Cannabis Sativa is thought to be the ground zero cannabis strain and is found in warmer equatorial regions. As the tallest and most sparsely foliated strain, cannabis Sativa is bred for industrial hemp due to its long fibers. When bred for hemp purposes, the THC content must be low (under .3% in the US). This is the strain that lent its fibers to the printing of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the making of the sails and rigging of Christopher Columbus’ boat, the Santa Maria.
Medicinal and recreational strains of Cannabis Sativa contain over five hundred compounds; at least 113 cannabinoids, of which the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) is one, and the much touted medicinal cannabidiol (or CBD) is another. Most of the other cannabinoids are found in only trace amounts, but work together in a holistic entourage with the other cannabinoids and terpenes; the compounds that give cannabis strains their complex scent and taste profiles. Sativa strains generally have a higher CBD to THC ratios than Indica strains. This may account for the difference in effects since CBD neutralizes some of the THC allowing Sativas to deliver a more energetic and focused mental state. A typical Sativa plant takes between 12-20 weeks to cycle from seed to up to a pound of harvestable flowers.
Addendum: With the growing acceptance of cannabis in society, there is new focus on the category and the plant, from every angle. This scrutiny has not spared vernacular taxonomy, or how we classify and refer to cannabis varieties right down to the original base strains. This has resulted in an ongoing nomenclature re-examination. That said, the preceding classifications in this series are an interpretive snapshot of where we are at the moment.
To get an overview of the taxonomical dust-up, please click the link.