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How NOT to Shop for Cannabis

The next time you shop for cannabis, stop relying on Indica and Sativa labels and start looking at terpene content.

In the early days of legal cannabis, it was pretty common for shoppers to rely solely on labels like Indica and Sativa to make their purchasing decisions. While some shoppers were satisfied, many ended up with products that didn’t meet their expectations in terms of effects. Sometimes their Indica purchases were surprisingly energizing, while Sativa purchases ended up being unexpectedly relaxing.

Today, we know these labels don’t provide the information shoppers require to find the products that fit their needs. That’s why we’re explaining how NOT to shop for cannabis. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. STOP asking budtenders specifically for Indica or Sativa strains. 
  2. Determine what you DO want from your cannabis experience. 
  3. Research what terpenes contribute to that experience.
  4. THEN shop for cannabis with those details in mind.

We know this may be a deviation from your normal cannabis shopping habits, but keep reading and we’ll walk you through it.

Reading Time - 5 min


Stop Shopping for Cannabis By Indica and Sativa Labels

When terms like Indica and Sativa are used to differentiate between sedating and energizing strains, shoppers often end up making purchases that don’t meet their expectations. That’s because the most accurate use of these terms is when they’re used to describe plant biology and structure.

Shorter cannabis plants with thick stems and broad, dark leaves are usually categorized as Indica. On the other hand, taller plants with narrow, vibrantly green leaves are most often categorized as Sativa. While SOME Indica plants are relaxing and SOME Sativa are stimulating, it’s just not accurate to say ALL of them fit neatly into these categories.

Ultimately, when you shop for cannabis by simply asking for products that fit these labels, you’re rolling the dice on what effects you’ll experience. Even famed cannabis researcher Ethan Russo Ph.D. said, “You cannot tell the effects a plant will have based on its shape—the shape of its leaflets, its size, or how tall it is…What we really should be honing in on is the chemical composition of the plant.” 

So, what WILL help you find cannabis products with the effects you’re looking for? Terpenes! Research has shown that the terpene content of a cannabis strain is a much more accurate indicator of effects.

What Do I Need to Know Before Walking Into a Dispensary?

While we sympathize with wanting a simple shopping experience, we urge you to do just a bit of homework. Trust us, it will make all the difference. With time it will become a habit and ultimately you’ll go home with products that better suit your needs. First, there are three things you’ll need to ask yourself. 

  1. What effects are you hoping to experience from your cannabis products?
  2. Which types of products do you prefer? 
  3. Are there flavors and aromas that you enjoy?

The first question is perhaps the most important. Basically, you need to figure out how you want your cannabis products to make you FEEL. Are you wanting a stimulating experience to get you through morning errands? Do you need something to help you relax at the end of a long workday? Interested in something that will help spark creativity? Defining your desired experience will help you narrow down the terpenes you’ll need products to have. 

The second question ensures that YOU get the product type you’re looking for (vape, flower, edible, etc.) and it also helps a budtender narrow down their recommendations. Lastly, flavor and aroma. While effects often take precedence, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a product simply for its taste or smell.

Once you’ve answered these questions and have a better idea of what you want, it’s time to figure out which terpenes will meet your needs.

What to Ask For At a Dispensary?

Having all the right information is essential when interacting with a budtender. While they SHOULD be knowledgeable about the products they sell, we’ve heard our fair share of “Oh, just stick to Indicas if you want to relax” or “Any Sativa will give you energy.” 

Admittedly, it’s really not their fault. Not all products include terpene content on the label, so this information isn’t always easy to find. On top of that, relying on cannabis names isn’t necessarily reliable either. For example, a Blue Dream grown on the west coast may have a slightly different terpene profile (and therefore different effects) than a Blue Dream grown in the Midwest. That’s why asking questions like the following are important.

Do you have any beta-Myrcene dominant or Linalool dominant products?

Asking, “What can I get at a dispensary for anxiety?” might result in a vague recommendation about “Indica” strains. Instead, you should be asking for products that have large amounts of beta-Myrcene and/or Linalool

The former is known for its sedative properties and smells profoundly earthy and woody with distinct notes of cloves, cardamom, fruit, and musk. Linalool is also famed for its soothing properties and you’re probably already familiar with it (Psst! There’s a LOT of it in Lavender). It’s floral and slightly sweet with just a hint of mint. 

A terpene profile that will likely fit your needs in this situation might be Do-Si-Do. With a decent amount of both Myrcene and Linalool, this terpene profile is famed for imparting a sense of calm and relaxation.

Do-Si-Do Terpene Profile | Abstrax Tech


What products do you have that are dominant in d-Limonene or alpha-Pinene?

Instead of asking “What Sativa would you recommend for energy or focus,” you should ask for products with lots of d-Limonene and/or alpha-Pinene. Unsurprisingly, d-Limonene smells like sweet citrus and is known to elevate mood and promote mental invigoration. Several of the properties of alpha-Pinene make it useful when it comes to mental stimulation. Plus, it smells refreshingly of pine trees and other conifers.

A terpene profile that would likely satisfy the need for invigoration and energy would look something like the one in our Super Sour Diesel Sauce. This particular profile promotes mood elevation, euphoria, relaxation, and even a boost in creativity.

Super Sour Diesel Sauce Terpene Profile | Abstrax Tech


Shop for Cannabis Using Terpene Science

We’ve just scratched the surface today. There are hundreds of terpene isolates, and the various combinations of these isolates mean there are LOTS of different effects. Even the smallest bit of terpene knowledge, however, will help you find products that help you feel your desired effects.

We kept it pretty simple today, but if you’re interested in learning more about terpenes and cannabis then be sure to follow us!

READ NEXT → Providing Terpene Content Improves Consumer Experiences


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