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     Before the early 2010’s, it seemed like pot was just pot. People just wanted to smoke some good kush, and go about their day. However, the recent widespread legalisation of cannabis throughout the world has sparked a certain ‘cannabis boom’ that has pushed interest further into the subject. This is, in part, due to researchers now having more open access to the plant in general for study. However, just like many things, it is also driven by money--there is a ton of it in the marijuana industry.

     So, with all of this marijuana talk surfacing, many find themselves faced with a whole jumble of jargon that doesn’t seem to make any sense. Words like ‘cannabinoids’, ‘THC’, ‘sativa’, etc,. It can all feel so overwhelming for someone who wants to be knowledgeable on the subject, but doesn’t really know where to start. So, let’s take a moment to really dive deep into the jargon, and break down, in layman’s terms, what cannabis is and what you should know about it.

What Is Cannabis?

     Cannabis is a sort of umbrella term that can actually mean several things. The actual cannabis plant is a parent plant for what we know as hemp and marijuana. There are three primary strains of the cannabis plant, which are:

          - Cannabis Indica.
          - Cannabis Sativa.
          - Cannabis Ruderalis.

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     This is, of course, where you get the terms ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ when sellers are referring to the particular strain of bud they are selling you. Each strain of cannabis offers the user a slightly different ‘skill set’ in what it is used for generally. While they may all be different branches of the same family, they each have their own unique properties that set them a part.

          - Cannabis Indica:
      Cannabis indica plants are typically more short and broad in stature when they grow. Cannabis indica strains are known for providing the calming and relaxing sensations associated with marijuana, and are often connected with making users feel ‘sleepy’. Cannabis indica strains usually grow faster, and produce a quicker harvest.

          - Cannabis Sativa:
     In many ways, cannabis sativa plants are direct opposites of cannabis indica plants. Cannabis sativa plants are generally slower to grow, and take longer to mature and produce a harvest. They are often associated with energizing and uplifting sensations when consumed; and are usually favoured by artists or professionals who wish to remain creative and active while using cannabis.

     This may come as a shock to most of you but CBD flowers are ALL sativa strains!

          - Cannabis Ruderalis.
     In many ways, cannabis ruderalis will appear much like cannabis indica when growing. It grows in short, wide bushes and grows rather quickly compared to cannabis sativa. However, cannabis ruderalis has very different appearing leaves, which grow in 3 major fans with two smaller outside fans--this makes it easy to identify. Cannabis ruderalis is popular in certain parts of Russia and Mongolia in their folk medicines, as it is very low in THC and naturally very high in CBD. It produces a very mild ‘high’ sensation, and thus is not really used recreationally.

          - Hybrids.
     For centuries, cannabis cultivators have been creating hybrid strains of cannabis plants to create different outcomes and responses. This is why you will often see dispensaries list ‘hybrids’ in their collections. In almost all cases, these hybrids are some sort of cross between cannabis indica and cannabis sativa.

     Some strains will be 50/50 split, others might be 90/10, or even 60/40. It all depends on the results the cultivator was aiming to achieve.

     - What Are Cannabinoids?

     As you have seen, we have been using words like ‘THC’ and ‘CBD’ quite a lot already. That’s because it’s impossible to talk about cannabis without mentioning those compounds generally. But, what are they?

     THC and CBD are two compounds that exist within a family of compounds in the cannabis plant called ‘cannabinoids’. The cannabis plant, no matter what strain, will contain around 113 different cannabinoids. Most of them are in very small quantities, and don’t have any real effect on your mental or physical state. However, there are some that are more prominent and quite a bit of research has been done into them. Let’s break down the most famous ones, before we talk about what they do.

     - Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
     THC is the most famous cannabinoid by far. This is the cannabinoid that is responsible for the ‘high’ sensation that occurs when one consumes cannabis. The more THC, the more potent the sensations will be. We’ll talk a bit more about how this happens later.

     - Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA).
     THCA is the precursor cannabinoid to THC. THCA exists in bountiful volume within the cannabis plant during the early stages. THCA converts to THC over time when heat is applied, the higher the temperature, the faster the conversion process--to an extent. This conversion is the reason why you can’t get ‘high’ by simply eating a raw cannabis plant leaf. The THCA needs to be converted into THC through a process known as ‘decarboxylation’.

     - Cannabidiol (CBD).
     Cannabidiol is perhaps the second most popular cannabinoid; and was only recently explored due to its amazing medicinal properties. Cannabidiol is molecularly the same as THC, but interacts with the body in a very different way. It is non psychoactive, and therefore cannot get you ‘high’ per se. However, it is exceptional at treating certain ailments and symptoms connecting to various illnesses in general. 

     - Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA).
     This is the exact same thing as THCA, aside from being the CBD counterpart.

     - Cannabinol (CBN).
     Cannabinol is a psychoactive cannabinoid that is found in very small amounts within the cannabis plant. Typically it is found in older cannabis plants, as it only occurs when THC oxidizes. CBN is very mildly psychoactive, and only gets you ‘high’ in the loosest interpretation of the word. It is usually used as a sleep aid, and can also help boost immune function.

     - Cannabinolic Acid (CBNA).

     Again, there is a ‘theme’ here. However, CBNA is more directly correlated with THCA rather than CBN. This is due to the fact that CBN is a more ‘degraded’ version of THC. Thus, CBNA is a degraded version of THCA.

     - Cannabigerol (CBG).

     CBG is a more recently explored and researched cannabinoid. That is because it is very hard to access, as it only occurs in the very earliest stages of growth in the cannabis plant. CBG is considered to eb the ‘stem cell’ of most cannabinoids; namely THC and CBD. In this regard,

     CBG is sort of the ‘grandfather’ of them all. CBG will break down over time, and will become the more famous cannabinoid that we are all familiar with as the growth process happens.
CBG has been recently linked to astounding medicinal properties, and in many ways can be more potent than CBD. It is non-psychoactive like CBD, and only really carries medicinal value and is not recreational. Not much is known about CBG as of now. However, researchers remain hopeful that it could be a future key player in pharmaceuticals moving forward.

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     - How Do Cannabinoids Work?

     Understanding what is actually happening when you ingest cannabis is a whole complex issue in and of itself. However, it can be broken down into some simple to understand terms. Cannabinoids work by interacting with a system of receptors within our bodies known as ‘endocannabinoid receptors’. These receptors exist within the endocannabinoid system.

     Every one of us has an endocannabinoid system within us, that can receive and translate cannabinoids into various properties. The system itself primarily contains two separate receptors known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids enter the body and bind to these receptors and trigger the endocannabinoid system into action.
     - CB1.
     The CB1 receptors primarily deal with your central nervous system, and are more associated with physical properties such as pain relief. THC is a cannabinoid that primarily interacts with the CB1 receptors.
     - CB2.
     The CB2 receptors primarily deal with your peripheral nervous system, and are more associated with immune responses. Cannabinoids that bind to the CB2 receptors, like CBD, are more associated with immune responses like inflammation and immune responses to pathogens.

     - What Are Terpenes?

     When purchasing cannabis, or cannabis products, you are likely going to run across the word ‘terpenes’ quite often. Terpenes are another compound that exists within the cannabis plant, and can offer you a good indication of how the cannabis will react within your system.

     The easiest way to understand terpenes is to simply remember that terpenes are the chemical compound that give marijuana that pungent and unique smell. They are what gives off that instantly recognizable aroma that anyone who has ever used cannabis can readily identify. However, terpenes are a bit more important than just giving off a dank smell that cannabis lovers enjoy so much. Terpenes can actually be a great indicator of how potent the bud will be, and how it will react. The different types of terpenes can be a giveaway, much like when sommeliers sniff wine.

     Cannabis indica strains are very high in the terpene ‘myrcene’. This is a terpene that cannabis indica strains share with hops that are used in beer. That is why some indica strains can smell woodsy, or reminiscent of a hoppy beer. Myrcene has sedative effects and will often make the user feel a bit sleepy or relaxed.

     Cannabis sativa strains are often high in a terpene called ‘limonene’. This is the terpene that gives sativa strains a citrus aroma, and is associated with energizing effects. If your bud smells like a lemon, or orange, it will likely make you feel active and creative. In this way, you can often tell what type of a high you will get by smell alone. Some other terpenes to be on the ‘sniff’ for are:

     - Linalool.
     This is also found in lavender flowers, and will give your bud a very flowery and smooth aroma. This is often associated with relaxing feelings and is great for unwinding and enjoying a nice day indoors.

     - Beta-caryophyllene.
     This is a terpene that actually interacts with the endocannabinoid system directly. It smells very ‘spicy’ and is associated with giving a full body high that lovers of strong marijuana enjoy. Hybrid strains will often come with complex mixtures and variations on these aromas and terpene contents. This is why it is always a good idea to smell your bud before consuming it; not only can you enjoy the complex mixtures of smells, but you can also judge how it will make you feel prior to ingesting or smoking.

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Final Thoughts

So, how does all of this translate to your own consumption of cannabis? Well, it really depends on your own preferences and interpretations of the data. Understanding what cannabis is, and how it works, will go a long way towards getting the most out of it. If you are simply looking to get a buzz, and feel good, high THC content cannabis products are likely the way to go. If you are more interested in medicinal properties and relaxation, high CBD products might be your best bet.

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