It’s high time to smoke out the old Indica and Sativa descriptions at cannabis cups. Consumers deserve to know more about the plant than the structure it took on in life. With research now showing how much terpenes drive cannabis sales and quality, the Emerald Cup took a chance to replace Indica and Sativa.
Terpenes to save cannabis’s heritage
The Emerald Cup is an annual cannabis competition held in California. Currently, the focus is still acute on THC percentage, ignoring the depth of quality in a full spectrum. Indica and Sativa still fail to properly describe the complexity of a plant, and so, the old classification has been updated with 6 new terpene profiles.
THC percentage pushes gas station Delta-8 THC sales, D9 distillates from questionable sources, and cannabis with poor genetic heritage. Emerald Cup argues on their website that a strict focus on THC threatens to drive the craft cannabis market into extinction. For this reason, the cup must change to save exotic cannabis profiles, Jack Herer’s legacy, landraces, and many other qualities that become lost within cannabis’s full spectrum. (1)
Emerald Cup’s new profiles
Jacks + Hazes
- Terpinolene, caryophyllene, and/or myrcene
- Fruity, pinesol, haze
- Energizing, cerebral, artistically inspiring
Jack Herer is an obvious addition to this group, an uplifting varietal named after the infamous cannabis activist. (2) Whereas Haze originally came from two surfers in California in 1969. Original Haze was a pure Columbian strain eventually brought from California to the Netherlands by David Watson in the mid-1980s. (3) Other common renditions of Haze are alterations that were popularized by Nevil Schoenmaker. (3, 4) Durban Poison, a strain bred by Mel Frank in the late 1970s, is also a member of this terpene class. (4)
High levels of terpinolene in this group provide an uplifting effect over moderate levels of myrcene. (1)
Tropical + Floral
- Ocimene and myrcene
- Sweet, floral, tropical fruit
- Calming, soothing, relaxing
Hawaiian is a classic tropical strain and a prominent example in this class. And despite its name, In The Pines is also considered a Tropical + Floral strain.
OGs + Gas
- Dominant in either limonene, myrcene, and/or caryophyllene
- Gas, fuel, sweet, and/or citrus and pepper
- Uplifting, stimulating, analgesic, and/or relaxation
Of course, this terpene profile will include the classic OG Kush as well as gassy strains. Chemdawg and Sour Diesel are given as examples of gas profiles. Going down the genetic heritage, Gorilla Glue should also fit in this classification.
Sweets + Dreams
- Myrcene, pinene, caryophyllene
- Fruity, sweet, woody, hoppy, herbaceous
- Relaxing, couch lock, analgesic
Sweets + dreams is a profile you can call In Da Couch (indica) according to the classifications now used by The Emerald Cup. And while pinene is known to induce focus. Tied to caryophyllene and myrcene, however, pinene has lesser-explored effects on sedation. (5)
- Limonene and caryophyllene
- Desserts, doughs, citrusy and spicey
- Uplifting, stimulating, racey, comforting
Dessert profiles can easily remind you of the local bakery in the morning. GSC (Girl Scout Cookies), gelatos, and cakes commonly express a dessert profile. For anyone who has had enough Wedding Cake, the classic Bubba Kush strain falls in this class.
One might notice a lack of linalool, nerodiol, and other terpenes from the classes now used by the Emerald Cup. Linalool exists in two forms, for example, one gassy and one more candy/floral. Despite the commonality of approximately five other terpenes, strains dominant in these are considered exotic.
Exotic cannabis profiles can be dominant in a broad variety of common terpenes, but rare profiles consisting of delta-carene can exist in this classification. Despite any limitations, is a system based on terpenes sufficient enough to replace the Indica versus Sativa descriptions of old?
The terpene classification system was originally built by Phytofacts and powered by SC Labs. To support the system, the Emerald Cup announced an alliance with SC Labs and NAPRO research. (1)
Let us know in the comments if you agree with the new classification system. And check out this story to learn how Indica and Sativa are secretly separated by terpene genetics on the market, rather than plant structure.
- The Emerald Cup. 2022. Terpene Classes.
- SS. 2020. Cannabis Strain Focus: Jack Herer®.
- Personal communication with Todd McCormick.
- Email response from Mel Frank.
- Yang, H., Woo, J., Pae, A. N., Um, M. Y., Cho, N. C., Park, K. D., Yoon, M., Kim, J., Lee, C. J., & Cho, S. (2016). α-Pinene, a Major Constituent of Pine Tree Oils, Enhances Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep in Mice through GABAA-benzodiazepine Receptors. Molecular pharmacology, 90(5), 530–539. https://doi.org/10.1124/mol.116.105080