The Leafly Cannabis Guide: Finding Your Colour

As scientists learn more about cannabis, they are also disproving old, long-held beliefs. For example, the old indica/sativa binary: “indicas provide a mellow, stony body high, and sativas will give you an uplifting head high.” It was simple and easy to remember, but unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Enter, the Leafly Cannabis Guide.

Extensive interbreeding of cannabis strains means that even if predicting a strain’s effects was that simple (it’s not), a plant that looks like a sativa might actually have the chemical makeup of an indica, and vice-versa. And really, it’s the blend of THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, and various terpenes that really determine a strain’s effect. Unfortunately, while the complex interactions between the hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis is a fascinating subject, that complexity makes it very difficult for consumers to zero in on the strains that have the user’s desired effects. Other than trial and error, there hasn’t been an effective solution… until now.

Leafly Cannabis Guide

Leafly’s CEO, Tim Leslie, says: “Cannabis has unique physiological effects for each of us. As our understanding of cannabis grows, so does our need for a more sophisticated, yet intuitive language to help people navigate the very personal effects cannabis has.” 

Leafly’s new cannabis guide is exactly that: a simple visual guide to cannabis, where the chemical makeup of each strain is represented by a flower-like emblem made of multicoloured circles and diamonds. It’s visually pleasing as well as easier to understand, and will allow users to tell at a glance what a strain’s effects will be. But, as simple as this new system is, it does take a little bit of knowledge to understand it. So, what do you need to know?

The Guide, Explained

We’ll start with the shapes. THC is represented by diamonds, and CBD is represented by circles. There will be one shape in the center that indicates which of these two compounds is most prevalent in the strain, and circles and diamonds will appear together in strains that contain a mix of both. Bigger circles mean larger amounts of CBD, and bigger or longer diamonds mean more THC. That’s simple enough, but it doesn’t give consumers any new information – THC and CBD content is already printed on the labels of any cannabis purchased in a dispensary. 

The real added value is in the colours that you’ll see on each flower. These represent the five most common terpenes found in cannabis:

cannabis guide
  • Myrcene, which has an earthy scent and is also found in hops, mango, and lemongrass, and is represented by the colour blue.
  • Pinene, which is found in basil, dill, rosemary, and the pine needles it gets its name from. This terpene is fittingly represented by green. 
  • Caryophyllene, which smells like black pepper and is also found in cloves and cinnamon. It is represented by red.
  • Limonene, represented by yellow, has a citrus scent and is found in fruit rinds, rosemary, juniper, and peppermint.
  • Terpinolene, which has a fruity scent and is found in nutmeg, cumin, and lilacs, is represented by orange.

One of the benefits of Leafly’s new visual system is that you won’t have to remember any of these names. The main advantage, though, is that you’ll be able to associate the terpenes’ colours with their effects. Based on strain reviews by Leafly users, these colours are arranged on a spectrum: blue on the calming end, terpinolene on the energizing end, and red in the middle.


Of course, user experiences may vary – any given terpene may have different effects of different users. This is another benefit of the colour system: you’ll be able to figure out the effects for yourself, find the colours that provide the effects you’re looking for, and quickly and easily zero in on your favourite strains. There won’t be any guesswork involved, and there will be very little trial-and-error required. 

How Do I Know This is Accurate?

If you’ve been a cannabis enthusiast for any length of time, you will have heard of Leafly. Leafly was founded in 2010 and is now the largest cannabis website in the world. They keep a massive database of hundreds of cannabis strains, and host users’ reviews of each of those strains. While every user’s experience with a strain is unique to that users, the vast amount of data that Leafly has collected allows for fairly accurate averages.

To create the new Leafly Cannabis Guide, Leafly’s scientists partnered with seven leading labs to collect even more accurate data and ensure that the new visual flowers would correctly represent what consumers get. After sourcing data from both labs and over a million user reviews, Leafly developed a new proprietary software to create the flower emblems that you’ll soon be seeing on products. You can be confident that what you see in the flower is accurate. 

This Will Change Things 

In the words of Ryan Hirsch, Kiaro’s marketing manager, “Leafly’s new cannabis guide will revolutionize the industry, and the way we speak about and classify cannabis. As we’re all unique, the extensive data will enable consumers to address individual preferences and make their own informed buying decisions.”

The key words there are “revolutionize the industry.” This new system is far superior to a faulty indica/sativa/hybrid starting point followed by guesswork, so you can bet that before long dispensaries, growers, and other cannabis-related companies throughout legal areas will adopt this new system. With a brief overview given by a friendly neighbourhood budtender, anyone – regardless of their level of cannabis experience – can quickly find the best products for their wants and needs. 

leafly cannabis guide
Nick Jikomes – Calm Collectiv Podcast #001

Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s principle research scientist, sums this exciting new development best when he states that “one of the great benefits of legalization is the opportunity to more fully research and understand the effects of cannabis and the unique chemical compounds that influence our experience. We developed the Leafly Cannabis Guide to give everyone the ability to visualize, learn, and apply information about the amazing diversity of this plant. We’re embracing complexity while providing simplicity — and have created the most comprehensive way to explore cannabis strains yet. We’re excited to see the ways consumers, retailers, doctors, scientists and others will use it to evolve the conversation around cannabis.” 

Of course, there are hundreds more cannabinoids besides THC and CBD that affect a strain’s resulting high, and the same goes for terpenes. However, scientists still don’t know exactly what most cannabinoids do, so more information wouldn’t really be helpful at this point. So, is this guide perfect? Maybe not. Is it a huge step forward for consumers, cannabis enthusiasts, and the industry in general? Absolutely, and it will be exciting to see how it changes common knowledge and conversation around cannabis.

For more information about the Leafly Cannabis Guide, be sure to check out the new Leafly website.


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