Classification of Cannabis sativa L. in Relation to Agricultural, Biotechnological, Medical and Recreational Utilization

  • Ernest SmallEmail author


Cannabis sativa has been utilized for millennia, primarily as a source of a stem fiber (both the plant and the fiber termed “hemp”) and a resinous intoxicant (the plant and its drug preparations commonly termed “marijuana”), and secondarily as a source of edible seeds. In domesticating the species for these divergent purposes, humans have altered the morphology, chemistry, distribution and ecology of cultivated forms by comparison with related wild plants. Wild-growing plants appear to be either escapes from domesticated forms or the results of thousands of years of widespread genetic exchange with domesticated plants, making it impossible to determine if unaltered primeval or ancestral populations still exist. There are conflicting botanical classifications of Cannabis, including splitting it into several alleged species. The different approaches to classifying and naming plants such as Cannabis, with interbreeding domesticated and wild forms, are examined. It is recommended that Cannabis sativa be recognized as a single species, within which there is a high-THC subspecies with both domesticated and ruderal varieties, and similarly a low-THC subspecies with both domesticated and ruderal varieties. Alternative approaches to the classification of Cannabis that do not utilize scientific nomenclature are noted.


Fiber Hemp Domesticate Plant Land Race Cannabis Sativa Medical Marijuana 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The figures were prepared by B. Brookes.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Technology BranchAgriculture and Agri-Food CanadaOttawaCanada

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