Meet HIGH TIMES’ highest authority on getting high: the Pot Snob.

Dear Pot Snob,
I was reading all about the Cannabis Cup in last month’s issue of HIGH TIMES, and I noticed that the annual seed-company competition is divided into two separate categories—indica and sativa. This will probably come off as something of a rudimentary question to ask of so high an authority as yourself, oh esteemed herb aficionado and cannabis connoisseur, but what exactly is the difference between indica and sativa? And, more to the point, which kind of kind should I grow if I’m thinking about growing kind for the very first time?
Would-be Indoor Grower

Dear WIG,
First of all, let me say that while I appreciate your humble tone in asking, please rest assured that there’s no such thing as a rudimentary question when it comes to marijuana, at least not to this Pot Snob. They’re all good questions, except for one: “So what makes you so high and mighty when it comes to weed, anyway?”

The Pot Snob does not like to have his authority challenged.

Now, moving on to your specific query regarding the differences between indica and sativa... Just to show you how complicated the simplest, most “rudimentary” question can be when it comes to cannabis, smoke on this: The scientific community still hasn’t reached a consensus on the question of whether indica and sativa represent two distinct species (under the shared genus cannabis) or whether they represent subsets of the same species.

Fortunately, I’m a professional Pot Snob, not a genetic-science researcher, so such theoretical questions don’t really concern me except as an interesting aside.

I’m much more interested in the real-world story of indica and sativa from the smoker’s point of view. Regardless of whether two different species evolved from the same genus or whether one species split along geographic lines, by the time mankind came around to get high, the plant had divided into two easily distinguishable lines, with sativas growing wild in almost all equatorial regions of the globe (Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, Jamaica, etc.) and indicas thriving in southern Asia and the Indian subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Nepal, etc.). In each case, the plants were eventually discovered, recognized, cultivated and bred for specific uses—sativas for straight smoking and indicas for making hashish and kif. These practices continued for thousands of years, without the two lines ever crossing paths, until a combination of far-wandering hippies, the Grateful Dead and the US War on Drugs brought them together for the first time.

In the early, innocent days of illicit American marijuana smoking, from the 1930s until the declaration of an all-out war on weed at the end of the 1970s, most of what ended up filling our star-spangled bongs arrived by way of Mexico and South America, smuggled across a loosely patrolled border. Check out a copy of HIGH TIMES from our very early days, and you’ll see a steady stream of smuggled sativa strains with names like Panama Red, Punta Roja and Santa Marta Gold.

Our own founder, Tom Forçade, used to personally fly planeloads of Colombian sativa, then known as the strongest smoke on the market, into the country.