The Indica marijuana taxonomy begins with French Biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who identified Cannabis indica in 1785 as a separate species from Cannabis sativa, as classified by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus 32 years earlier. Lamarck primarily based his C. indica classification on morphological differences from Linnaeus’s C. sativa plant, including narrow, dark green leaves and denser branching. But he did note that C. indica was a more potent inebriant than C. sativa.
The shift from Lamarck’s C. indica to our current definition of the Indica plant came in 1974 when American biologist Richard Evans Schultes applied the term C. indica to cannabis plants in Afghanistan. These plants looked different than Lamarck’s Indian C. indica plants, exhibiting a shorter stalk and wider leaves.
Schultes’ C. indica marijuana classification ended up having a huge impact on the development of our modern-day Indica/Sativa taxonomy, tying the Indica variety to a distinct geographic origin. This would later be emulated by Florida State University biologist Loran C. Anderson, who designated Afghani plants as C. indica and Indian plants as C. sativa.
In the cannabis marketplace, both Indica and Sativa are terms heavily associated with their effects. For most cannabis users, the term Indica will evoke memories of haziness, couch lock, and deep relaxation.
The industry uses this association as a way to market Indica and sativa cultivars (strains), and thousands of other cannabis products. But while the effects we typically associate with Indica may have originated with the Indica plant, there is no real correlation between the effects and physical structure of today’s cannabis plants.