Everything You Need To Know About Marijuana: What Is Cannabis?
Cannabis, also referred to as marijuana, has been an integral part of human civilizations for millennia. Both as a medicine and as a recreational substance, cannabis is the most popular illicit drug in the world. Today, the legal landscape that has prohibited marijuana for much of the twentieth century is giving way to decriminalization and full legalization. Legal, commercial cannabis businesses are already making an enormous economic impact.
Thus, marijuana is re-emerging as an important cultural, social and political force, yet knowledge about the drug is incomplete, inconsistent and plagued by false information. As a result, the demand for trustworthy, accurate information about cannabis is at an all-time high.
This guide is an introduction to anyone looking to inform themselves about the reality of cannabis. It covers basic information about the marijuana plant, cannabis preparations, and the crucial elements of plant anatomy and science. This guide to marijuana also gives an overview of the most popular medical and recreational uses of cannabis. It offers a survey of the most important medical cannabis research while highlighting emerging trends in the legal cannabis market. The guide also introduces those new to cannabis to the many ways to consume marijuana, and much more.
Ultimately, this guide explains everything you need to know about marijuana, so you can be fully informed next time you answer the question, what is cannabis?
There are many ways to prepare cannabis for consumption. And while final marijuana products may come in many forms, each aims to provide rich concentrations of the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other desirable compounds the marijuana plant produces. From the simple process of drying and curing marijuana flowers, to the sophisticated chemistry of producing cannabis concentrates, here’s a guide to the most common forms of cannabis.
The most ubiquitous form of prepared cannabis is the dried and cured flowers of female cannabis plants. The flowering portions of the marijuana plant contain the richest concentrations of terpenes and cannabinoids, the most desirable compounds of the plant for medical and recreational marijuana users.
The term kief refers to the sticky, bulbous crystalline formations on the tip of a gland called a “trichome.” Trichomes are external resin glands packed with the chemicals that give marijuana its flavors and smells, called “terpenes.” They also contain high concentrations of cannabinoids. These chemicals which interact with our body to produce marijuana’s signature effects.
Handling and grinding cannabis flower causes the tips of the delicate resin glands to break off. As a result, kief often ends up coating the bottom of the bag or container storing the marijuana. Many devices for grinding cannabis include a screen to sift out and separate kief, which also goes by the name “dry sift” or “pollen.”
Kief can be extremely potent because it almost entirely consists of terpenes and cannabinoids. This makes it ideal as the raw material for producing waxes and other concentrates. Though this requires large quantities of kief and therefore large amounts of marijuana
There are several types of cannabis concentrates offered on the legal market today. One of the oldest forms of marijuana concentrate is hashish or hash. Hash is made by compressing the cannabinoid-rich resin of the marijuana plant.
Tinctures are liquid concentrates made through alcohol extraction, pulling out many of the marijuana plant’s beneficial cannabinoids. In fact, until cannabis prohibition in the early twentieth century, tinctures were the most common form of medical cannabis in the United States.
In addition to pressed hash, hash oil can be created using a variety of solvents like butane that extract the resinous material from the marijuana plant’s flowers. Butane extraction produces the concentrate BHO (butane hash oil), one of the strongest concentrates.
The consistency of the final product can vary from a translucent, glass-like substance, often referred to as “shatter,” to soft waxes called “honeycomb” or “crumble.”
Other extraction methods do not use toxic solvents, but instead pressure and CO2 gasses to remove terpenes and cannabinoids from marijuana flowers. CO2 oils are most popular for use in vape pens, which give users greater safety and control than dabbing BHO concentrates.
Not all forms of marijuana are for inhaling or eating. Cannabis topicals are products designed for application on the skin. And they’re a major part of cannabis’ incorporation into health and wellness lifestyles.
Marijuana-based topicals have developed substantially since first gaining popularity years ago. Today, topicals come in the form of lotions, bath bombs, sprays, shampoos and soaps infused with THC and CBD. This makes them incredibly easy to use.
Topicals are powerful pain relievers, taking advantage of the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids without any psychoactive side-effects. In other words, users can’t get high from applying cannabis-infused topicals to their skin.
Methods Of Consuming Cannabis
The exploding recreational market for marijuana has rapidly popularized many methods of consuming cannabis that was decidedly part of the fringe just a few short years ago. Smoking marijuana remains the most widely embraced method, due to the greater accessibility of marijuana flower. But legal recreational cannabis is introducing many marijuana users to new forms of the drug, especially concentrates and edibles. Here’s a brief overview of the major methods for consuming marijuana.
Smoking marijuana is hands down the most widely used method of consuming cannabis. It’s also the simplest: a rolling paper and some dried marijuana flower are all you need. Other, more technological methods of smoking marijuana may be rising in popularity. But for many people, the social experience of passing weed around with some friends is what cannabis is all about.
Over the ages, countless innovations have attempted to improve on the basic experience of inhaling the smoke of combusted cannabis. As a result, there are numerous ways to smoke marijuana. The rolling technique is at the root of joints, blunts, and spliffs. On the other hand, glassware and other devices are essential for smoking weed out of a pipe, bong, or bubbler.
Vaping Cannabis Oil
The onset of legal recreational markets for marijuana has led to a dramatic upsurge in the method of vaporizing cannabis, aka “vaping.” In many ways vaping cannabis has quite a bit in common with the process of vaping tobacco, such as the use of “e-cigarette” batteries and heating elements.
Concentrates used in vaping are almost always in was or oil form. Vaporizing herbaceous cannabis is also possible, though less efficient and portable than hand-held vaporizing methods.
It’s easy to see why vaping has become such a popular method for consuming marijuana. The method is remarkably discrete and produces none of the telltale “weed smells” that often betray cannabis users. Vape pens and other hand-held devices are portable and convenient. They’re free of many of the harsh marijuana plant compounds that can harm your lung health, like tars. And companies are getting better at crafting high-quality, flavorful vape cartridges with a wide array of cannabinoid profiles.
Eating and Drinking Cannabis-Infused “Edibles”
Cannabis culture has always taken pride in its epicurean delights. From the old standby of the “special brownie” to advanced gastropub techniques, culinary cannabis has attracted amateur and professional “cannachefs” alike.
Eating cannabis, however, does not involve simply ingesting dried marijuana flowers. Instead, the process involves activating and then extracting THC and other cannabinoids from ground marijuana flower using fatty substances like oils and, well, fat.
After decarboxylation, which is the process of “activating” marijuana’s cannabinoids with heat, THC and other cannabinoids become soluble in fats. Hence the enduring power of the “pot brownie;” the fats in chocolate and butter excel at sucking up the cannabinoids in the marijuana plant matter.
It’s also possible to drink cannabis. Again, drinking marijuana involves the use of oils, tinctures, or other concentrates, which are added to the consumer’s beverage of choice. From lemonade to coffee, drinkable cannabis is an easy and smoke-free way to dose.
One important thing to note, however, is that the metabolic pathway of THC is different from that of inhaling. Digestion adds another “stop” on THC’s path to the brain and produces a special form of THC, called THC-COOH, that’s longer-lasting and more potent than THC’s other metabolites.
Dabbing Cannabis Concentrates
Dabbing is the process of rapidly sublimating cannabis concentrates and inhaling the ensuing vapor. Since users are inhaling concentrates with upward of 90 percent THC, dabbing produces highs unmatched by any other method of consuming cannabis.
The somewhat crude method of dabbing has evolved over the years thanks to its rapid rise in mainstream cannabis culture. As methods have been refined, the fits of coughing, blasted out lungs, and the infamous “dab sweats” are becoming the purview of only the most diehard dabbers.
Keeping a clean rig and learning how to dial in the perfect temperature of the heated element are essential to a pleasurable dabbing experience. With practice, dabbing can produce smooth yet intensely flavorful experiences that lead to incredible and long-lasting highs.
The Effects Of Marijuana Use
The effects of marijuana use on the human body are complex and incompletely understood.
Acute Side Effects
Most of the perceptible side effects of marijuana use are a result of the body’s reaction to the psychoactive THC cannabinoid. THC stimulates or “activates” specific psychological responses generally, but not always, associated with euphoria and relaxation.
The results of a major, long-term study into marijuana use and lung health reveal no substantive link between cannabis use and respiratory diseases like lung cancer. Additionally, lifelong marijuana users had no significantly increased risk of breathing problems.
Although marijuana smoke contains a number of carcinogens findings from a limited number of well-designed studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use. However, the evidence is mixed when it comes to the carcinogenic risks of heavy, long-term marijuana users, according to this study.
Scientists simply do not know the overall impact of marijuana on cardiovascular health. Researchers in California, Pennsylvania, and New York analyzed dozens of studies into the effects of cannabis on heart health, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Their analysis revealed more problems with previous studies than answers.
However, scientists do agree that marijuana use increases the heart rate anywhere from 20 to 50 beats per minutes for up to 3 hours. Other studies have indicated links between marijuana use and increased blood pressure and hypertension. But these findings were contradicted by further studies.
Multiple studies have concluded that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD imparts the significant neuroprotective effects of marijuana. This effect can shield nerve cells from damage and deterioration, making medical marijuana a promising drug for treating a range of neurological diseases.
The relationship between marijuana use and mental health is not fully understood. On the one hand, research suggests that cannabis can help treat certain mood disorders. The effects of marijuana use on memory and cognition may also help patients suffering from PTSD forget traumatic memories.
On the other hand, some studies suggest that cannabis use can contribute to the onset of or exacerbate existing mental health problems. According to the WHO, marijuana use can make schizophrenia and other psychoses worse. Some marijuana users also report experiences of acute anxiety and paranoia as a side effect of the drug.
Knowing the anatomy of Cannabis sativa is crucial to understanding what distinguishes high-quality marijuana from its lesser varieties. It also helps patients, caregivers and recreational users understand what they’re consuming when they use cannabis, and why.
The Anatomy Of A Cannabis Plant
Cannabis plants can be male, female, or hermaphrodite. The dried marijuana flowers that humans consume, however, come from the female plant. That’s because female plants produce large resin-secreting flowers that are rich in cannabinoids and free of seeds. Hence, female plants are the ones growers prefer, though of course, male marijuana plants are a requirement for pollination.
The flowers of female cannabis plants grow in large clusters called cola, with the main cola at the top of the plant. These clusters contain the reproductive parts of the flower, which impart the marijuana plant with vibrant strands of color but do little for potency and taste.
Encasing these parts are green tear-shaped leaf-like structures called the bract. Bracts are densely coated with resin-producing glands containing the highest concentration of cannabinoids in the marijuana plant.
Finally, the entire marijuana flower structure is coated with resinous crystals called trichomes. Trichomes are translucent, mushroom-like glands that form on the entire flowering structure and even the stems of the marijuana plant. These bulb-shaped glands secrete the rich, aromatic essential oils that give cannabis its smells and flavors. Trichomes also contain cannabinoids.
Lovingly shortened to “terps,” terpenes are plant compounds found in all strains of cannabis—and many other plants, besides. They play a major role in the palette of the cannabis plant, imparting smells and flavors ranging from sweet and floral to earthy and cheesy.
Today, much speculation surrounds terpenes, their role in the effects of consuming cannabis, and how to best cultivate and preserve them during production.
Knowledge about how terpenes interact with plant cannabinoids has grown significantly over the years, however.
Cannabis plants are chemical powerhouses that produce more than 400 different compounds. But of those 400 compounds, more than 100 of them are totally specific to the plant genus Cannabis sativa. Scientists call these special compounds “cannabinoids.”
Cannabinoids are chemicals that interact with cell receptors throughout the human central nervous system. This specialized network of receptors, called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), reacts to the presence of cannabinoids to produce a variety of pleasurable and therapeutic effects.
Research into plant cannabinoids constitutes the main focus of studies into the possible medical applications of marijuana.
The Most Important Cannabinoids In Marijuana
Cannabinoids naturally occur as acids. Heating them converts them to a neutral form through a process called decarboxylation. Decarboxylated cannabinoids are able to interact with receptors in the endocannabinoid system, where they stimulate and alter the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.
Scientists have recorded the presence of more than 100 different plant cannabinoids in marijuana. But only a few really matter; the ones that produce desirable and beneficial effects for users.
The legendary THC has sealed cannabis’ fate for nearly a century, making marijuana one of the most persecuted plants on the planet. And all because this one compound happens to interact with the human body in such a way as to produce a complex signature of effects—a “high” unlike any other.
THC is the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis. And through a complex series of reactions, it binds to nerve receptors in the brain and throughout the body.
For millennia, humans have taken advantage of these reactions for enjoyment and health. While THC is a potent medicine for cannabis patients suffering from chronic pain, sleep disorders, and inflammation, its popularity and notoriety undeniably stem from its recreational uses.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, holds the key to the wide variety of medicinal and therapeutic effects marijuana offers. Importantly, CBD is a non-psychoactive component of marijuana. Yet it occurs in high enough concentrations that extracting it from cannabis plants is relatively easy.
Isolated from THC and other cannabinoids, CBD inhabits a legal gray area and is legal almost everywhere. With wide-ranging medical applications, cultivating CBD-heavy strains has become a priority in the industry. CBD is available in a number of forms, from edibles to concentrates to topicals.
For medical cannabis patients, cannabidiol can reduce inflammation, treat mood disorders, shrink tumors, relieve pain and stop seizures. For recreational marijuana users, CBD can help balance THC and smooth the edges of an extreme high.
CBG (Cannabigerolic Acid)
CBG, like CBD, is non-psychoactive. Yet this compound is a key precursor to both THC and CBD. It acts as a kind of vanishing mediator. As soon as CBG appears, it just as quickly converts to either CBD or THC.
Figuring out which factors control which path CBG will take has helped plant scientists “direct” cannabinoid production, leading to marijuana strains with high CBD and low THC and vice versa.
Excitingly, CBG has also shown a number of promising medical applications. Research has suggested CBG could help treat cancer and a variety of bowel and bladder diseases.
Given its name, you might assume THCV shares psychoactive powers with its potent counterpart, THC. In reality, this cannabinoid is more like a cross between CBD and THC. From the former, it takes its modulating powers. Acting like THC “lite,” THCV like CBD can dampen the effects of a strong high. Yet at higher doses, THCV kicks into a psychoactive stimulant in its own right.
Cerebral and focusing, THCV can also intensify the euphoria THC causes. The problem is that it occurs only in trace amounts in herbaceous cannabis. But look to a future where THCV extracts are available for vaping.
CBDV is an analog to CBD and is therefore non-psychoactive. But CBDV shares the medicinal use of CBD. The cannabinoid is found in higher quantities in cannabis strains that also have a high CBD concentration. The two tend to go together.
And as with CBD, researchers find good cause for pursuing the clinical development of CBDV-based treatments. Current medical marijuana research has identified CBDV as a powerful anti-convulsant. This means it can help reduce the severity of seizures for people suffering from epilepsy. The compound has also shown promise as an anti-nausea medicine.
CBC is another lesser-known yet still crucial cannabinoid in marijuana, especially from a therapeutic perspective. While bereft of the psychoactive quality of THC (and to a lesser extent THCV), CBC is gaining popularity as an anxiety reducer. While research on cannabichromene lags behind others, there’s good reason to continue looking into its potential as a medicine.
In 1981, this study found that CBC was the second-most prominent cannabinoid found in cannabis. Therefore, while CBC may not have any particularly strong effect on its own, it could play an essential part in the ensemble effect lauded by whole-plant cannabis enthusiasts.
Commercial cannabis cultivation has grown into a modern, technologically sophisticated operation. Yet amateur and small-scale growers can grow marijuana just as successfully with simpler setups. Recreational marijuana laws that allow for in-home cultivation have contributed to the rise of home marijuana grows.
Cannabis can grow well both indoors and out. Cultivation setups can be hydroponic or soil-based. The ideal growing conditions for cannabis depend on the specific requirements of the strain.
Growing Marijuana Indoors
Indoor marijuana grows provide the most control over growing conditions. With a simple setup including a tent, proper lighting, and an air circulation system, home marijuana growers can produce consistent yields. Both soil and hydro systems can be utilized for indoor marijuana grows. Soil setups are generally cheaper and more forgiving, but hydro systems tend to be more common.
Growing marijuana indoors usually begins with cannabis seeds or a clone which has already begun its initial growth phase. Planting cannabis seeds or rooting a clone is, therefore, the first step. Using correctly calibrated plant nutrients is essential to successful growth. Over-watering and overfeeding cannabis plants is an easy mistake to make.
Marijuana plants will give signs when things are going wrong, giving growers a chance to correct course. Indica strains of marijuana are more conducive to indoor growing due to their more efficient use of available space. Sativa cannabis strains require trellising for support and introduce the need for growth training, complicating the setup.
Growing Marijuana Outdoors
When privacy isn’t a requirement, outdoor cannabis grows can provide many advantages over indoor operations. Sunlight is the single most important factor for successful outdoor marijuana growing. It’s important to choose a plot with total sunshine throughout the day. Therefore, cannabis growers in the northern hemisphere will want plots with southern exposure, exposing marijuana plants to the sun’s arc across the sky.
The increased exposure to constant sunlight makes the feeding requirements of outdoor cannabis plants somewhat less strict. Outside, nutrients should be applied to the grow medium every third day.
Outdoor growing provides a significant advantage over indoor growing in one key area: space. The greater availability of space allows marijuana plants to spread out and produce much larger yields. A single cannabis plant grown to full-size outside can produce between four and eight pounds of cannabis.
Hydroponic systems are soil-less setups for growing marijuana indoors. They’ve long been a staple of large-scale agricultural industries and commercial-size grows. Indeed, hydroponic systems are easily the most widely used method of cannabis cultivation in the world.
Advances in equipment, grow mediums and nutrient mixes, however, have made hydro a less formidable method of growing marijuana than it once was. Today, small hydroponic systems are becoming more popular among home marijuana growers.
There are variety of hydroponic setups, but each method essentially involves administering water and nutrient solution directly to the roots of the cannabis plants, without the use of soil. Systems can vary from simple, pump-based setups to fully-automated, computer-regulated setups.
Soil grows are more affordable and accessible than many hydroponic setups. Today however, soil marijuana grows are almost exclusively used for outdoor growing. Marijuana growers face some additional challenges using soil grow mediums.
Ensuring soils have the correct amounts of required nutrients, and keeping them devoid of toxins, can be a difficult process. As a result, many outdoor marijuana growers will adapt methods from hydro growing, such as introducing buffers that make soil “airier” and more nutrient dense.
Soil grows are also much more ecologically friendly, which some cannabis growers prefer. There are many ways responsible marijuana cultivation can contribute to local ecology. At the same time, however, unscrupulous marijuana growers can threaten soil health and water resources, and damage ecosystems through the use of pesticides.
Ideal Growing Conditions
In late 2017, researchers with the University of Guelph in Canada published the first-ever study to document the ideal growing conditions for cannabis. Using liquid organic fertilizer with a PKN ratio of 1.3P–1.7K-4.0N, the experiment tested five increasing rates of fertilization. They also tested two coir-based soil-less growing media, or “substrates.”
The team found that, when it comes to growing marijuana in coco-coir, “the highest yield, cannabinoid content and plant growth were achieved around an organic fertilizer rate that supplied 389 mg N/L during the vegetative growth stage.”
The paper goes on to note that pushing the fertilizer rate up to 418 mg N/L maximized THC concentrations in dried marijuana flower, at the expense of yield and other cannabinoid content.
Strains and Breeding
Despite its centrality in human cultures across the globe, the European taxonomists who bequeathed Cannabis sativa its name didn’t quite get it right. When Carolus Linneaus came to naming the marijuana plant’s genus, he thought there was only one species, instead of the three we now know exist. Hence the confusion surrounding the fact that there are three distinct species of the genus Cannabis sativa, one of which is the sativa species.
The confusion compounds when one realizes that in today’s popular lexicon, the terms indica, sativa, and hybrid tend to indicate a set of effects, rather than the taxonomy of a particular strain. But that’s just as well. Most marijuana strains today, especially those under commercial cultivation, are genetic hybrids. Only a handful of pure, or “landrace” cannabis strains are in circulation.
The indica species of cannabis gets its name from the region where it was “discovered” and classified, in this case, India. But again, in today’s parlance, calling something an “indica strain” indicates a distinct set of effects and sensations, rather than anything having to do with marijuana growth patterns, genetic lineage, or flowering times.
Put simply, “indica” strains are those associated with a strong body-high, feelings of sedation and relaxation. For this reason, indicas are often thought of as the “heavier” strains of cannabis, offering stronger highs that impact the whole body. They’re popular among marijuana users as pain relieving and sleep-inducing strains. Indicas are especially popular among medical cannabis patients.
For marijuana growers and breeders, indica indicates a plant that is short in stature, with broad leaves and darker coloration. Indicas’ shorter flowering cycles help make these marijuana strains more suitable for colder climates and shorter growing seasons.
Like indica strains, calling a strain a sativa means something different for marijuana consumers than it does for growers. If indicas are the “downers” of the cannabis family, sativas are the uppers.
Known for invigorating and uplifting sensations, with a high focus in the mind rather than the body, sativas are extremely popular as daytime-use strains and for social occasions. Sativas are also widely associated with the cerebral and creativity-enhancing effects of weed. Hence, they are lauded by artists and other inventive people who use cannabis.
From a botanical perspective, however, sativas are the skinnier, wispier counterpoint to the stocky hardiness of indica strains. They grow taller, have narrower leaves, and longer flowering cycles. In the right climate, ideally warm, those features make sativas production powerhouses.
As the name suggests, hybrid strains of marijuana combine elements from both indica and sativa parents. As a result, cannabis users often consider their effects to fall somewhere between indicas and sativas.
So-called “pure hybrids,” while oxymoronic in name, indicate marijuana strains that are believed to offer a perfect blend or balance of sativa’s energizing and indica’s sedating effects. Other hybrid strains of cannabis tend to place the emphasis on one end of the spectrum or the other. These are called “sativa-dominant” or “indica-dominant,” accordingly.
Classifications of marijuana can also indicate the relative concentration of cannabinoids in different strains.. The distinction here is especially useful for differentiating between marijuana strains which are better suited to recreational use and those more geared toward medical or therapeutic applications.
THC-dominant marijuana strains are those recreational users prize most. The following are the strongest THC-dominant strains, as of 2017.
- Godfather OG // Indica // 34.04 percent THC
- Super Glue // Hybrid // 32.14 percent THC
- Strawberry Banana // Hybrid // 31.62 percent THC
- Venom OG Kush // Indica // 31.04 percent THC
The popularization of cannabidiol’s therapeutic uses has led to a boom in cultivators who breed cannabis strains with high CBD and low THC. These strains of marijuana are not typically consumed for recreational purposes. Their low or negligible psychoactivity means CBD-dominant cannabis strains do not get users high.
Instead, CBD-dominant marijuana strains provide the raw materials for a range of CBD products, like oils, edibles and skin products.
It’s important to distinguish between CBD-dominant strains of cannabis and strains of hemp. Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC and is rich in CBD, making it a popular and legal source for CBD health products.
Landrace cannabis strains are invaluable resources. They represent the oldest and purest forms of cannabis that exist. Landrace strains occur naturally and have evolved over thousands of years. They’re perfectly adapted to the climates where they grow.
Perfected over the course of their evolution, landrace plants are large, hardy marijuana plants capable of producing massive yields. They form complex resins highly concentrated with terpenes and cannabinoids.
Landraces grow all over the globe. Except for those that grow throughout South Asia, which are indicas, most landrace marijuana strains are sativas or low-THC hemp varieties. North Africa and Central Asia are regions where ruderalis landrace strains grow.
All modern cannabis strains derive from landraces. Hence their value: landrace strains are the basis for breeding. Breeders could not create new strains without them.
For many, the medical and therapeutic potential of cannabis is what makes legalizing the marijuana plant such an important political and social task. Federal prohibition has established barriers to comprehensive cannabis research in the United States. However, researchers in other countries continue to make significant contributions to our knowledge of the cannabis plant and how it affects the human body.
Furthermore, medical cannabis use is legal in many more places than recreational marijuana use. Current research, alongside patient and caregiver testimony, attests to the many medicinal applications of marijuana. From pain to serious neurological diseases, medical cannabis is emerging as a safe and viable alternative to many common prescription medications.
Medical cannabis products come in many forms, from flower to concentrates. Products with a high cannabidiol (CBD) content are more common among medical cannabis patients, yet THC also offers a range of medicinal and therapeutic benefits.
The Legality Of Medical Marijuana
In the United States, the legality of medical marijuana varies in substantial ways from state to state. There are currently 29 US states with legal medical cannabis laws, as well as the District of Columbia. That leaves 21 states where medical marijuana is entirely prohibited. Marijuana cultivation, possession, and use in any form is illegal at the federal level.
Popular Medical Cannabis Products
While medical cannabis products come in many forms, the most popular continues to be herbaceous marijuana. From a medicinal or therapeutic view, dried flower is extremely versatile. Many strains of cannabis are bred to bring out particular traits that make them ideal to treat a particular disease or ailment.
Edible cannabis, however, is quickly making up ground as a go-to method for consuming medical marijuana. Indeed, some states with legal medical marijuana laws still forbid smoking marijuana. Instead, medical forms of the drug are only available in pill or capsule form. Oils and tinctures, which are made from extracting cannabinoids from herbaceous material, are also commonly prescribed in the form of cannabis edibles.
Not without reason, there is a strong perception that smoking cannabis for medical use is contradictory, due to the health risks associated with smoking. Hence, smoke-free methods of cannabis consumption, including vaping, are rising in popularity among medical marijuana users.
Topicals represent a newer emerging market in medical marijuana products geared toward health and beauty. Cannabinoids can be absorbed through the skin for certain therapeutic benefits without any psychoactivity. Additionally, the essential oils in hemp and cannabis provide many benefits for skin health. From moisturizers to shampoos and deodorants, medical cannabis products continue to diversify.
Medical Cannabis Uses And Treatments
Many of the medical benefits of cannabis stem from its capacity to act as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a contributing and aggravating factor in a range of diseases, including chronic pain and neurological illnesses.
Cannabis, especially the cannabinoid CBD, has also demonstrated its abilities as a powerful anti-convulsant. This property is what accounts for cannabis’ ability to reduce the severity and frequency of seizures, especially for people with epilepsy. In the United States, epilepsy is the most widely adopted qualifying condition for medical cannabis use, especially for children.
Scientists have also discovered a pathway whereby cannabis can act as a “neuro-protectant,” shielding nerve cells from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s.
Even more remarkably, cannabidiol has shown that it can inhibit the growth of tumors. Landmark studies conclude that CBD can, therefore, slow the progression of many types of cancer, including breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer.
State Of Cannabis Research
Researchers in the United States face many challenges and barriers in conducting cannabis research. Changes in state policy and increasing access to legal medical marijuana has not altered the federal legal landscape, which still considers marijuana “Schedule I” with no medical or social value.
As a result, there is limited reliable research on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids produced in the US. Regulatory barriers, poor quality marijuana samples, funding limitations and logistical problems beleaguer cannabis studies in the US.
However, other nations with less restrictive policies have emerged as global leaders in medical cannabis research and development. Among them are Canada, which just authorized $1.4 million for marijuana research projects.
Israel, another example, has led the way with ground-breaking research into cannabis cultivation. The country recently recognized medical marijuana as an official part of the nation’s branch of agriculture. Israel is already one of the world’s leading exporters of medical-grade cannabis. Recognizing marijuana cultivation as an official branch of the country’s agriculture will open up even more funds to support Israeli cannabis farmers.
According to researchers, 25 percent of all cancer patients use medical marijuana. Cancer patients are finding relief from medical cannabis. And they want to know more about it. Research conducted at St. George’s University of London, found the two most common cannabinoids in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), weakened the ferocity of cancer cells and made them more susceptible to radiation treatment. Other studies have shown that medical marijuana treatments can slow the growth of cancer cells and halt their spread to other parts of the body.
Several animal studies have led researchers to believe that cannabis could reverse signs of aging in the brain. Aging mice treated with small daily doses of THC showed a reversal in cognitive decline. However, past studies on the effects of cannabis on human memory show less promising results. Still, with few viable treatments for dementia, medical marijuana is receiving increased attention in this area.
Cannabis research suggests medical marijuana could become an effective treatment for diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a debilitating and sometimes fatal condition caused by diabetes. Diabetics suffer from high blood sugar due to insulin resistance, and this damages nerve cells in the body, causing severe pain. Patients who consumed THC as part of a study found they experienced less pain. Findings are not definitive, however, and further research into cannabis as a treatment for diabetes and associated symptoms is required.
Few studies exist examining how cannabis affects epilepsy in humans. But studies on animals offer rich and encouraging data about the effectiveness of medical marijuana as a seizure medication. In animals, both the THC and CBD cannabinoids demonstrate very potent anti-convulsant effects.
The CBD cannabinoid shows the widest effectiveness, capable of treating a variety of epilepsies without actively causing seizures or increasing there severity. THC also exerts anti-seizure properties. But in about 10 percent of cases, THC led to more and severer seizures in animals.
Cannabis lowers the pressure in the eye that causes optic nerve damage leading to glaucoma. Research has shown conclusively that marijuana users experience lower internal eye pressure while the body metabolizes THC. However, the psychoactive side effects of using THC to treat glaucoma make cannabis a nonviable medication for most people with the disease.
Researchers in New Zealand have studied whether cannabis can be used to treat severe motor and vocal tics in those suffering from Tourette syndrome. The study concluded that subjects who took a controlled THC-CBD medicated spray showed marked improvement in the frequency and severity of motor and vocal tics post-treatment. Although the study is only a small clinical trial, it is one of the first to specifically analyze the effects of cannabis on Tourette syndrome.
Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug in the world, for no reason other than the fact that it produces a psychoactive chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol. Still, recreational marijuana use, which involves pursuing the euphoric sensations produced by cannabis consumption, is steadily becoming more and more legal, both in the United States and abroad.
Recreational cannabis cultivation and consumption continue to enter the mainstream as a legal, regulated industry. And new and exciting trends have emerged in the commercial marketplace. Legal marijuana also offers unprecedented investment opportunities; the industry is the fastest-growing in the world.
Common Uses For Recreational Marijuana
Recreational cannabis use centers around one chemical: the psychoactive cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Consuming this chemical induces euphoric and stimulating sensations commonly referred to as a “high.” For most marijuana users, these sensations are pleasurable and enjoyable. For some, however, THC can induce feelings of anxiety and paranoia, especially in large doses.
Recreational marijuana use is simply the consumption of cannabis for the purposes of achieving these pleasurable effects. Other common uses include improving mood, increasing creativity, easing social anxiety or other stresses, and relaxation.
Emerging Trends In The Recreational Cannabis Market
Undeniably, one of the biggest trends in the recreational cannabis community has been the surge in popularity of cannabis concentrates. From casual vaping to competitive dabbing, the concentrate market has virtually dominated the conversation among recreational users.
Going forward, another emerging trend among recreational users are wellness lifestyles built around cannabis. This is certainly part of the influence of California’s new recreational marijuana market, which went online January 1, 2018. California is already an epicenter for health and wellness lifestyles and fads. Expect to see more of the same now that cannabis is completely legal.
Whether it’s new cannabis strains boasting previously unheard of THC concentrations, new devices for obtaining and consuming concentrates, or new techniques for produces the highest quality edibles, the recreational marijuana market is no doubt one of the most exciting emerging horizons in the cannabis industry worldwide.
Economic Impact Of Cannabis
Cannabis is one of the world’s fastest-growing consumer industries. It’s currently worth $7.2 billion and expected to bloom to $20.5 billion by 2020. Legal cannabis companies have also created over 300,000 jobs, according to the data firm New Frontier.
Startups are cropping up everywhere, and investors are cautiously optimistic about the opportunities these businesses represent. Developments in technology, financing, and media have completely transformed the landscape of commercial cannabis in the United States and elsewhere.
The emerging legal marketplace is also highly competitive. Companies are vying to form partnerships with tech companies offering solutions to increase bottom lines.
Legal Status of Recreational Marijuana
Only a handful of countries have legalized recreational marijuana. Uruguay was one of the first, in 2013. The Netherlands is perhaps the country most known for legal marijuana, yet the drug is illegal there. Spain has given its citizens the rights to grow and consume cannabis privately. Peru also allows citizens to possess marijuana as long as it is for personal, private use. As in Costa Rica, where people can have a “small amount,” without legal trouble.
In the United States, 9 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult recreational marijuana use.
Usage Statistics For Marijuana
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), About 147 million people, 2.5 percent of the world population, consume cannabis. That’s compared with 0.2 percent consuming cocaine and 0.2 percent consuming opiates. The most recent decade has also seen the sharpest rise in marijuana abuse.
Public Perception of Marijuana In The United States
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 64 percent of respondents said they support fully legalizing cannabis. The total represents a 4 percent increase over the prior year. The upward trend isn’t something new, either. Support for legal weed has grown steadily since 2012. Interestingly, support for legal marijuana is rising among Republican voters.
coutesy High Times, Author Adam Drury