Terms such as “chemotype” in relation to cannabis are taken from the microbiology field. The term “chemotype” (used interchangeably with “chemovar”) refers to a chemically distinct subspecies in a plant or microorganism, in this case, the distinct compounds originated from inside the cannabis plant. Chemotype is actually a shortened term for Chemical Phenotypes. Cannabis exists in different chemical variants which show chemical— and even morphological— differences, known as chemotypes. According to Chasen, these chemical compounds influence and control the comprehensive experience felt from consumption. Some industries use the Cannabis subspecies terms such as “Sativa”— referring to C. sativa— as well as “Indica”— referring to C. indica— to explain experiences, but cannabinoids, terpenes, and chemotype are becoming popular for labels in dispensaries.

The three main chemotypes of Cannabis sativa are as follows:

  • Chemotype I—drug type
    • Higher concentrations of THC
    • Medicinal Properties such as analgesic, anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, anti-tremor, and appetite stimulating
    • High recreational usage
    • Often grown in tropical zones below latitude 30
    • Different sizes and shapes:
      • Most common: 10 to 12 feet tall, bushy, with branches that grow outward to form the plant into a cone (similar to a pine tree).
      • Taller varieties that grow up to 18 feet have branches that grow upward (like a poplar tree).
      • Less common:  up to eight feet tall, develops several main stems, and the plants’ sprawl along the ground.
  • Chemotype II— intermediate
    • Equal to near-equal rations of CBD and THC
    • Variable effects dependent on the ratio of CBD and THC
    • Grown at latitude 30
    • Different Sizes and Shapes
      • Most common: approximately 8-12 feet with a shape similar to poplar trees. Long branches grow upward, and branches are short higher up the stem.
      • Shorter varieties range 4-8 feet, bushy with a dense covering of leaves.
      • Other 5-7-foot varieties appear similar to hemp: slender, straight stems and small, weak branches.
      • Common short variety: less than four feet tall, with a dense and continuous cluster of buds along the stem. Similar to common marijuana plants.
  • Chemotype III— fibre
    • High concentrations of CBD and low concentrations of THC
    • Used for medicinal, commercial, and industrial purposes
    • Grown north of latitude 30
    • Diverse morphology
      • Plants and seeds come in a wider variety of shapes and sizes than chemotype I and II

The easiest distinction between chemotypes is the presence and concentration of CBD and THC. The second distinction for classification is which terpenes are present and dominant.

Chasen also added that a good number of dispensaries have formed the habit of labeling their cannabis flower as Indica or Sativa or hybrid, while other dispensaries display the THC and CBD concentrations by percentage. These concentrations will provide an idea to the kinds of experience and effects the product would produce. Some dispensaries incorporate the overall percentage of terpenes on each of their product labels