More than once in my time at Farma—the nation’s first dispensary to focus on phytochemical data and not the indica/sativa dichotomy—a customer would slink away to the corner of the store to check out what Leafly had to say about a particular “strain.”
The website’s model of simplifying complex phytochemistry into broad categorizations of indica, sativa and hybrid was extremely accessible and helped consumers feel like they were taking the guess work out of tough choices. Of course, this model also left out important variables—namely, the unique chemical makeup of each individual batch of flower that helps predict both therapeutic and experiential outcomes. This week, Leafly launched a sweeping overhaul of that old convenient but over-simplified system.
Taking a cue from countless studies and industry leaders who have long advocated for phytochemical data over broad and inaccurate categorizations, Leafly has designed a new system to help consumers visualize the “ingredients” that make up unique chemical profiles in cannabis: the Cannabis Guide.
Of course, cannabis is an extremely chemically complex plant with a great deal many more secrets to divulge, especially in terms of how it works within vastly more complex and diverse human body chemistries. While this fresh take from Leafly does much to deepen the discussion around the importance of phytochemical ingredient differentiation to help predict therapeutic and experiential effects, it represents only the tip of the isomer iceberg. The exploration of how complex compounds work together to create polymodal actions stands to revolutionize the cannabis, caregiver and pharmaceutical industries and give voice to the synergistic systems of which we are each comprised.
How Does the Leafly Cannabis Guide Work?
Up until now, chemovars on Leafly’s website were classified according to the three colloquial categories: Indica (purple), Sativa (red) and Hybrid (green). There was an emphasis on subjective effects, but also included phytochemical averages when available.
The new guide uses a series of simple shapes, colors and sizing to express variances in phytochemical data averages as aggregated from a combination of lab-sourced analyses and people-sourced reviews:
The overall graphic is reminiscent of a flower, with three concentric rings surrounding a central shape.
Diamonds and circles are used to denote primary cannabinoids THC and CBD, with the central shape indicative of cannabinoid-type dominance. (CBG is reportedly incorporated as well, but no information is given on the website as to what to look for when seeking out CBG-rich chemovars. Additionally,