Summertime and the cannabis strains are easy

Our writer picks his favorite options for stress, anxiety, and pain, sleepless nights, and even lingering PTSD

Illustration by Serene Lusano

David Downs is a San Francisco-based writer. A version of this story originally appeared in the East Bay Express.

Over the years, the average medical-cannabis patients’ tastes have evolved—from merely being satisfied with having some buds to understanding types of buds, such as indica and sativa.

Still, patients can do better. Whatever the need, there are some good options available in Sacramento dispensaries right now.

Here are some of the leading strains out this summer, based on my notes from the beat, and adapted from my new book, The Medical Marijuana Guidebook (Whitman Publishing, $29.95).

The fruit stand

Summer means sativas—the generally more energetic of the two broad classes of medical cannabis flower. Sativas evolved for the tropical sun. They’re taller, rangier and lankier than their short, squat, indica cousins, and they evolved different ratios of molecules to beat the heat.

Some of those are smell molecules called terpenes, which can mimic lemons, oranges, strawberries and candy in certain sativas. These aromas alone can have anti-depressant effects, research shows. When combined with the often-high levels of THC (cannabis’ main active ingredient) found in modern sativas—they can cause serious elevation. Used judiciously, sativas can help manage certain depressive disorders, or the chronic stress of summer’s packed schedule.

Spotted at the High Times NorCal Cannabis Cup in San Francisco this June, first place Sour Tangie from CannaCruz delivery ( has a citrus-fuel aroma and a high amount of THC for a regular patient.

For new patients, get low or middling THC sativas starting with cheaper, outdoor-grown strains, or the “shake” found in “pre-rolls”—which are already-rolled cannabis cigarettes sold at dispensaries. It’s been spotted in Sacramento for as low as $20 per 5-pack at Horizon Collective (3600 Power Inn Road, Suite A1).

On the high-end side, topping the THC-charts for chronic patients are the sativas Slymer or Super Lemon Haze from RCP. Few finer specimens of the super-sweet, citrus cut exist. Other great Haze family options include DNA Genetics Strawberry Fields, available at Collective Efforts (2831 Fruitridge Road), and Ghost Train Haze, found at the 515 Broadway Collective dispensary (515 Broadway).

Warning: Haze’s spaciness can be a desired effect—or an unwanted side effect, depending on your intent. For more grounded feelings, anchor your sativa in some indica, which is the secret to summer anxiety stalwart Blue Dream, seen at the Florin Wellness Center (1421 47th Avenue). You too can replicate its mix of sativa Haze and indica hybrid Blueberry. Try Bubble Gum Dreams, available at CC101 (6435 Florin Perkins Road), or Collective Efforts’ Lemon Head, or Banana OG at Northstar Holistic Collective (1236 C Street), or Tangie at 515 Broadway.

The gas station

Gorilla Glue No. 4 is recommended for veterans.

Photo courtesy of David Downs

Speaking of hybrids, this year is also the official summer of Gorilla Glue No. 4—a triple-back-crossed Diesel and Chocolate Thai topping the charts in THC and trendiness. For OG Kush lovers, this is OG’s cousin Sour Diesel bred three times with its own kind, and some Chocolate-smelling sativa Thai to boot. Not for novices, Gorilla Glue No. 4 is recommended for veteran patients and is available at Abatin Wellness (2100 29th Street).

Other sativa-leaning options from the “fuel” line include Headband and the Cookies chain’s Gasoline. All of these strains share a sativa mother—Colorado’s mythic Chem Dawg, a high-THC hybrid so astringent-smelling, pungent and biting, it launched the modern cannabis era.

You can find notes of Chem tucked away in the best indicas of the summer, too, which can help shut down insomnia or nausea and pain.

The Girl Scout Cookies trend also evolves this year with cuts of Hi Tech, following Gelato and Sunset Sherbet. They all share a common indica core of sedation, wrapped in varying layers of sativa energy and creamy berry smells.

But the lady to watch out for this year is DoSiDos—found at Northstar Holistic Collective. It’s Alien Labs’ local cross of OGKB and Face Off OG where the breeders focused on a maximum-THC, maximum-flavor indica hybrid that can leave newbies spinning.

One day, chemists hope to replace vague words like sativa and indica with the precise chemical fingerprint (“chemotype”) of each strain. Until then, this rich folk taxonomy remains. And, hey, expert pot breeders perform pretty admirably with their bare senses. Take the case of the molecule cannabidiol: Long-before breeders had a gas chromatograph to confirm CBD, they chucked out weed that didn’t get them high.

Today, CBD is back and being bred into the best-tasting buds ever. Patients who want an anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory or analgesic option that causes low or no euphoria have more choices. Chief among them, MPMH Chill Up, spotted at Abatin, as well as Harlequin, and Canna-Tsu. And Cannatonic at A Therapeutic Alternative (3015 H Street).

High-CBD flower can be mixed in to dampen the euphoria of your favorite summer strain for pain relief during outdoor activities, or managing PTSD and other anxiety disorders in crowds.