For over 70 years, cannabis has been illegal in the United States (and in most countries around the world). Lately, though, new research has allowed Mary Jane to shed her outlaw image and more people are coming to realize that, actually, cannabis is kind of a great thing. And that, actually, people who enjoy a bit of green don’t all look like the stereotypical Jay and Silent Bob “stoner” type.
It seems like every day we’re learning more and more about the benefits - both big and small - of cannabis but, for the most part, the stigma remains. Despite the fact that unlike legal substances like prescription drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, there has never been a documented death caused by cannabis usage.
Let’s compare cannabis to another substance we all know and love - wine. Similar to how there are many varieties of wine, cannabis also comes in many strains, each with its own unique qualities and characteristics. Like winemakers, cannabis growers dedicate an incredible amount of time and effort to perfecting, developing, and growing different strains of cannabis to provide consumers with the best experience possible.
And, like wine, if consumed responsibly, cannabis can be a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, relax, and socialize.
For the most part, the stubborn stigma attached to cannabis comes from lack of education, misuse and abuse of the plant - mixing it with substances like alcohol and other recreational drugs, for example - and misinformation (like radical christians who are convinced that smoking “the devil’s weed” can make you gay). As recently as 2013, only 6% of cannabis studies in the US investigated the plant's benefits while the rest investigated possible harm - ultimately painting a very skewed picture for the public.
Luckily, in the age of the internet, the power to educate and inform ourselves is in our hands. To get you started, here’s a little weed 101.
Cannabis contains over 500 compounds, and at least 85 of those are known as cannabinoids. As High Times put it - “Each of us have a network of receptors called the 'endocannabinoid system,' located in our brain and throughout the nervous system. Turns out that the compounds in the cannabis plant “turn on” this system—and that our bodies produce similar compounds that also activate these receptors. These receptors regulate mood, appetite, sleep cycles, manage pain, and alter our perception.”
85 may sound like a lot, but there are really only two key cannabinoids you need to know about; THC and CBD.
This is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis; the stuff that gets you high. It has also been linked to increased appetite (the notorious munchies aka your bikini body’s arch nemesis), euphoria, altered thinking, and short term memory loss.
What many people don’t realize is that not all forms of cannabis get you high. The majority of cannabis products used for therapeutic and medicinal purposes don’t actually contain THC, but CBD. Unlike THC, CBD is counter-psychoactive. Although it doesn’t get you “stoned” or “high,” CBD is an effective mood booster and has been proven to relieve anxiety, calm the nervous system, and even help with conditions like epilepsy and schizophrenia.
Cannabis has been used as a form of medicine for centuries. But the recent rediscovery of cannabis’ array of medical benefits, along with new studies, is what has kickstarted the slow but steady shifts towards legalization. Some major medical benefits include controlling seizures for those with epilepsy, slowing the progress of Alzheimer's, and relieving some of the side effects that come as a result of of chemotherapy for cancer patients, such as nausea, loss of appetite, pain, and anxiety.
No, those hemp seeds in your smoothie won’t get you high. Hemp, after all, only contains about 1% THC. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that has played an important role as a versatile and renewable resource since as far back as the ancient Egyptians, when it was used for things like textiles, rope, and more. The fact that the plant breathes in C02, detoxifies the soil, and prevents soil erosion, has encouraged modern farmers and innovators to look for new ways to utilize this eco-friendly and sustainable resource. Today, hemp has been used to create biodegradable plastic, paper, biofuel, and even ‘hempcrete’ - concrete made from hemp.
Indica and indica-dominant strains give users a deep body high. Users smoke these strains to relax, relieve stress, and sleep, thanks to its sedative effect. A good way to distinguish indica and sativa strains is by remembering that indica will leave you “in-da-couch.”
Sativa and sativa-dominant strains deliver an uplifting, mind stimulating high that assists with focus, mood, and creativity. Some users even insist that a good sativa is a better, cleaner energy boost than a good ol’ cup of coffee.
Between indica and sativa strains, there are hybrids. As mentioned before, cannabis growers or “breeders” dedicate a lot of time and effort to cultivating new strains that bring us the best of both plants. Hybrids are broken up into three categories; indica-dominant, sativa-dominant, and “even” which, as its name suggests, is split right down the middle of a body and cerebral high.