A landrace is the archetypal version of a plant that developed to meet its environment. Cannabis is an adaptive plant, varying in shape and size and thriving, earning its weed moniker. Cultivars are different species of plant derived from a landrace, through natural variation or genetic breeding by humans who have kept cannabis stocks as part of their societies for at least 3,000 years.
In South America where there may be many other plants to compete with for sunlight and moisture, taller sativa plants are grown with their large familiar leaves. They undertake a longer growing cycle and due to their large leaves require a lot of sunlight to flourish. Sativa plants, and their cultivar offsprings, are used as mood modifiers for conditions such as anxiety or depression.
In more mountainous regions, such as India or Afghanistan, the shorter, bushier indica cannabis plants grow quicker and closer to the ground, than sativas, maximising limited resources. Their short stature and slightly hostile environment leads to a potent, concentrated, product. As such, the cultivar derivatives of indica plants give a stronger full body feeling. It delivers both THC and CBD effects and indica cultivars are primarily used as cannabis for pain and insomnia.
In places like Columbia, both types have been known to grow with the flatter wetter sea-level areas on the Atlantic coast giving rise to strains such as Colombian Skies with the more mountainous regions around Santa Marta giving rise to the aptly named Santa Marta Gold and Colombina Gold.
In the northern half of the northern hemisphere, cannabis ruderalis grows. While not short and bushy like an indica or tall and leafy like a sativa, it only contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis. As such, its use has been primarily as hemp in the manufacture of paper and materials such as sails and cordage for shipping. It is also used in splicing and creation of cultivars where desirable traits such as size and flowering cycles are transferred to other plants.
All three landraces spread through natural means like climate shifts or animal migration but also with humans as they spread across territories. The British required almost all of their colonies, including the Americas, to grow harvests of hemp as a means of growing resources for further exploration. They also used cannabis grown in India by the East India Company as a moliant for disruptive slaves and maintaining a company store of cannabis stocks in Jamaica into the twentieth century.
Ultimately, from these three original landraces and their offshoots, growers are able to tailor plants with specific cultivation and consumption aims. Either a quick growing, concentrated strain of cannabis for pain relief or leafier cannabis plants, with low THC levels, for soaps and creams that deliver CBD effects without getting you high. Tailor made strains, cloned and given to patients and consumers to grow themselves, is the ultimate expression of a tailor made product meeting a customer’s specific needs.