Cannabis Genetics – What Are They and Why Does It Matter?

Why do all of us look different? And why, when you smoke, do some strains chill you out and make you feel super happy, while others get you all hyped up and creative? It's all determined by genetics.

Cannabis genetics dictate what traits the plant will have, how much and what mix of cannabinoids it'll contain, and ultimately, what kind of buzz it's going to give you.

Let’s explore cannabis genetics and everything you should know as a user or retailer about the different types of genetics for cannabis.

The Basics of Cannabis Genetics

Just like us humans, cannabis plants have their genetic info packed into their DNA. That's what decides how the plant looks, what kind of cannabinoids and terpenes it's packing, and even how it smells.

It’s a plant that reproduces sexually – the male and female parts produce seeds through pollination. Each one of those seeds carries its special combination of genes from its parent plants. And that's the recipe for the huge variety of strains we see out there. Check out the chart below to see how DNA and genes shape all the traits of the cannabis plant.

DNA and Genes

Cannabis Plant Structure

Genetic Influence on Characteristics

- DNA: The blueprint of life, carrying genetic instructions

- Anatomy of cannabis plant: roots, stems, leaves, flowers

- Morphology: height, leaf shape, flowering time

- Genes: Units of heredity responsible for traits

- Reproduction: sexual reproduction, seed production

- Cannabinoid profile: THC, CBD, CBG, etc.

- Inheritance: Passing of genetic traits from parent to offspring

- Pollination: male and female plants, seed formation

- Terpene composition: aroma, flavor, therapeutic properties


Table 1: The influence of genetics on the qualities of a cannabis plant.

The table clearly shows that from its leaf shape to its cannabinoid content, everything is dictated by a predetermined genetic makeup of this plant. Understanding the fundamentals of cannabis genetics is crucial in appreciating the diversity and complexity of this remarkable plant.

Sativa, the Real Diva

Cannabis sativa L. has a rich genetic makeup that has evolved over millions of years. Despite the strains available today, every type basically traces its origins back to this single species. The distinction is often within the interplay between phenotype and genotype. While phenotype manifests as the observable traits of a plant, genotype represents its underlying genetic makeup.

At the cellular level, cannabis plants have genetic information encoded within their DNA. Through the process of cell division, this genetic blueprint is passed down from generation to generation.

Hybridization and the Novel Strains

The types often spring from hybridization – breeders aim to create hybrids that offer the best of both worlds by crossing indica, sativa, and ruderalis strains. It gives you some control over the potent psychoactive effects and the benefits.

Selective breeding is what they often use to enhance certain characteristics, such as potency, yield, or resistance to pests and diseases. Techniques like backcrossing, inbreeding, and hybridization are commonly used to stabilize and refine genetic qualities. That’s what led to the development of our iconic strains Acapulco Gold, Avenue of the Giants, and Ayahuasca Purple.

The landrace strains embody the pure, untainted genetics of ancestral cannabis varieties. On the other hand, modern hybrids showcase the ingenuity of contemporary breeding practices.

Some Examples Illustrating Differences Between Different Types

The ultimate user experience for recreational use is another major demand that drives these brilliant strains. Different strains produce distinct effects – you can choose relaxation, euphoria, creativity, sociability, and whatnot.

Selecting and breeding strains with specific cannabinoid and terpene profiles gives producers a chance to cater to consumer preferences and market trends. Here are some real-life examples of products we offer at Crested River:

Cannabis Variety

Genetic Lineage



Acapulco Gold (F)

Derived from Central American genetics

It exhibits a predominantly Sativa profile. Acapulco Gold showcases robust colas with reddish-brown calyxes adorned in THC crystals. Its flavor profile of a fruit cocktail, coupled with a prolonged high that balances relaxation and euphoria, surpasses the legendary smoke of yesteryears.

Suitable for Indoors/Outdoors

Avenue of the Giants (F)

(Textarossa x Sour Strawburied)

It combines three terpene-rich strains. The aroma, redolent of fermented grapes, strawberries, sassafras, and red cedar delivers a high followed by a heady experience. With an early finishing time, it's particularly well-suited for outdoor cultivation.

Recommended for Indoor/Outdoor Cultivation

Ayahuasca Purple (F)

A hybrid of Red River Delta and Master Kush

Indica-dominant strain with wide fan leaves and dense buds needing support in the final week of flowering. Rich hazelnut and papaya aroma with a heavenly relaxing effect. Crossed with Master Kush, creating a perfect strain for elevating consciousness.

Ideal for Indoor Cultivation


Table 2: Genetic Strains and their differences.

Medical Legal and Regulatory Implications

Research backs most of the claims about the beneficial applications of cannabis – their cannabinoids and terpenes – towards wellbeing. Understanding the genetic makeup of cannabis allows researchers to develop tailored options for people. Consistency and reliability in medical cannabis products are fundamentally ensured through genetic testing, third-party testing, and standardized cultivation practices.

Still, legal and regulatory frameworks surrounding its genetics remain complex and ever-evolving. The classification of cannabis strains and the ownership of genetic resources are subject to various laws and regulations, which can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another. For users, we have previously underscored the recent legislation of cannabis-related products in Minnesota.

Ethical Considerations

Questions surrounding patenting and ownership of genetic strains raise concerns about accessibility and equity within the industry. The environmental impact of intensive cultivation practices and genetic modification must be weighed against the potential benefits of innovation and progress. Some points to consider in this area include:

  • Ethical considerations in licensing and commercialization agreements.
  • Ecological footprint of indoor cultivation and genetic monocultures.
  • Sustainable cultivation practices: organic farming, regenerative agriculture.
  • Mitigating pollution and habitat destruction associated with cannabis cultivation.
  • Ensuring small-scale breeders and indigenous communities have access to genetic resources.
  • Establishing frameworks for sharing and protecting genetic diversity.


Studying cannabis genetics gives you a fascinating glimpse into the workings of one of our planet’s most versatile plants. The remarkable things it can do could give us a sustainable and equitable future for all. However, the legal, ethical, and scientific complexities of this plant demand that we approach it with curiosity and a commitment to responsible stewardship.

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