinction, your high is likely to do more with the combination of terpenes and the presence of other cannabinoids in the mix.

Moreover, use the terpene profile to assess for aroma and taste, rather than just the high. Do you like an earthy, peppery taste? Go for strains that have myrcene. Do you prefer lighter floral tones? Go for limonene. You dig a fresh, piny, flavor? Go for alpha/beta-pinenes. When in doubt, let your nose guide you. After all, your nose knows. Know what I mean?

Then, of course, let your taste buds in on the game. Notice how the bud taste on both the inhale and exhale. Is it pleasing? Does it make you cough unnecessarily? Does it taste invigorating, or is does it impart a distasteful artificiality? If you want t, keep a diary for a little bit with some kind of abbreviated notation system that ranks the strains for how they smell, taste, and ultimately feel, perhaps using a short scale of 1-5, or even pluses (+), checks     (✔), or minuses (-). Whatever you do, make it simple and something that works for you. 

Suggestion # 3: Don’t “go for broke” on THC

Although THC is the “main man” in terms of your high, don’t get too hung up on this seemingly magical number. To begin with, there is a significant chance that your ganja strain in question has an inflated THC rating because THC inflation is a common issue in the commercial marijuana world.

I can personally recall strains that had lower THC concentrations that wrecked my world more than ones that were supposedly significantly higher. There is a great range not only between strains in general but also between growers of strains.

As Marijuana Moment reports, “The fundamental problem in cannabis strain inconsistency is that marijuana is federally illegal, limiting research and regulatory opportunities, and there’s currently no industry-wide system to verify strains. Therefore, suppliers are unable to provide confirmation of strains.”

This doesn’t mean you don’t look to identify strains you like, just understand the limitations in terms of THC content, because it may be a bit inconsistent. Instated, focus on the quality of the high it gives you and the overall nature of your smoking experience. Much like with your favorite foods, you don’t base your preferences on a specific quantity of something, but on its overall gustatory satisfaction. 

Moreover, as you get older, getting smashed on uber-high THC concentrated weed just isn’t something that’s generally appealing, especially if you are prone to THC-induced anxiety or paranoia. 

Suggestion # 4: Ask for recommendations

When starting out, do a little research. Look some information up online about specific strains, keeping in mind my caveats from earlier about inconsistencies. Use reviews from leafly.com or allbud.com to guide your decisions. If you want a more humorous, light approach, check out Newsweed’s Tasty Treats, Tokes, and Tunes section. Friends can also be a great source of anecdotal information, especially veteran smokers. Just keep in mind that it’s all about personal preferences, and everybody is different.

You can also ask a budtender to help guide you. But be aware, there is as much variation on their knowledge level as there is in terms of strain consistency. One piece of advice, though. If you find a budtender you like and is truly helpful, tip him or her well. They will not only expedite future purchases but make the shopping experience more personal and pleasurable. A the end of the day, that’s what marijuana should be about, pleasure. 

Suggestion # 5: Think about the delivery method

Back when I first started smoking marijuana, it was all about flower power. You either twisted up a doobie, smoked a bowl in a pipe, bubbled up a buzz in a bong, or used a one-hitter/dugout combo. But nowadays, there are a variety of vaping options, along with waxes and resins. I’m a bit old school, and prefer flower, because I know it’s in a basic, minimally processed form. There is just something primal about smoking the actual plant in its most natural form, the way mother nature intended it to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a vape pen isn’t an option. It’s cleaner in terms of aromatic presence, and manufacturers can also add a mixture of highly concentrated terpenes to enhance the taste profile and the entourage effect. And, if you are looking to economize, but still want to smoke the actual herb, then you can purchase a dry flower vaporizer. These will definitely save you money because they economize the amount of weed need to get high.

However, two words of caution. First, vaporizers can be exorbitantly expensive, costing upwards of $500, though you can definitely get them at the lower end of about $150. Secondly, I find them awkward and a bit complicated to use, though, in fairness, I need to practice a bit more.

And finally, there is the inconvenience of keeping them charged, which for some people is just a hassle. It really just comes down to preference. I have yet to venture into waxes or resins, though I am thinking about trying live resins, which seem like a nice midway point between a wax and the natural flower. Perhaps this is a post for another time.

I have also stayed away from dabs, just because I have no desire to blow my mind with ultra-concentrated THC. Moreover, talking to people who have tried that option, I am learning it may ruin your future highs because you will become more dependant on concentrated THC products to catch a buzz. That’s a pass for me, at least for now.

Suggestion # 6: Experiment a little 

This is probably the most important suggestion. Like anything else, the only way to learn about something is to tinker around a bit. Sometimes I choose a strain randomly, based on a compulsion-perhaps the name turns me on, or I hear someday at the dispensary bragging about it. I think the most important thing is to maintain a sense of playfulness about your growing ganja mental inventory.

When in doubt about what strain to choose, just  keep in mind the suggestion of the modern sage, Snoop Dogg: “It makes me feel the way I need to feel.” Choose accordingly.