Marijuana Strains: Which Strain of Cannabis is Right for You?

By WeedWeek May 23, 2020

When it comes to choices, a cannabis user has many. In fact, there are so many marijuana strains out there that it would take years to try them all if you smoked one per day. And the best part about it? More marijuana strains are constantly under development. 

Marijuana strains differ because there are different cannabis plants. The buds that come from these plants, even though they are cannabis flowers, are definitely not created equal. Each plant variety and the buds that come from them have their own unique composition, chemical structure, scent, and effect. And while the feeling one gets from each variety will vary from person to person, and even session to session, each marijuana variety is unique. 

What is a Marijuana Strain?

Today, the thousands of marijuana strains that are available worldwide are believed to descend from a single variety of cannabis that has its roots in Asia. It’s quite similar to the hundreds of dog breeds that we know and love that are direct descendants of the gray wolf. 

Thousands of years of cultivation, cross-pollination, and breeding have resulted in thousands of different marijuana strains, each different from one another. 

While there are countless strain names, there is no real botanical significance behind them. Generally speaking, strains are given and named based on how the buds look, smell, and how they’re marketed. Marketing has a big part in the naming and classification of different strains and how they’ll eventually be pitched and sold by growers to dispensaries and to the consumer. Marijuana strains like Purple Monkey Balls and The Stickiest of the Icky are classified this way because the names are fun, memorable, and easy to market. 

How to Choose a Marijuana Strain

Choosing a strain comes down to personal taste and the reasons behind using cannabis in the first place. If someone wants to smoke cannabis recreationally to get high, finding strong strains with high levels of THC is the best bet. 

For people who aren’t looking to get high may prefer strains with higher levels of CBD. It’s important, though, to know that marijuana strains won’t provide consistent effects to each and every user. 

Experimenting is a great way to see what works best for you. You can do this by smoking buds, consuming oils, or choosing marijuana edibles. While a lot of people will swear by a certain strain giving a certain effect, the way it reacts with them will likely be different for you. The hype behind certain varieties is largely anecdotal and people tend to recommend strains based on qualities that are commonly discussed, even if they aren’t scientifically proven. What’s more, unlike wine grapes and other plants there’s no formal classification system to determine the difference between say Blue Dream and Sour Diesel.  

Different Types of Marijuana Strains

As any cannabis user knows, there are three main types of marijuana. If you go into a dispensary, for example, you’ll be asked if you’re looking for an indica variety, sativa variety, or a hybrid. But do these varieties really make a big difference? Or is their popularity based on popularity and marketing? 

Indica Marijuana Strains 

Indica strains are popular among people who are looking to relax or treat symptoms that can be treated with cannabis. Although there is no empirical data backing up the widespread claims, indica strains are popularly used to treat pain, anxiety, stress, and insomnia. 

Sativa Marijuana Strains

Sativa strains are more closely associated with the head high that’s popular among recreational users. The marketing behind sativa varieties, in comparison to the indicas, is that they will help with creativity and energize you.

It’s easier for budtenders and dispensary owners to sell more product by having these categories and getting their customers to have preferences. It is a great way to keep them coming back. But because of so many years of breeding plants and creating new strains, it’s very difficult to even have a true indica or sativa plant. Most strains, regardless of their packaging, are hybrids. 

Hybrid Marijuana Strains

The term hybrid is a great marketing word because it essentially tells consumers that they are getting the best of both worlds. For someone looking for the perfect high, for example, a hybrid strain of cannabis suggests the best features of an indica plant and the best features of a sativa plant. Well, at least that’s how it is sold and why growers are constantly creating new marijuana strains. 

Most strains are hybrids. It’s impossible for the consumer to know exactly what’s going on at the molecular level of the buds they are about to smoke or the oils they are about to vape. Even dispensaries can’t know what they’re dealing with as growers can label their cannabis however they choose. 

What Are Popular Marijuana Strains?

Marijuana strains vary in popularity depending on a number of different factors, some of which, don’t have that much to do with the bud itself. One of the main factors that play into a certain strain achieving popularity has to do with availability in a region. 

A cannabis strain that might be incredibly popular in Northern California might not be well-known in Colorado. Availability and local trends play a large part in what flies off the shelf. 

There are certainly other factors that can lead to a surge in popularity. Movies and music can generate demand for cannabis strains, making it so a bud that was virtually unknown, or completely non-existent, highly popular. 

Pineapple Express is a perfect example. Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg invented the marijuana strain for the movie of the same name. Shortly after release, the strain came into existence (or was an existing strain that was simply rebranded) and exploded in popularity. It is still one of the most popular strains to this day, 12 years after the movie was released. 

15 popular marijuana strains

  • Acapulco Gold
  • Afghan Kush
  • Blue Dream
  • Bubba Kush
  • Fruity Pebbles 
  • Golden Goat
  • Granddaddy Purple
  • Gelato
  • Maui Wowie
  • Northern Lights
  • Pineapple Express
  • Purple Kush
  • Sour Diesel 
  • Super Silver Haze
  • White Widow


How Many Strains of Weed Are There? 

Considering the growing popularity of marijuana on a global level, calculating the exact number of available strains is impossible. 

The number 779 is a popular go-to number for many marijuana blogs and pot smokers. In fact, you can find countless articles on the internet that point to that number dating back many years. Some purists and experienced growers will say that just because someone can pollinate plants, the end result doesn’t necessarily mean the birth of a new strain or that the grower is a breeder. 

But that isn’t accurate from a scientific standpoint. Even though the strain might not be as potent or smell as good as more popular strains, if the molecular structure of a new plant is unique because of the two plants that were breeding to create it, technically a new strain is born. Whether it will sell or become popular is a whole different story. This is why marketing is such an important aspect in the business of selling marijuana strains.

As new variations of plants appear with cross-pollination, new marijuana strains will be born. Technically, once there is a new molecular structure of a plant, there is a new variety of cannabis. That doesn’t necessarily mean the new variety will be popular or find its way into dispensaries across the country, though. 

What Is The Strongest Strain Of Marijuana?

Because marijuana has a different impact on each user, claiming that one strain is the strongest would be anecdotal at best. There are competitions and awards in the cannabis industry that can shed light on strong and popular strains by crowning them champions. This is a good way to find strong strains as the winners are based on numerous judges reporting their findings. 

“Strongest strain” could also have different meanings. If someone is looking for a strain with the highest THC level, their findings might be different from someone seeking the best body high. Head highs and body highs different from strain to strain. Seeking the most energy or biggest spurts of creativity will also differ from strain to strain. 

Because of so many different variables at play, finding the strongest strain for you will happen only after experimenting with many different strains and finding the one that best satisfies your desires.


For someone new to the cannabis world, going into a dispensary can be a bit of a daunting experience. The choices seem endless and it can be challenging to find what you’re looking for. 

But at the end of the day, each and every marijuana variety has its own merit and benefits. Relying too much on what the budtenders at the dispensary say or recommend can only lead to more confusion as each product will impact people differently. 

When in doubt, choose cannabis strains that are popular at your local dispensary and see which one gives you the best experience. Being open to trying new strains is the best way to figure out which strain is best for you.