Cannabis refers to a group of three plants with psychoactive properties, namely Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.
These plants contain active chemical compounds called cannabinoids, the most well-known being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Cannabis has a long history of human use for fiber, food, and medicines.
A Brief History of Cannabis
The use of cannabis dates back thousands of years in various cultures and regions.
One of the earliest known uses was in China around 6000 BCE for seed and oil.
Cannabis later spread to India, the Middle East, and Africa, where it was used as a spiritual herb.
References to cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes appear throughout history in many parts of Asia and the Middle East.
In the 19th century, an Irish physician named William O’Shaughnessy introduced the therapeutic uses of cannabis to Western medicine.
Cannabis became popular as a pharmaceutical across Europe and North America up until the early 20th century.
Laws prohibiting cannabis widespread emerged in the 1900s, with federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States in 1937.
The Different Types of Cannabis
There are three main species of cannabis:
- Cannabis sativa is commonly described as uplifting and stimulating. Sativa strains are often recommended for daytime use.
- Cannabis indica provides relaxing, sedating effects typically used in the evening or at night.
- Cannabis ruderalis is less commonly used and has weak psychoactive effects. It is primarily grown for industrial purposes or medicinal CBD extraction.
There are thousands of different strains or varieties of cannabis that have been developed with distinctive characteristics like taste, aroma, and medicinal benefits.
The Chemistry of Cannabis
Over 100 cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis plants.
These chemicals interact with the human endocannabinoid system to produce various effects.
The most well-studied cannabinoids are:
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – The main psychoactive compound responsible for the high sensation.
- CBD (cannabidiol) – A non-psychoactive compound studied for therapeutic benefits. It may counteract some of the effects of THC.
- CBN (cannabinol) – A mildly psychoactive cannabinoid with potential sedative effects.
Other cannabinoids like CBG and THCV, along with terpenes and flavonoids, shape the effects and characteristics of different cannabis strains.
The Effects of Cannabis
Cannabis can induce various physical and psychological effects by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system.
Effects depend on the individual, dosage, and method of consumption but may include:
- Relaxation, euphoria
- Altered perception of time and space
- Enhanced sensory perception
- Increased appetite
- Reduction in nausea
- Analgesic (pain-relieving) effects
Potential negative effects include anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, impaired coordination, and short-term memory problems.
Cannabis has been studied extensively for a wide range of medical uses and shows promising results for certain conditions.
However, more research is still needed to confirm its therapeutic efficacy and safety.
The Potential Therapeutic Benefits of Cannabis
Research indicates cannabis may help with:
- Chronic pain relief
- Reducing muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis
- Improving appetite and decreasing nausea, especially for chemotherapy patients
- PTSD, anxiety, and sleep disorders
- Inflammatory conditions like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease
- Controlling epileptic seizures
- Killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth
The combination of THC and CBD shows promise for treating neuropathy, childhood epilepsy syndromes, symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
The Latest Research on Cannabis and Medicine
Hundreds of studies on medical cannabis are underway globally.
Recent research has looked at:
- The effects of medical cannabis on older adults with chronic pain. Findings showed improved pain levels, quality of life, and reduced prescription drug use.
- Using cannabis while undergoing chemotherapy. THC and CBD may help reduce symptoms like nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy drugs.
- Medical cannabis for arthritis pain. A study found significant improvements in pain and sleep quality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
- The potential of cannabis to help with concussion and traumatic brain injury recovery by reducing inflammation, regulating brain cell function, and preserving cerebral blood flow.
How to Use Cannabis to Treat Specific Medical Conditions
Always consult your doctor before using cannabis for any medical condition.
Methods of using medical cannabis include:
- Chronic Pain – Indica strains with higher levels of CBD are often recommended, as well as CBD oils, edibles, or tinctures. Topicals can provide localized pain relief.
- Nausea – CBD or a combination of CBD and THC is best for reducing nausea and stimulating appetite. Options include tablets, oils, vaporizers, or even rectal suppositories.
- Anxiety Disorders – Low THC strains and products with a balanced CBD:THC ratio help many people with anxiety. Start with lower doses to avoid increasing anxiety symptoms.
- Cancer – Using cannabis along with conventional cancer treatments may provide the most benefit. THC and CBD oils, tinctures, sprays, and edibles are common for managing cancer symptoms.
- Neurological Disorders – For MS, CBD-dominant strains and oils can reduce muscle spasms and pain. High CBD:THC ratios may also help with seizures. Applied topically, they can alleviate neuropathy.
In recent years, cannabis has been increasingly legalized for recreational use.
Methods and motivations for recreational use differ from medical applications.
The Different Ways to Consume Cannabis for Recreational Purposes
Popular methods include:
- Smoking – Joints, pipes, bongs, and blunts. Provides quick effects.
- Vaporizing – Heats cannabis to release active compounds without burning. Considered a healthier option than smoking.
- Edibles – Foods infused with cannabis like baked goods, candy, oils, and tinctures. Effects take longer to onset but can be stronger and last longer.
- Topicals – Cannabis-infused lotions, creams, and balms absorbed through the skin for localized relief. Do not cause a high feeling.
- Dabbing – Involves inhaling vapors from highly concentrated cannabis oils and extracts heated on a hot surface. Fast onset of potent effects.
The Effects of Different Consumption Methods
Smoking and vaping provide rapid effects that typically peak within 10 minutes and last 1-3 hours.
Edibles have delayed onset of about 30-90 minutes.
Peak effects occur around 2-4 hours and can last 4-12 hours.
Topicals only affect the localized area they are applied to and do not cause psychoactive effects.
Dabbing leads to almost instant effects due to the high THC concentration.
The experience is stronger but shorter in duration.
How to Choose the Right Consumption Method for You
Factors like the desired effects, speed of onset, duration, and health risks can help determine which method is best for an individual.
For example, edibles or tinctures work well for longer relief from symptoms like pain and insomnia.
Vaping offers quicker action that smoking for medical users concerned about respiratory risks.
Recreational users may prefer smoking or vaping for fast effects.
Starting with lower doses is advisable until you understand how different products affect you.
Selecting among the many cannabis strains can be confusing.
Knowing key differences helps choose one suited for your needs.
What are Cannabis Strains?
Strains refer to the different varieties of cannabis plants cultivated for their distinctive chemical profiles and effects.
While there are thousands of strains, most fall into the two broad categories of indica and sativa.
The Different Types of Cannabis Strains
Sativa strains tend to provide uplifting, energetic effects promote creativity and focus. They are often recommended for daytime use.
Indica varieties typically offer more relaxing, sedating qualities preferred for calming anxiety, pain, and sleep issues.
Hybrids blend characteristics of both sativa and indica. The ratios differ – some hybrids are sativa-dominant while others lean more towards indica qualities.
There are also high-CBD strains bred specifically for therapeutic purposes with minimal psychoactivity.
How to Choose the Right Strain for Your Needs
Consider your purpose and desired effects.
Check lab test results of strains for their cannabinoid and terpene content.
- For focus – Pick sativas with energizing terpenes like pinene, limonene, and citronellol.
- For anxiety relief – Indicas with linalool and myrcene create relaxing effects.
- For pain – Look for strains high in both THC and CBD.
- For sleep – Indicas with sedating terpenes like myrcene, linalool, and caryophyllene.
Starting slowly with lower doses of new strains provides the best experience.
Keep a log of how different strains affect you.
Laws and social acceptance surrounding cannabis continue to evolve worldwide.
Legality varies between countries, states, provinces, and even cities.
The Legal Status of Cannabis Around the World
- Uruguay and Canada have legalized cannabis nationwide.
- Many European countries like the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal have decriminalized cannabis, along with some South American nations.
- In the U.S., 19 states plus D.C. have legalized recreational cannabis. All but 3 states have legal medical cannabis programs. On the federal level though, cannabis remains prohibited.
- Parts of Australia and Africa have decriminalized or are moving towards legalizing medical cannabis. Countries like China and Japan maintain strict prohibition.
The Latest News and Developments on Cannabis Legalization
Several new U.S. states including New York, New Mexico, and Virginia legalized recreational cannabis in 2021-2022.
European countries are considering legislation for broader legal access.
A UN committee recently voted to remove cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs.
In total, over 50 countries worldwide now permit some form of legal cannabis access – double the amount from a decade ago.
Momentum towards legalization globally continues to build.
How to Get Involved in the Legalization Movement
- Contact your governmental representatives to express your support for cannabis law reforms. Attend town halls to voice opinions.
- Vote in favor of legalization measures and support political candidates who promote cannabis reforms.
- Donate or volunteer your time to advocacy organizations like NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, National Cannabis Industry Association.
- Educate yourself on the history of prohibition, its impacts, and the benefits of legal access to make informed arguments.
- Share your personal stories on how cannabis has helped you when done responsibly to help break stigma.
Cannabis has influenced art, music, food, and other aspects of culture for decades despite prohibition.
The plant’s unique properties and effects have inspired creative expression across various mediums.
The History and Culture of Cannabis
Cannabis has been integral to spiritual and social practices in India, Jamaica, and Morocco for centuries.
The counterculture movement of the 1960s promoted cannabis as a mind-expanding substance.
Celebrities like Bob Marley brought cannabis and Rastafarian culture into the mainstream.
The cannabis industry has now popularized sophisticated lounges, gourmet edibles, educational resources, and more as legalization spreads.
Annual events like cannabis festivals and 4/20 celebrations demonstrate the herb’s significance in pop culture.
Cannabis in Art, Music, and Literature
Cannabis has provided inspiration for all forms of art.
Many visual artists like Frida Kahlo have featured cannabis in their paintings and sculptures.
Musicians across genres from reggae to hip hop have embraced the herb in their songs promoting its pleasures or spiritual powers.
And authors from Maya Angelou to Hunter S. Thompson have depicted cannabis experiences in their writings.
Over thousands of years, cannabis has taken on many important roles – as medicine, recreational substance, spiritual aid, artistic inspiration, and driver of social justice reform.
With shifting attitudes and laws worldwide, cannabis is poised to become more acceptable and accessible.
Ongoing research and education will help realize cannabis’s full potential benefits while minimizing any risks or harms through smart legal policies.
Though often controversial, cannabis continues holding an enduring, multifaceted place in human cultures.