Cannabis Class: An Introduction to Cannabis
Alright everyone, sit down and shut up, class is in session.
When it comes to cannabis there is a lot of misinformation spread on the internet. This is understandable due to its troubled past (and present) in the eyes of the law. The reason I’m starting this “Cannabis Class” blog series, is to educate everyone from the rudimental basics, working our way up to more complex topics of discussion like the endocannabinoid system for example. Today you will learn about the species, genders, chemical make-up and uses for cannabis.
So, lets first ask ourselves what is cannabis? Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family called ‘Cannabaceae’.
Species and Genders
The cannabis plant has 3 species. The 2 most commonly known are Sativa and Indica, there is however a third species called Ruderalis. Below you can see the differences between the three, in the leaves, size, structure and root system of the plants.
Every species of the cannabis plant will either be male, female or hermaphrodite. The female plants produce resinous buds loaded with cannabinoids, the male plants form little bulbous sacs filled with pollen. The hermaphrodite plants carry both resinous buds and pollen filled sacs.
Chemical make-up of the plant
The marijuana plant is comprised of over 100 chemicals known as cannabinoids with each having different effects on the body. The two most notable chemicals in cannabis are THC and CBD
THC – ‘Tetrahydrocannabinol’ This is the psychoactive compound; the one that gets you high. THC acts on specific receptors in the brain known as cannabinoid or CB1 receptors.
CBD – ‘Cannabidiol’ When you ingest CBD, it can stimulate the production of endocannabinoids, helping the endocannabinoid system to run smoothly. Through its mechanisms, CBD has an indirect influence on both cannabinoid receptors. (Separate Cannabis Class blog on this to come)
Uses of Cannabis
So now we know the basics of the plant; the species, genders and chemical make-up, let’s explore the uses of this plant. Cannabis is grown for 3 reasons;
1 – Recreational, 2- Medicinal and 3 – Industrial.
This is the use of the psychoactive drug (in a non-medical way) to induce an altered state of consciousness for pleasure. When put up against Medicinal and Industrial, Recreational marijuana contains the highest amount of THC. The THC is absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs (if smoked) or through the walls of the stomach and intestines (if eaten). The bloodstream then carries the THC to the brain, producing the ‘high’ effects.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines medical cannabis as "using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions". Medicinal marijuana can improve cancer patient’s nausea and vomiting, it also can help increase people’s appetite which can be very useful for people with HIV/AIDS and eating disorders. Studies show that medical marijuana can also help with chronic pain, muscle spasms, some neurological conditions, asthma, glaucoma and PTSD to name a few.
In order for farms to legally grow cannabis specially made for medical uses, the THC level in the plants must be >0.3% THC. Medical cannabis can be extracted from both marijuana plants, and industrial hemp plants.
Hemp, or industrial hemp, is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species that is grown specifically for industrial use. It can be used to make a wide range of products including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. By definition, in order for a cannabis plant to be for industrial use, in most countries it must contain no more than 0.3% THC.
Where a lot of people get confused and come unstuck is with the different names that are thrown around. Cannabis, Hemp, Marijuana… so what’s the difference?
Well, the easiest way to explain is to look at the tree map below, up top is ‘Cannabis’, meaning everything will always fall under that. Under cannabis, is Hemp and Marijuana (which are both cannabis) but have different uses. Hemp is used for both industrial products and medicinal products, Marijuana is used for both recreational and medicinal purposes.
So that’s it, lesson one down. What did we learn? Cannabis is a plant, it has three main species, Indica, Sativa and Ruderalis. All Cannabis plants are either Male, Female or Hermaphrodite. The two most notable chemicals in cannabis are THC and CBD. THC is the chemical compound that gets you high, CBD is the chemical compound that has medicinal healing properties. And lastly, there are three uses for cannabis; recreational, medicinal and industrial.
Thanks for coming to my Cannabis Class, I hope to see you at the next one!
Some good news to finish off the class… no homework for you today ;) Now get outta here you lot!
-Professor Milo (not actually a professor)
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