Weed, pot, herb, marijuana… This plant has many names but it’s most accurate name is Cannabis. The Cannabis plant can be subdivided into three groups. Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica & Cannabis ruderalis.
Cannabis sativa grows tall, has narrow fingers on it’s fan leaves and it’s origins trace back to South East Asia. Cannabis indica grows shorter and bushier. It has thick fingers on it’s fan leaves and is thought to originate from the mountains of Central Asia. Cannabis ruderalis is similar to Cannabis indica, except ruderalis is an auto-flowering plant, which means it’s vegetative cycle is extremely short and grows almost directly into its flowering cycle.
Cannabis has long been used by humans. Written record dates as far back as 3,000 BCE and archeological evidence suggest it’s use goes back much farther. It was widely used for fiber, food and possibly it’s psychoactive properties.
Hemp & Marijuana
Cannabis is the actual name for both Hemp & Marijuana, which can be confusing. For the longest time Hemp referred to male Cannabis sativa plants which were cultivated for their fiber. It was not a scientific label, it was just a name to refer to a specific type of Cannabis. In modern times Hemp has a legal definition. With the passage of recent US hemp laws, Hemp now refers to all cannabis as long as it has less than 0.3% THC. THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in “Marijuana”. Marijuana refers to all other cannabis plants and holds a negative connotation. The negative use of the word “Marihuana” (marijuana) dates back to prohibition and is deeply rooted in racism. So these days most of us refer to it as Cannabis. For the remainder of this article “Cannabis” will refer to “Marijuana”, or high THC cannabis. “Hemp” will refer to low THC cannabis.
THC, CBD and other Cannabinoids
Cannabis has over 120 different cannabinoids. Each cannabinoid has it’s own properties. All mammals have an Endocannabinoid system (ECS) which regulates things like our immune systems and how we react to pain. Our bodies produce Endocannabinoids. “Endo” meaning “inside”.
Think of the cannabinoids found in cannabis like a key and the Endocannabinoids System like a lock. When you introduce cannabinoids to our Endocannabinoid system, our bodies react.
When we introduce THC (Delta:9 Tetrahydrocannabinol) to our ECS it produces a psychoactive affect. It is responsible for the high or stoned feeling you get from smoking cannabis.
When we introduce CBD (Cannabidiol) to our ECS we get other reactions from our bodies but it is non-psychoactive. CBD is an anti-emetic, it is an anti-inflammatory and has proven effective as an anti-seizure medication.
There are far too many cannabinoids to list here and we do not currently know all of their individual effects. THC & CBD are often the most referenced, however, I encourage you to research the others such as CBN & CBG.
What are the effects of smoking/vaporizing cannabis?
Cannabis can affect each person differently so if you are new to cannabis I suggest starting slow. Generally speaking, cannabis users tend to report similar effects. Some of the most common are:
- experiencing things around you, such as sights and sounds, more intensely
- increased appetite
- altered perception of time and events
- focus and creativity
Cannabis is not without it’s side effects. While most of the negative side effects of cannabis tend to lessen as your tolerance grows, some users (especially new users) report some of these negative effects:
- coordination issues
- delayed reaction time
- increased heart rate
- decreased blood pressure
Methods of consumption
Cannabis is consumed in a variety of ways. By far the most common method of consumption is by smoking the dried flower. Another method of consumption is vaporizing, which is heating up the flower or concentrate but not to the point of combustion.
Edibles are fest becoming a popular way to consume cannabis. Edibles are made by infusing activated THC with foods or oils through heat and pressure. Edibles are stronger than smoked flower and produce a longer effect. This is because Delta:9 THC becomes Delta:11 THC when it passes through the liver. Delta:11 THC is much stronger and its half-life is much longer than Delta:9, which bypasses the liver when smoked.
If you are new to cannabis and are interested in trying edibles, do not be afraid, but tread with caution. Start slow and work your way up.
Is cannabis right for you?
Well, that’s up to you and is a decision that should be made with consult of a medical professional. Here in Missouri you can speak to a doctor and get a Medical Marijuana Card. Check with your local laws and regulations and see if cannabis is available in your area.