Cannabis 101 – A Pot Primer for Beginners
Welcome to Cannabis 101! We’re excited to share this article because it deals with so many questions that casual or non-users might have about pot. If you’ve never tried cannabis before, or you’re just looking for some basic information about pot, this article covers all the basics. We’ll talk about the cannabis plant, how it’s earned so many names and where it all comes from. Then, we’ll dive deeper into its effects, from the psychoactive effects that make it so much fun, to the awesome anti-inflammatory potency that makes cannabis a favourite for recovering athletes. Lastly, we’ll break down the various strains available and how you can choose one that works for you, along with a method of consumption that suits your lifestyle.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana is the official name of the worlds most widely consumed illicit drug. It should be noted that marijuana will soon be legal in Canada, and is already legal in many countries, but for now it remains illegal throughout the Americas. Regardless, over 40% of Canadians report having smoked cannabis before, and 25% say that they will use it regularly once it is legalized.
The marijuana that people smoke is made from buds of the cannabis plant. Once the plants have grown to the desired size, the stems, seeds, and leaves are removed, leaving just the buds. The buds contain a variety of chemical compounds which affect our bodies in different ways – these are called cannabinoids. People consume marijuana to take advantage of the chemical effects of the cannabinoids in the plant, including tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
Records of marijuana cultivation in Africa go back thousands of years, but the plant has been criminalized in Canada since 1923. Curiously, Canada was one of the first countries to criminalize weed possession, with the United States following suit 14 years later during the Great Depression. Our best research indicates that this was done in Canada with little parliamentary debate and without any real public outcry – marijuana was not commonly used in Canada at the time, and there are no records of police seizures of the drug until 1932.
What’s in a Name – The Many Names of Marijuana
When you criminalize something, folks often need to find a way to discuss it without explicitly using its name. This is very much the case with marijuana, a drug whose movement on the black market has proliferated tens, if not hundreds, of alternative names for the popular substance. Here are a few of the most popular calling names for cannabis:
- Mary Jane
All these names are in use in different places around the world, and they all allude to different aspects of cannabis culture. Although most of these names are derived from descriptive terms about the drug itself (weed, grass, bud, herb, green etc.), many of them are more specific references. The name “420” refers to a tradition of smoking weed at 4:20pm – some say this was started by a group of kids who would meet in the woods to smoke every day after they served detention in high school. Names like broccoli and lettuce refer to the visual appearance of the drug, while the name “skunk” refers to the pungent smell of highly potent strains.
Universally, however, everyone knows weed, pot, cannabis, and of course, marijuana. If you stick with those, you’ll be able to communicate your needs wherever in the world you find yourself – the other terms often boil down to local slang that’s shared between friends.
Where does Cannabis Come From?
Historically, the cannabis plant originated in Asia and Africa over 5000 years ago. There are ancient drawings of people smoking the plant for its psychoactive effects. Through ancient trade routes, cannabis made its way to the Roman Empire and spread to the new world with Christopher Columbus, who almost certainly used sails and ropes made from hemp fibres – a product of the cannabis plant.
Today, the cannabis that Canadians smoke comes from several different sources. The federal government is offering licenses to cannabis growers for the first time, meaning that for the first time, pot is being produced legally in our country and is being furnished to those with medical conditions that can benefit from its chemical effects. This legal cannabis economy will be the predominant method of accessing pot in Canada after July 2018.
There is still a strong black market for cannabis everywhere in the world – cannabis is a hardy plant that grows indoors or outside in a variety of weather conditions. Indoor cannabis farms are common in Canada however, because of the relatively short growing season compared to other countries. Hydroponic systems can be used to supply nutrients to the plants without using soil, but invariably, strong lights are required to ensure optimal growth. These take the place of the sunlight for indoor operations, enabling skilled farmers to grow huge cannabis crops in a basement or warehouse.
A single plant can produce several pounds of bud per year with profit margins as much as 400% when accounting for energy and labour costs associated with mass production.
What Chemicals are Found in Cannabis?
A drug can be defined as any substance that affects or alters a chemical or physiological process in the body. The cannabis plant is rich with compounds called cannabinoids that do exactly that, along with a variety of other organic compounds with various effects. Cannabinoids bind to receptors in your brain, leveraging what’s known as the endo-cannabinoid system of the body to create a variety of physical and psychological effects.
Any plant contains literally hundreds of different chemical compounds, from the chlorophyll that’s responsible for the deep green colour of leaves on trees or plants in your house, to the cellulose fibres that form the semi-permeable outer layer of virtually all plants.
The cannabis plant contains over 400 different chemicals, but just 61 of them are known to be unique to cannabis. Further, these 61 chemicals, known as cannabinoids, are all variations of a short list of just 10 different compounds, all of which bear a strong chemical similarity – they’re part of the same family. From among these, we’ve chosen the most significant and most widely/frequently mentioned ones to bring you up to speed on.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – THC is commonly referenced as the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis. Strains that are high in THC are commonly used recreationally by folks seeking a cerebral or mind-altering experience. High levels of THC are commonly associated with the variation of the plant known as Cannabis sativa.
Cannabidiol (CBD) – CBD is a relatively newly recognized chemical that is present in all strains of marijuana, but especially in strains derived from the variation of the plant known as Cannabis indica. Strains that are high in CBD are especially desirable for their anti-inflammatory and other medicinal properties. Indica strains are said to produce more observable physiological reactions, such as elevated heart rate and body tingles, but results can vary from person to person.
Terpenes – Terpenes are a category of chemical that exist entirely separately from cannabinoids. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons – they’re the chemicals that give cannabis its distinctive taste and smell. Certain preparations of cannabis can destroy terpene molecules, leaving the plants’ chemical effects intact, but removing the characteristic taste and smell. You’ll often see references to terpenes when looking at different methods of consuming cannabis, and the effects on the chemical profile of the final product. The important thing to know is that if you want to enjoy the taste or smell of your cannabis, you’ll have to choose a preparation method that keeps these chemicals intact.
Who Uses Cannabis and Why?
As with most drugs, cannabis users fall into two broad categories. First, there are recreational users that use the drug for fun, enjoying its psychoactive effects and often incorporating cannabis into their personal lives in various capacities. Recreational users exhibit a range of habits related to their consumption, but they share the characteristic that they use cannabis primarily for fun.
The second group of cannabis users is comprised of those who take the drug for medical reasons. Cannabinoids are known to treat a range of conditions and symptoms, and smoking cannabis is recognized as a reliable medical intervention in a variety of contexts. Some common medical applications for cannabis include reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, reducing nausea and vomiting, reducing inflammation, stimulating appetite, suppressing chronic seizures, reducing back or muscular pain, and treating anxiety or depression, headaches, and even cancer.
Many recreational users of marijuana eventually find that they benefit from the medical effects offered by cannabis. For example, a recreational user may find that using cannabis helps them cope with stress, or that it helps reduce their anxiety in certain contexts, or recover from their normal fitness routine (reduce inflammation). Practically, cannabis has so many medical benefits that the lines are often blurred between medical and recreational usage.
Many recreational users have also expressed other perceived benefits of consuming marijuana. Below, we’ll outline some frequently reported claims about the effects of marijuana that may not be supported by science.
Cannabis Enhances Introspection – Many people use psychoactive drugs to stimulate more insightful patterns of thought. When we are sober, we may find it more difficult to think outside the box, but our brains are very powerful and the introduction of psychoactive stimulants can push the boundaries of our thought processes and lead to new insight. Many people experience enlightening introspective experiences while high on cannabis that lead to new self-knowledge or problem solving.
Cannabis can Boost Creativity – Musicians and other creatives often use drugs like cannabis to stimulate creative thinking. Psychoactive drugs alter our fundamental thought patterns, enabling us to discover new ideas and recognize patterns that we might have overlooked previously.
Cannabis can Augment Reality – The concept of cannabis as a means of enhancing experiences is not a new one. Many people report feeling more “in the moment” while high. They enjoy stronger feelings of connectedness with their environments through an enhanced sensory experience brought about by activation of the endocannabinoid system through THC consumption. Enjoying a beautiful scene, watching a movie, taking a nature walk, or enjoying a boat or plane ride are all experiences that could be enhanced by consuming THC. Many people choose to enjoy novel experiences while high on cannabis, such as bungee jumping or skydiving.
Cannabis Enhances Sports – Some cannabis users feel lethargic after consuming THC and immediately reach for a bag of chips, but for others, cannabis is a natural companion for physical activity. This could be due to the way it affects the senses along with its enhancement of creative problem solving. Many athletes have been known to smoke cannabis on a regular basis, including Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar. Smoking marijuana may enhance creativity and reduce inhibitions, allowing players to find creative ways to solve in-game problems, while inducing a euphoric sensation that reduces the perception of fatigue. Runners, basketball and soccer players, cyclists and MMA fighters at the highest level have all smoked cannabis.
At the end of the day, people use cannabis for all kinds of reasons. Whether you’re interested in how its effects could help you paint more frequently, or you’re looking to reduce chronic inflammation related to sports training, or you’re looking for an appetite stimulant for a family member that’s going through chemotherapy, cannabis has a lot to offer you.
The reason that you choose cannabis today may not be the same as in five years, or even six months, and that’s okay. Cannabis has numerous benefits that you can enjoy and even leverage throughout your life. That’s why we all love it so much.
Strains and Effects – Finding Your Best Bud
Finding the best strain of cannabis for you is more of an art than a science. What you smoke and how you smoke it will depend on many factors, including your lifestyle, specific needs, tastes and personal preferences, and attitudes about cannabis.
Today, cannabis users enjoy relatively easy access to a high number of different strains, and additionally benefit from a great variety of ways to ingest cannabis. This section of our guide deals with the different strains that are available, their effects and what you can expect from each one.
New strains are being created all the time, so in the interest of brevity, we’ll attempt to explain how the variety of existing cannabis plants contribute to the creation of new strains and how you can assess what you might enjoy when given the proper information.
Every strain of marijuana is derived from one of the plants Cannabis (C.) sativa, C. indica and C. ruderalis. New strains are developed to emphasize specific chemical characteristics of the plant that enhance the effects, or to emphasize physical characteristics for marketing purposes. Hybrid strains are also available that result from breeding C. sativa and C. indica plants together to obtain mixes of characteristics that are inherent in each plant.
Cannabis sativa Strains – Cannabis sativa plants can grow up to 4.5m in height and are characterized by long internodes and branches with large and narrow leaves. C. sativa plants take at least 30 days longer to flower than C. indica plants. Sativa strains are thought to produce more potent psychoactive effects due to their high THC content. Cannabis users enjoy sativa strains for their ability to enhance creativity, provide feelings of euphoria by triggering dopamine release, and energize the body.
Cannabis indica Strains – Cannabis indica plants grow into bushes that are just over a metre tall but may grow to be significantly wider. C indica plants have wider leaflets that resemble the traditional caricature of a marijuana leaf, and consumption of indica strains is most commonly associated with the distinctive sensations of a “body high”. These include deep feelings of relaxation, including fatigue and “couch-lock” – a described sensation of being stuck in a sitting position and too lazy or high to move. Other physical symptoms associated with consuming C. indica include elevated heart-rate, body tingles, and mild physical numbness.
Hybrid Strains – Hybrid strains are produced to combine the traits of C. sativa and C. indica plants. Each hybrid strain has a different profile of colours, flavours and specific effects, and with so many to choose from, the best thing you can do is experience all the main effects and choose a strain that is known to provide the ones that you like best, or that you want for your specific purposes.
In general, there are six different groups of effects that you can get from smoking cannabis – you can feel energized, euphoric, creative, fatigued/sleepy, relaxed or medicated. If you’re already sure what effects you’re looking for, find a strain that fits your needs and give it a try to determine if it’s what you’re looking for.
If you’re not certain what type of experience you want, experiment with a few strains to determine how the various effects feel for you and what best fits your needs. Some of the most commonly known strains are listed below, along with their effects and other identifying information.
Kush – An indica strain that originates in the Kush region of Africa, Kush and its family of hybrid strains exhibit a variety of flavours and appearances. Kush is often associate with feelings of relaxation, mellowness and fatigue or lethargy.
Grape Gangster – A sativa strain with some hybrid characteristics. Fruity smelling. GG provides strong sativa effects, including feelings of euphoria and wakefulness, as well as the deep relaxation often associated with indica strains.
Pink Kush – A hybrid strain that is 90% indica-dominant and derived from OG Kush, it combines the euphoria of sativa strains with stress and anxiety-relieving effects followed by a relaxed sensation.
Each strain sold on our website is accompanied by a comprehensive discussion of its effects, psychological, physiological and medical.
Different Smokes for Different Folks – How Should You Consume Cannabis?
There are numerous methods available for consuming cannabis today, especially when compared to ten years ago. A variety of new products have given away to new methods that accommodate users that want to ingest higher concentrations of THC while avoiding some of the harmful effects associate with smoking. Listed below are some of the most popular cannabis consumption methods.
Smoking – The classic method, THC is ground into a powder, rolled with special paper made from hemp, rice, or another material, and smoke like a cigarette. This method is convenient and low-cost, but it comes with the negative effects of smoking pyrolized plant material and is viewed as a wasteful and inefficient method of ingesting cannabis by regular consumers.
Vaporizing – Vaping is an alternative to smoking cannabis that gained popularity as a way to consume THC without the negative health effects of smoking. A vaporizer can be purchased for as little as fifty dollars – simply load cannabis into the vaporizer and modify the temperature settings to your preference. Marijuana vapour is rich in THC but does not contain the harmful chemicals that smoke does.
Edibles – Edibles have many benefits associated with them. They provide high quantities of THC and can easily be divided to split the product into many doses. Edibles are digested slowly, meaning that the onset and duration of the high are both extended. Absorbing THC through the digestive system is associated with a more corporeal high, often characterized by body tingles and elevated heart rate. The effects of edibles can last for up to four hours or longer.
Edible products include cookies, other baked goods, alcoholic or fat-based tinctures, and other preparations made by incorporating weed butter into everyday cooking. Some people refrain from consuming most types of edibles because of dietary restrictions – edibles are a fun area of cannabis creativity that often incorporates high-sugar and high-fat recipes to make delicious treats.
THC Capsules – THC can be made into pills and administered orally. These are an excellent way to obtain accurate and consistent dosages of THC without the added effects of consuming extra sugar or calories, or ingesting harmful smoke. THC capsules are an ideal medical treatment for patients whose care regimes prohibit them from smoking or consuming significant amounts of sugar.
THC Concentrates – THC concentrates are available in so many varieties that we’ve got a whole article detailing them for you. Concentrates are most appropriate for regular users with high tolerance levels to THC. Cannabis consumers enjoy concentrates via a process called dabbing which involves a special type of bong and a hot torch that incinerates the concentrate at a high temperature.
Choosing how you will enjoy cannabis will depend on several factors that are personal to you. You may want to use cannabis in public, or at home by yourself. You may be seeking a low-cost option based on the dosage, or you may not want to purchase equipment like a vaporizer or a dab set-up regardless of what benefits might be available. In any case, each option has health risks and benefits associated with it that will depend on your specific needs.
We’ve come to the end of what we feel is a comprehensive starter’s guide to cannabis. We love the benefits that this great plant has brought to our lives, and we’re excited to share those with as many people as possible. If you’re just getting your feet wet, we hope this article can serve as a starting point for you to start understanding why so many people choose to use cannabis on a regular basis.
We hope you’ve learned enough to decide what strains might be best for you, what method of consumption might best suit you, and what great benefits you can expect to start enjoying with cannabis.