The genus Cannabis (also known as marijuana) contains two species which produce useful amounts of psychoactive cannabinoids: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, which are listed as Schedule I medicinal plants in the US; a third species, Cannabis ruderalis, has few psychogenic properties. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids – chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain.
The earliest recorded uses date from the 3rd millennium BC. Since the early 20th century, cannabis has been subject to legal restrictions. The possession, use, and sale of cannabis is illegal in most countries of the world. Medical cannabis refers to the physician-recommended use of cannabis, which takes place in Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. In September 2018 cannabis was legalized in South Africa while Canada legalized recreational use of cannabis in October 2018.
Cannabis is mostly used for recreation or as a medicinal drug, although it may also be used for spiritual purposes. In 2013, between 128 and 232 million people used cannabis (2.7% to 4.9% of the global population between the ages of 15 and 65). It is the most commonly used illegal drug both in the world and the United States. The countries with the highest use among adults as of 2018 are Zambia, the United States, Canada, and Nigeria. In 2016, 51% of people in the United States had ever used cannabis. About 12% had used it in the past year, and 7.3% had used it in the past month.
Currently 31 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have approved the use of cannabis for medical purposes and or recreational use.
Information current as of November, 2018
Difference between C. indica and C. sativa
There are several key differences between Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa. These include height and stature, internodal length, leaf size and structure, buds size and density, flowering time, odour, smoke and effects.Indica plants tend to grow shorter and bushier than the sativa plants. Indica strains tend to have wide, short leaves with short wide blades, whereas sativa strains have long leaves with thin long blades. The buds of indica strains tend to be wide, dense and bulky, while sativa strains are likely to be long, sausage shaped flowers.
On average, Cannabis indica has lower levels of THC compared to CBD, whereas Cannabis sativa has higher levels of THC to CBD.However, huge variability exists within either species. A 2015 study shows the average THC content of the most popular herbal cannabis products in the Netherlands has decreased slightly since 2005.
There are three chemotaxonomic types of Cannabis: one with high levels of THC, one which is more fibrous and has higher levels of CBD, and one that is an intermediate between the two. Cannabis strains with CBD:THC ratios above 5:2 are likely to be more relaxing and produce less anxiety than vice versa. This may be due to CBD's antagonistic effects at the cannabinoid receptors, compared to THC's partial agonist effect.CBD is also a 5-HT1A receptor (serotonin) agonist, which may also contribute to an anxiolytic-content effect. The effects of sativa are well known for its cerebral high. Users can expect a more vivid and uplifting high, while indica is well known for its sedative effects which some prefer for night time use. Indica possesses a more calming, soothing, and numbing experience in which can be used to relax or relieve pain. Both types are used as medical cannabis.
The Cannabis plant has a history of medicinal use dating back thousands of years across many cultures. Medical cannabis has several potential beneficial effects. Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief — particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage) — nausea, spasticity, glaucoma, and movement disorders. Cannabis is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that cannabis’ medicinal properties may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors and are neuroprotective.
Currently, more than 60 U.S. and international health organizations – including the American Public Health Association, Health Canada and the Federation of American Scientists – support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal cannabis under a physician’s supervision. Several others, including the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association support the facilitation of wide-scale, clinical research trials so that physicians may better assess cannabis’ medical potential. In addition, a 1991 Harvard study found that 44 percent of oncologists had previously advised marijuana therapy to their patients. Fifty percent responded they would do so if marijuana was legal. A more recent national survey performed by researchers at Providence Rhode Island Hospital found that nearly half of physicians with opinions supported legalizing medical marijuana.
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Effects of Cannabis
The most psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant is tetrahydrocannabinol (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC). Other cannabinoids include delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabigerol (CBG); they have less psychotropic effects than THC, but may play a role in the overall effect of cannabis. The most studied are THC, CBD and CBN.
The psychoactive effects of Cannabis are known to have a biphasic nature. Primary psychoactive effects include a state of relaxation, and to a lesser degree, euphoria from its main psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol. Secondary psychoactive effects, such as a facility for philosophical thinking, introspection and metacognition have been reported amongst cases of anxiety and paranoia. Finally, the tertiary psychoactive effects of the drug cannabis, can include an increase in heart rate and hunger, believed to be caused by 11-OH-THC, a psychoactive metabolite of THC produced in the liver. Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychotropic effects by itself (although sometimes showing a small stimulant effect, similar to caffeine), attenuates, or reduces the higher anxiety levels caused by THC alone.
According to Delphic analysis by British researchers in 2007, Cannabis has a lower risk factor for dependence compared to both nicotine and alcohol. However, everyday use of Cannabis can in some cases be correlated with psychological withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and insomnia, and evidence could suggest that if a user experiences stress, the likeliness of getting a panic attack increases because of an increase of THC metabolites. However, Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and are not life-threatening.
The term Hemp is used to name the durable soft fiber from the Cannabis Plant stem (stalk).Cannabis sativa cultivars are used for fibers due to their long stems; Sativa varieties may grow more than six metres tall. However, hemp can refer to any industrial or foodstuff product that is not intended for use as a drug.
Hemp is valuable in tens of thousands of commercial products, especially as fiber ranging from paper, cordage, construction material and textiles in general, to clothing. Hemp is stronger and longer-lasting than cotton. It also is a useful source of foodstuffs (hemp milk, hemp seed, hemp oil) and biofuels. Hemp has been used by many civilizations, from China to Europe (and later North America) during the last 12,000 years.
Approximately 44% of the weight of hempseed is edible oils, containing about 80% essential fatty acids (EFAs); e.g., linoleic acid, omega-6 (LA, 55%), alpha-linolenic acid, omega-3 (ALA, 22%), in addition to gamma-linolenic acid, omega-6 (GLA, 1–4%) and stearidonic acid, omega-3 (SDA, 0–2%). Proteins (including edestin) are the other major component (33%). Hempseed’s amino acid profile is “complete” when compared to more common sources of proteins such as meat, milk, eggs and soy.Hemp protein contains all nutritionally significant amino acids, including the 9 essential ones adult bodies cannot produce. Proteins are considered complete when they contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities and ratios to meet the body’s needs. The proportions of linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid in one tablespoon (15 ml) per day of hemp oil easily provides human daily requirements for EFAs.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not to be considered medical advice.
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For additional information, please see the Wikipedia entry for Cannabis.