It’s safe to say there has never been a better time in history to smoke weed. Cannabis is growing in mainstream acceptance for both recreational and medical purposes in America. It is currently fully legalized and regulated in 14 states, and legalized medicinally or decriminalized in many others.
With the growing popularity of recreational weed comes a new world of choice in strains. Smokers once limited to whatever they could find among friends can now walk into any dispensary and find many different marijuana strains. These strains can differ in potency, CBD vs THC content, and flavor profile.
With so much choice suddenly available, finding the top weed strains can be confusing. Read on to learn more about the best strains to try, their history, and their effects.
What Is A Weed Strain?
Strains are genetic variations in plants and their offspring. They are usually intentionally cultivated by growers for a unique set of effects. Marijuana strains can differ in the same way as beer, wine, and spirits. They have a huge amount of variation in price and flavor profile.
Strains can be pure, meaning they come from the same genetic source, or they can be hybrids of multiple different plants. Marijuana strains are usually classified as indica or sativa, though most are in fact a mix of the two.
Traditionally, indica is said to be physically relaxing, while sativa is energizing and uplifting. However, as cannabis research continues, growers are discovering that this is not strictly accurate. Instead, it is the combination of chemical compounds present in the plant that determine its effects.
The best weed strains will give a “deep” high, resonating in both mind and body. A great weed strain can promote creativity, relaxation, and euphoria.
In addition to their effects, great strains are all about smell and flavor profile. Most of the strains below are renowned for their unique and often powerful smell and taste. A great flavor profile can elevate the smoking experience from functional to pleasurable.
Terpenes and Cannabinoids
What makes a strain a strain? The biggest factor in strain variety is the terpenes present within the strain. As mentioned earlier, it is the combination of terpenes and cannabinoids that determines the kind of effects a strain will have on the human body and mind.
Terpenes are compounds that take the form of oils on a plant. They are responsible for the smell of many plants, notably cannabis, but also rosemary, thyme, and lavender. They not only affect smell and flavor profile but can combine with cannabinoids to vary the effects of smoking.
For example, fruitier strains will often be more energizing, while strains containing herbal and pine-like terpenes will have calming and relaxing effects.
Cannabinoids are another chemical compound. The most widely known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). However, most weed strains contain over 80 different cannabinoids, each contributing in a small way to the effects of the plant. Cannabinoids are what produce the actual effect of the high, while terpenes influence the sensation of the high.
Top Weed Strains of All Time
Trying to pick a consensus choice for the best strains of all time is as difficult as choosing the best album or best movie. Everyone’s personal taste will influence their choice. Some will champion a little-known local strain, while some will sing the praises of legends like OG Kush or Sour Diesel.
Your favorite weed strain will depend on how it interacts with your unique brain chemistry and what kind of high you prefer. It is as personal a choice as any other favorite thing.
With that being said, there are many strains that are justifiably famous. Not only are they widely agreed to give a great high, they have also shaped the history of how American cannabis is grown, bred, and marketed. Without the influence of these strains, weed would not be as healthy, potent, or enjoyable as it is today.
Sour Diesel was developed in the 1990s by a New York breeder known only as AJ. It quickly spread throughout the city, growing a cult following deterred only by its high price tag.
The origin of the name “Sour Diesel” is disputed. Most assume the name comes from its pungent smell, which brings to mind gasoline. However, some veterans of Sour D’s underground heyday have noted that its popularity and rarity tended to “sour” relationships between dealers.
Sour Diesel is sativa-dominant, containing around 20% THC and only 1 or 2% CBD. According to its fans, true Sour Diesel is a pungent, sweet, and spicy smoke. Its effects are energetic yet tranquil and analytical.
This combination is said to be a source of artistic inspiration. This has made Sour Diesel a cult favorite among musicians, artists, and other creators.
It is also known for being long-lasting, producing a high that can carry you through the day.
Though Northern Lights has its origin in Seattle, it was developed from strains originally from Thailand and Afghanistan. Central Asia is thought to be the origin of cannabis cultivation. In a way, smoking Northern Lights can be seen as putting yourself in contact with the stoners of 500 BC.
Besides that, Northern Lights is known for producing a potent sense of physical relaxation. It is often used therapeutically to calm anxiety, induce sleep, and relieve migraines or arthritis. Northern Lights is a great choice for a lazy afternoon or a day of painting, writing, or other creative work.
Northern Lights has a sweet and spicy smell, reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest forests where it was cultivated.
A Northern Lights variant, Northern Lights #5, is one of the most awarded marijuana strains in the world. It has won the Cannabis Cup multiple times as well as numerous other awards.
Maui Wowie has been cultivated for over forty years in the Hawaiian islands. It has passed its genetics on to dozens of other strains, making it a true OG of the weed world.
Like Northern Lights, Maui Wowie has a pine-heavy aroma and uplifting effects. It is known for its ability to induce focus and improve mood.
Maui Wowie is a sativa dominant hybrid, with 20-30% THC content. It is often used to treat depression as well as chronic pain and is extremely hardy, growing up to ten feet high outdoors.
OG Kush also originates from Central Asia, getting its name from the Hindu Kush mountains that stretch from Pakistan to Afghanistan. The Asian seeds were crossed with an unknown strain from Northern California in the 1990s. This produced a strain renowned for its heady, relaxing effects.
OG Kush has a spicy, skunky flavor profile. Its buds are dense with resin and are an attractive mix of deep green, orange, and purple.
OG Kush smokers often find themselves breaking out into euphoric laughter, or engaging in deep thought and reflection. OG Kush and its variations (Pineapple Kush, Candy Kush, and many more) are great for unwinding after a long day or relaxing with friends or loved ones.
Due to its history of cultivation and spread on the West Coast, OG Kush is often considered the unofficial state strain of California. It can be found mentioned in the lyrics of Snoop Dogg, 2pac, and many more artists.
Haze is another strain with a long and storied history. It was first cultivated by the eponymous Haze Brothers in Southern California in the 1960s. However, the genetic origins of Haze are a matter of debate. Thailand, India, Mexico, and Colombia have all been suggested as the home of Haze’s ancestors.
Haze comes in a variety of flavor profiles and hybrids. These include Lemon Haze, Purple Haze, Super Silver Haze, and many others.
Haze strains produce energy and euphoria in the mind, making Haze a perfect choice for accomplishing tasks or getting an extra burst of energy. It is an 80% sativa, 20% indica hybrid, containing 15-20% THC.
Its flavor profile is often woodsy and sweet, though different hybrids emphasize different flavors of lemon, orange, or even grape.
Haze can also be therapeutically used to treat ADHD, depression, migraines, and nausea.
Girl Scout Cookies
Girl Scout Cookies is the newest strain on this list, originating only in 2011. Though Girl Scout Cookies lacks the longevity of stalwart strains like OG Kush or Northern Lights, its quick rise to worldwide fame puts it on the list of the world’s best strains.
Girl Scout Cookies is extremely potent, ranging from around 16% THC to nearly 30%. Its effects last for a long time, making it a great choice for experienced smokers, and possibly overwhelming for new ones.
Girl Scout Cookies has a sweet, complex smell, reminiscent of cookies or other baked goods. It is 60% indica and 40% sativa, producing extremely relaxing and calming effects. This makes it a great choice to end the day, as long as you take into account that you may want to get up from the couch after smoking it.
These euphoric and sedative effects have made GSC a popular choice for relieving muscle tension and insomnia.
Girl Scout Cookies is also notable for being one of the first strains to rise to popularity through social media, after securing a promotional deal with rapper Wiz Khalifa. Since then, more and more growers have often looked to Instagram and Facebook to promote their strains, often partnering with rappers, models, and other influencers. So, Girl Scout Cookies is not only a potent strain, it is a pioneer in new techniques of weed marketing.
New Strains and Scientific Breakthroughs
The growing acceptance of cannabis in mainstream society has lead to new research at the highest levels of science and medicine. Strains are not only being created for recreational purposes, but to alleviate pain, stress, and depression. Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. However, its true scientific potential is only just beginning to be unlocked.
For instance, recent research has led to the rise of Delta-8 THC. Delta-8 THC is a compound found in cannabis that combines the medical and therapeutic effects of normal THC with less potent psychoactive effects. This means that people looking to use cannabis for pain relief or to treat mental disorders can use Delta-8 THC to avoid the anxiety or jitters that can be unwanted side effects of normal weed.
Companies such as 3Chi are now marketing Delta-8 THC, which is fully legal in the US. Like their counterparts CBD compounds, cannabis products with fewer psychoactive effects are often legal throughout the country, even in states that have not legalized or decriminalized weed.
Delta-8 THC is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cannabis research. Scientists and medical professionals are discovering new possibilities in the marijuana world every day. With the removal of societal barriers to drug research, a world of potential medical and recreational possibilities is becoming clear.
Weed Strains and You
Finding the top weed strains for you is a matter of personal preference and experimentation. Whether you prefer a headier high, a more relaxing one, or a combination of the two, there are more potent and effective strains available than ever before.
New strains are developed constantly. Cannabis is now available in many forms, including vapes and edibles as well as flowers. There has never been a better time to explore the world of marijuana strains, as legalization efforts push forward across the nation.
A reputable dispensary will be able to tell you what strain is best for you based on what effects you prefer. With a little trial and error, it’s easy to find the perfect marijuana strain for your preferences.
With this guide as a starting place, we know you can find the strain that is best for you.