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Cannabis Subspecies: Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis

Cannabis is the botanical genus of the plant, and although cannabis is biologically classified as one single species (Cannabis sativa L.) there are at least three distinct plant subspecies that have been identified and debated for many years: Cannabis Freshwap sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.

There are also many hybrids, of which there are many crosses, between mostly sativa and indica varieties. Cannabis used for fiber and food, typically referred to as hemp, is grown for the use of seeds and fiber, and it has only traces of the Merdb psychoactive cannabinoid THC, generally less than 0.5 percent. Hemp varieties of cannabis appear to be the genetic origin of CBD strains and are often very high in CBD content.

The biologist Carl Linnaeus first identified a single species he named C. sativa in 1753. He listed several varieties, assuming they all belonged t Codeplex o a single species. In 1785, a plant biologist named Jean-Baptiste Lamarck delineated a second species he called C. indica. He noted that C. sativa grows taller, is more fibrous, and has narrow leaflets, whereas C. indica grows shorter, has wider leaflets, and is more psychoactive.

More recently in 2005, Karl Hillig, from Indiana University, investigated the diversity of genetics among cannabis varieties of the world and made Elibrary an interesting discovery. He revealed that all drug/psychoactive strains shared a relatively narrow range of genes and that the fiber/hemp strains shared another, smaller set of genes. 460 Hillig is supportive of the original two-species concept of C. sativa and C. indica, with C. indicia being more diverse genetically due to its larger worldwide cultivation.


He decided that all fibrous strains should be classified as C. sativa, and all drug varieties classified as C. indica. He further grouped C. indica into four subspecies: indica, afghanica, chinensis, and kafiristanica. He ultimately divided indica varieties into broad-leaf drug (BLD) and narrow-leaf drug (NLD) varieties. 461 Most hybrids found today are a combination of these two.

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