Exotic pot is actually pretty basic: Learn these six major genres of cannabis

Updated: Oct 31

By: Calvin Stovall and David Downs

There are six main terpene profiles that define the 6,000 strains in the Leafly database today. Leafly turned them into music genres, so you can curate your next dispensary list with the same precision as your playlist.

Cannabis’ smell molecules, terpenes, are the instruments that set the pace and melody of your high.

There are 17 common terpenes that can be mixed and matched into six major classes, according to SC Labs and the Emerald Cup, who introduced new terpene-based judging categories into their 2021 competition to cover the full spectrum of modern cultivar scene.

They established “sensible category names that everyone from seasoned smokers to the canna-curious can relate to,” according to the Cup’s website. The categories are SC Labs’ solution to the growing number of “jaded cannabis consumers (that) are finally tuning in to the fact that buying cannabis products based on THC totals alone rarely leads to an optimal experience.”

Indica, sativa, and hybrid classification can also be misleading, as Dr. Nick Jikomes’ industry-leading research has found.

To demystify the shopper journey, Budtenders and shoppers can use the SC Labs judging categories and Leafly’s color-coded shape cards to help remember which strains and terps they prefer. Even easier, we mapped the terp families to music genres below. That way, everyone can choose and recommend new cultivars with confidence, instead of relying on THC percentage, trial and error, or picking the funkiest name.

Here’s how to use popular terpene profiles to browse weed strains by genre.

What are terpenes?

A robust terpene profile in weed adds to the flavour and overall experience.

Terpenes are the aromatic compounds that give cannabis strains their unique scent and appearance. They are also tied to specific effects. These are the six most prominent terpenes in modern cannabis, according to SC Labs data, ranked by how common they are in modern genetics:

Leafly has a color-coded system that can help you learn about all of the major terpenes. For now, think of the different terps like the elements that compose your favorite song or movie. The pace, melody, performers and more all contribute to the final product. Just the same, terps are the building blocks of each experience with the plant.

The dominant terpene(s) in a strain will show in the appearance, smell, and taste of the bud. But terps will also influence the effect a user feels as a result. Just as certain songs can hype you up or calm you down, and different movie genres can make you laugh, cry, or scream, common terpene profiles can deliver very different results depending on the user and their goals.


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