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What is Cannabis?

so what exactly is cannabis?

cannabis plant (2)

Cannabis originates from the cannabis sativa plant (hemp and marijuana are other names for the same plant), which tends to grow in temperate and tropical regions worldwide, although it’s originally from central Asia.

It can be grown in most climates, although indoor growing is becoming increasingly popular, as you have complete control over the temperature and water levels and nutrients.

The leaf of the cannabis plant is very recognisable, with its green distinctive leaflets. Once these leaves are dried and harvested, it can then be smoked, eaten, or made into an oil. Cannabis is used for it’s relaxing, calming and medicinal effects. 

main elements of cannabis

Cannabis is made up of over 120 elements, called cannabinoids. Here are two of the most well-known:

THC: The main active ingredient in cannabis is THC (delta-9 TetraHydroCannabinol), which affects how your brain functions. This is the psychoactive ingredient which gets you that typical ‘high’. Cannabis a depressant substance, which means it will slow down the central nervous system, can change your mood and alter perception, such as experiencing sights and sounds more intensely.

CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, and can help in a medicinal way, such as with pain relief, inflammation, seizures and nauseas (especially for chemotherapy patients). Medical experts and researchers are still discovering how it can be used for medical purposes.

young plant just sprouting

types of cannabis plant

The cannabis plant generally has three types: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis.

Sativa’s are known for their invigorating, energising effects and inspiring creativity effects. This plant will grow very tall (sometimes to 20ft) and has narrower leaves.

Indica’s will produce a much more relaxed sensation, soothing of muscles and stress relief. This plant has denser leaves and will grow around 3 to 9 feet tall.

Ruderalis does not have very high levels of THC or CBD and therefore is not used as much. It’s a short plant, growing 1 to 2.5 feet.

There are also hybrid plants, which have equal levels of THC and CBD, for a more well-rounded effect.

cannabis leaves with oil pot

main forms of cannabis plant

Cannabis has three main forms: Marijuana, Hashish and Hash Oil.

Marijuana: This has the least strong smell and THC levels (other than hemp). It is derived from the dried flowers and leaves of the plant and usually hand rolled into a cigarette, smoked in a pipe or used in food.

Hashish: Hashish (or hash) is produced from the resin of the cannabis plant, pressed into small blocks and smoked or added to tobacco. It has higher levels of THC and can also be used in food such as ‘hash brownies’.

Hash Oil: This is the most potent form of cannabis and will produce a stronger effect. It is extracted from the plant and turned into a thick, oily liquid, which can be smoked.

hemp seeds
seedling-weed

so what is hemp & marijuana?

Cannabis refers to the plant itself. Hemp and marijuana are both names for the Cannabis sativa plant but are different varieties or parts of the plant. Hemp is the stems, roots and sterilised seeds of the cannabis plant and marijuana is the leaves, flowers and feasible seeds.

Industrial hemp can be used for non-drug related things, such as rope, clothing, food, building materials and even in shampoos and soap. Industrial hemp growing in Australia is only permitted under a licence issued by a state government. There are very low or no low levels of THC in these varieties, so they will not make you high. Hemp plants are classified to have 0.3% or lower THC levels.

If the plant has levels of THC over 0.3%, it is classified as marijuana. These higher levels of THC are what give you that ‘high’. Marijuana is also used in medicine.

what effects does cannabis have?

People generally use cannabis to feel more relaxed, elated, silly, happy, etc. Things will seem more exaggerated, colours will be brighter and stronger, emotions will be more profound, you may feel a loss of inhibition or even hallucinate and loose a sense of time. Although many people use cannabis for relaxation, you still need to be cautious.

As with alcohol, you should not take cannabis before you drive or take too much, too often. Taking too much cannabis can lead to reduced concentration, drowsiness, anxiety, increased heart rate, addiction and psychosis (particularly it can exasperate those already suffering from mental illness). These effects can be greatly reduced by lowering the amount you use, how often you take it and generally being sensible and responsible in how you us it (ex, taking it in small doses and in a safe place, such at home with someone else with you).

There are also some health benefits to taking cannabis for medical purposes. This can be prescribed by a doctor to treat a range of problems such as chronic pain, seizures, PTSD, autoimmune diseases, nausea and inflammation. The CBD component of cannabis is used to treat most medical problems as it can help with symptoms but without the intoxicating effects of TCH. 

learn the lingo

Cannabis is referred to by many different names and slang words. Here are some other terms you may have heard of:

  • Weed
  • Grass
  • Pot
  • Dope
  • Choof – Aussie term
  • Hooch – A classic Aussie slang word, similar to ‘grass’ in the US.
  • Ganja – A term popular in Australia and the US & Hindi word for marijuana
  • Mary Jane – Popular in the US and Canada, a play on the Mexican pronunciation of marijuana
  • Skunk – popular term in the North of the United Kingdom
  • Spliff – UK term for a roll up or joint, sometimes with tobacco
  • 420 – One of the most popular terms in the US and Canada
  • 710 – Used to describe cannabis oil, read in reverse it reads ‘oil’