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Marijuana and cannabis both have the same meaning and the words are interchangeable. When talking botanically about the plant we use the word cannabis. Cannabis is a flowering plant that includes three varieties that originally came from Asia:
- Cannabis Sativa (tends to grow tall and stalky)
- Cannabis Indica (tends to grow smaller and bushier)
- Cannabis Ruderalis (found primarily in Russia and Eastern Europe)
The word “marijuana” is a term that is Mexican in origin and made its way into English at the end of the 19th century. Marijuana means “Maria” (Mary) and “Juana” (Joan or Jane).
Cannabis or marijuana has been used for hundreds of years by humans, for fiber (hemp), seeds, oils, medical treatment and recreationally.
Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L. They are scientifically different and cultivated in different ways. Hemp is a tall, slender fibrous plant similar to flax or kenaf.
Farmers worldwide have harvested hemp for the past 12,000 years for fiber, food, and oil. Marijuana is the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive varieties of cannabis that are grown for their high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Unlike marijuana, hemp contains only small amounts (less than 1%) of the euphoria-producing compound THC and possesses higher percentages of the compound cannabidiol (CBD).
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, however, does not distinguish between types of cannabis plants and therefore puts growing hemp off-limits despite more than 30 industrialized nations commercially growing hemp, including England and Canada. In 2014, the US Farm Bill agreement included a provision that would allow institutions of higher education and state departments of agriculture to grow or cultivate industrial hemp. Dozens of members of the House and Senate also want to legalize hemp nationwide.
Many states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes despite cannabis remaining illegal on the federal level in the United States. The conditions that qualify for medical marijuana include Alzheimer’s, AIDS, ALS, Anorexia, Arthritis, Cachexia, Cancer, Chronic Pain, Crohn’s disease, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, Hepatitis C, Migraines, Muscle spasms and other spastic disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Nausea, Parkinson’s disease and PTSD.
Symptoms must be verified by a physician in order to obtain a valid medical marijuana patient card. Check with your doctor and your state on what conditions are covered where you live.
Marijuana “strains” are either pure breeds or hybrid varieties of cannabis, typically of the species Cannabis Indica or Cannabis Sativa. Strains are developed to highlight a specific combination of properties of the plant or to establish marketing differentiation.
Strain names are typically chosen by their growers, and often reflect properties of the plant, such as taste, color, smell, or the origins of the strain. Many people believe the earliest cannabis strains grew in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and eventually spread to other areas, including Asia, Africa, Jamaica and South America.
It’s safe to say there are hundreds, if not over 1,000 strains today, with many more under development. The ability of cannabis to adapt to new environments over many centuries, spread its genetics, and change its characteristics is remarkable.
Because if its ability to adapt, there are numerous cannabis strains with unique combinations of genetics. However, remember that just because a strain is named, does not mean it’s unique. Some strains may be an established genetic and the person growing it simply changes its name and starts selling it as a unique strain.
New strains are constantly being created through cross breeding, and some strains have never even been characterized. New genetic testing technologies and changes in state law (and hopefully federal and international law too!) will undoubtedly lead to the characterization of new strains and eventually determine how many truly exist.
During the 1970s and 80s, cannabis connoisseurs traveled the world and began collecting “landrace” strains to cultivate them in their own local gardens. These pure strains of marijuana are also sometimes referred to as “heirloom” strains and were propagated in other environments like California and Europe.
Landrace strains are local varieties of cannabis that have adapted to the environment and geographic location. This accounts for genetic variation between landrace strains, which have been crossbred to produce the cannabis variety we see today. Landrace strains are oftentimes named after their native region and have very stable genetics.
Most marijuana landrace genetics are 100% Sativa or Indica, although there are some exceptions. The range of pure landrace strains often includes in their name their country or region of origin.
Many people such as Arjan Roskam are strain hunters and continue to travel the world to identify, locate and retrieve cannabis landraces that have not yet been studied, in order to give scientists and doctors the possibility to further enhance knowledge of the cannabis plant in the medicinal field. Many previously unknown cannabinoid profiles are contained in cannabis landraces originating from areas where there is no possibility of scientific research.
For a nice overview on cannabis landrace and heirloom strains, check out this article on The Weed Blog.
Cannabinoids are a class of chemical compounds which include the phytocannabinoids, and chemical compounds which mimic the actions of phytocannabinoids or have a similar structure (e.g. endocanabinoids, found in the nervous and immune systems of animals and that activate cannabinoid receptors).
There are over 480 natural components found within the Cannabis sativa plant. It is still unclear how many unique cannabinoids are in the plant but estimates put the number at about 85. The most well known and researched cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Cannabinoids are separated into major subclasses. These are as follows:
- Cannabigerols (CBG)
- Cannabichromenes (CBC)
- Cannabidiols (CBD)
- Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
- Cannabinol (CBN) and cannabinodiol (CBDL)
- Other cannabinoids (such as cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabielsoin (CBE), cannabitriol (CBT) and other miscellaneous types
With all of the knowledge people are gaining from testing the marijuana plant, we are sure to discovery more cannabinoids in the future.
The active ingredients in marijuana – cannabinoids and terpenes – are delivered to the blood through the lungs (when inhaled), the digestive system (when consumed) or the skin (when applied topically). From the blood, they are available to the brain, central nervous system and immune system.
Humans are built to interact with cannabinoids and with the endocannabinoid systems of special receptor molecules embedded in our brains and along neural pathways. The receptors influence the flow of chemical signals to the brain. Cannabinoids bind with the endocannabinoid receptors, creating medicinal effects by suppressing signals such as pain, nausea and depression while boosting signals of appetite and euphoria.
Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is the most abundant and widely known cannabinoid in marijuana and is responsible for the main psychoactive effects patients are familiar with when smoking or eating edibles. Tetrahydrocannabinol can affect brain function by acting on the central nervous system, which can result in altering your mood, behavior, perception and cognition. It also has medicinal uses for a multitude of symptoms including mild to moderate pain, insomnia, depression, nausea and appetite loss, just to name a few. THC acts as a partial agonist at the CB1 & CB2 receptors.
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA) is the main constituent in raw cannabis. THCA converts to THC when burned, vaporized, or heated for a period of time at a certain temperature. THCA, CBDA, CBGA and other acidic cannabinoids hold the most COX-1 and COX-2 inhibition for the anti-inflammatory properties that cannabis has to offer. THCA also acts as an anti-proliferative and anti-spasmodic.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one the main ingredients in the marijuana plant and belongs to a unique class of compounds known as cannabinoids. While many strains of marijuana are known for having abundant levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid that causes euphoria or a “high,” strains containing CBD are less common despite CBD being the second most concentrated cannabinoid in the marijuana plant.
CBD has recently started to draw lots of attention from the medical community. According to research, the CBD cannabinoid possess a variety of therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-epileptic, anti-cancer, and bone-stimulating properties. CBD is also know to block the psychoactive effect of THC in the nervous system and may protect marijuana users from getting too high by reducing the psychosis-like effects of THC. That means in all plants in the cannabis family, there is a chemical that will induce a psychoactive effect and another that will block it.
Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) is the main constituent found in cannabis plants that have high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). CBDA selectively inhibits the COX-2 enzyme contributing to the anti-inflammatory effects and has been reported to possess diverse biological activities, including anti-proliferative effects on cancer cells.
CBG is an abbreviation for cannabigerol. Cannabigerol has no psychological effects on its own, and is not usually found in high amounts in most medical marijuana. Scientists believe that cannabigerol is actually one of the oldest forms of cannabinoids, meaning it is essentially a “parent” to the other cannabinoids found in medical marijuana. Cannabigerol also has anti-microbial properties and can lower pressure in the eye, acts as an anti-inflammatory and help as a sleep aid.
CBC stands for cannabichromene. Cannabichromene’s main action is to enhance the effects of THC. High cannabichromene levels will make a high-THC medical marijuana strain much more potent. Cannabichromene working together with THC is known to be a sedative, analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
CBN is cannabinol, not to be confused with cannabidiol. Cannabinol is very similar to THC, but has less psychological effects. It is produced as THC breaks down within the medical marijuana plant. High THC will make cannabinol’s effects stronger, and very high cannabinol concentrations can produce undesirably strong head highs. Cannabinol an be particularly helpful for:
- Lowering pressure in the eye (such as with glaucoma)
Terpenes are what you smell in cannabis and give cannabis its distinctive scent and flavor profile like berry, citrus, and pine. Like roses or spices, different strains of cannabis have unique odors ranging from sweet to acrid and skunky to floral – the chemical signatures of terpenes. According to HIGH TIMES, over 200 different terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant and terpenoid profiles can vary considerably from strain to strain.
Terpenes in marijuana have helped the plant survive for centuries as terpenes are pungent enough to attract pollinators, repel insects, discourage herbivores, and prevent fungus. Many people believe that terpenes could be the next frontier in medical marijuana as terpenes are said to modulate the physiological and psychoactive effects of cannabis.
Terpene content is one of the biggest differences between cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. The general rule that patients often prefer sativas for daytime use and indicas for nighttime use, suggesting that the sedative effects of cannabis are influenced by terpenes. Patients should take into account the content of major terpenes when evaluating various strains of medical cannabis.
Here are some of the primary terpenes found in cannabis:
Alpha Pinene is the most common terpene in the plant world and is the familiar odor associated with pine trees and turpentine. It easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and acts as both an anti-inflammatory and promotes alertness and memory retention by inhibiting the metabolic breakdown of acetylcholinesterase, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Pinene probably gives true skunk varieties, the ones that stink like the animal, much of their odor.
Caryophyllene is a major terpene found in black pepper, cloves, some cannabis sativa strains, rosemary and hops. It has a sweet, woody and dry clove odor and tastes pepper spicy with camphor and astringent citrus backgrounds. The oil is used industrially to enhances tobacco flavor. Caryophyllene is the only terpene known to interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (CB2) and produces anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
Derived from the geranium plant, geraniol has a rosey scent that makes it well suited as a perfume additive. It is an effective mosquito repellent, and shows a potential protective effect against neuropathy.
Humulene contributes to the “hoppy” aroma of cannabis. This terpene acts as an appetite suppressant and exhibits potent anti-inflammatory activity.
Limonene, a major terpene in citrus as well as in cannabis, is found in strains that have a pronounced sativa effect. Is found in the rind of citrus and many other fruits and flowers. Plants use limonene to repulse predators. Limonene has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-cancer activities. It has also been used to treat anxiety and depression and has been used clinically to dissolve gallstones, improve mood and relieve heartburn.
Linalool has a floral scent reminiscent of spring flowers but with spicy overtones. Humans can detect its odor at rates as low as one part per million in the air. It is an effective anxiety and stress reliever that has sedating properties. It has also been used an analgesic and anti-epileptic. Linalool is also being tested for treatment of several types of cancers.
Myrcene, the most prevalent terpene found in most varieties of cannabis, is a sedative, a muscle relaxant, a hypnotic, an analgesic (painkiller) and an anti-inflammatory compound. This musky terpene dictates whether a strain will have an indica or sativa effect. Strains containing over higher amounts of myrcene will result in a “couch lock” experience while strains with lower amounts can produce a more energetic high.
Ocimene is used in perfumes for its pleasant odor. In nature this terpene acts as part of the plants defenses and possesses anti-fungal properties.
Terpinolene has been shown to exhibit antioxidant and anticancer effects in rat brain cells. Studies with mice show that inhaled terpinolene has a sedating effect.
Terpineol has a lilac, citrus or apple blossom/lime odor. Is known for its pleasant smell and is often used in soaps and fragrances. It is known for having relaxing effects. Terpineol is often found in cannabis with high pinene levels. Its odor would be masked by the pungent woodsy aromas of pinene.
Found in Valencia oranges, the aroma contributes to the citrus odor of cannabis.
Concentrates have grown in popularity because of the wide variety of uses they have. Legally produced concentrates are made by extracting cannabinoids from raw cannabis into potent concentrated forms. Concentrates such as waxes, oils, budders and shatters are formulated for use in vaporizers and are often sold for consumption in small lip-balm sized containers that are odorless when sealed. Cannabis concentrates can also be used to make various types of edibles, tinctures, oils, topical ointments, capsules and other packaged products and require professional extraction techniques.
Many cannabis products exist on the market today that provide significant relief without smoking such as tinctures. Tinctures are essentially liquid concentrates made from extractions of the cannabis plant (usually flowers and trim leaves are included). Often referred to as “whole plant extracts,” tinctures are taken by mouth and are easy to administer, especially for children who may use cannabis medicine for seizures.
Because tincures are taken orally, they enter the bloodstream quickly. Dosing is easily achieved by the number of drops a patient places under the tongue, allowing cannabis medicine to be rapidly absorbed into the arterial system and quickly transported to the brain and body.
Butane Hash Oil (BHO) is an extremely potent cannabis concentrate ideal for vaporizing. To make BHO, marijuana is processed through clean butane gas using a scientific process that results in a concentrated oil that typically has the color and consistency of a “sticky wax” or “crumbly honeycomb.” Patients use just a “Dab” or mere pinhead-sized amount of BHO and the end result is a strong effect that can lasts for hours. Dabs of BHO can be super-potent, boasting THC concentrates of up to 80 percent, and patients must be very cautious with the honey-like substance. Many people with intractable pain use BHO to medicate.
Unfortunately, illegal home production labs and DIY makeshift operations have been set up by people to make BHO. Without any kind of safety regulations in place, there have been reported explosions as people try to process BHO in a non commercial environment. As far as consuming BHO, as with any concentrated forms of products such alcohol, precautions should always been taken.
Kief is a powder made from the tiny potent crystals (sometimes called resin glands or trichomes) that form on the cannabis flower. Kief is a naturally concentrated form of cannabis that can be further intensified by extracting the crystals and using pressurized heat to form a crumble, commonly referred to as hash.
Though not as potent as BHO and other cannabis concentrates, kief concentrates remain popular because of their high concentrations of glands and the smoothness when inhaled or vaporized. There are many grades of kief depending on the qualities of the marijuana screened to create it. Like olive oil pressing, the screening process is a major determinant of quality.
CO2 extracts, also known as supercritical CO2 extracts, are extremely pure plant extracts produced from a relatively new and highly efficient extraction process. CO2 is a unique solvent because it has the ability to change its solvency power simply by adjusting the temperature and pressure of the CO2 during the extraction. One of the most effective ways of reducing cannabis to its essential compounds relies on botanical extractors and carbon dioxide.
CO2 extracts or “amber or honey oil” can be vaporized in a variety of ways with one of the most popular methods being portable vaporizer pens. CO2 is nontoxic and is Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA for use in food products. With CO2 as a solvent for oil extraction, no toxins, heavy metals or hydrocarbon materials come in contact with the extracted oil. CO2 is solvent free, non-flammable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly too.
Raw cannabis is not psychoactive unless it is heated, meaning there are no worries of mental or physical impairment after consuming the raw form of the plant. This rule applies to all cannabinoids such as naturally occurring acidic CBDA converting to CBD, CBGA converting to CBG, etc.
Raw cannabis contains the acidic compound THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic-acid), not the compound THC. THCA is converted into THC by the heat of combustion, vaporization or cooking in a process called decarboxylation. Only when you decarboxylate THCA, turning it into THC, does it cause psychoactive effects or the ‘high’ you may be used to when smoking cannabis.
By juicing cannabis, you receive most of the medical benefits of the plant without the high. Raw cannabis activates the cannabinoid system in the brain, which may trigger an antioxidant release and remove damaged cells from the body. Raw cannabis can be used every day and by anyone of any age, however, large doses of acidic cannabinoids have not been subjected to controlled clinical trials.
Like any other herb or seasoning, ground up raw buds can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on salads or soups. Juicing does take a lot of material. Start with a few fresh shade leaves or some raw buds. There are a number of YouTube videos that can help get you started. Let us know what you experience.
The term 420 (pronounced four twenty, not four hundred and twenty) originated at San Rafael High School in California in the 1970s, among a group of marijuana smoking teens who called themselves “The Waldos.” The term 420 was shorthand code for the time of day the group would meet to smoke cannabis, and the term spread among members of an entire generation.
Today, 420 has become a universal symbol for the use and appreciation of marijuana and 4:20 p.m. has become sort of a worldwide “burn time.” Each year on April 20th (4/20), Happy 420 events are held on this “holiday” unofficially known as National Weed Day.