Given the less-than-stellar reputation of marijuana in the past, it is common to have questions about this plant, including how to use it. Whether cannabis is legal in your state and you plan on using it, or you just want some knowledge for the future, here is some of the most important information regarding marijuana that you have likely been too afraid to ask. While beginners are likely to find plenty of new information, there are some tidbits that those who have used cannabis for years may be unaware of.
What Is the Difference Between Marijuana, Cannabis, and Hemp?
Cannabis and marijuana are used pretty much interchangeably, while hemp is a different plant that is incredibly similar and highly related. Cannabis is part of the scientific name for both marijuana and hemp.
The difference between cannabis or marijuana and hemp in common language is the content of THC and legality. Cannabis or marijuana contains THC, the cannabinoid that gives the plant its psychoactive effects. Hemp, on the other hand, is extremely low in THC. Legally, it must have less than 0.3 percent of THC to be considered hemp.
Importantly, as of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is legal at the federal level; with some states have laws that make it illegal. In contrast, marijuana is illegal at the federal level, but some states have made it legal.
What You Smoke
You smoke marijuana (or use it in another way) to get high. You would not smoke hemp since it would not provide you with a high. You may, however, get CBD products derived from hemp. CBD is the cannabinoid in cannabis associated with pain relief, nausea relief, helping epilepsy, and more. CBD oils and similar products can be hemp-based, making them legal in most states.
How Long Have People Been Smoking Marijuana?
People have been smoking marijuana for at least several thousand years, if not more. Scientists found a 2,500-year-old cannabis flower preserved in a Chinese tomb of the same age. If you look at the historical use of hemp, it goes even further back. Archaeologists have found hemp fibers dating to about 27,000 years ago in Europe.
Europeans did not begin smoking marijuana on a large scale until the 1830s. Many credit W.B. O’Shaughnessy, who was an Irish doctor in British India, on its spread in Europe. In his writings, O’Shaughnessy praised hemp’s ability to excite the cerebral system, stimulate the digestive organs, and relieve pain. It likely arrived in the United States during or after the Civil War.
Historically, marijuana was used as traditional medicine.
How Does It Make You Feel High?
You know the effects of cannabis, but how does it make you feel high? This comes from the interactions of the cannabinoids in marijuana with the endocannabinoid system. This system is found throughout the nervous system and brain. The cannabinoids in the plant can interact with the endocannabinoid system naturally. Endocannabinoid receptors regulate pain, perception, appetite, mood, and sleep cycles.
Essentially, when you use marijuana, the plant’s cannabinoids trigger the endocannabinoid receptors, leading to the effects on those systems.
What Are the Benefits of Smoking Marijuana?
Everyone has their own unique reasons for smoking marijuana, but there are numerous potential benefits. Medically speaking, it can help with arthritis, PTSD, ADD, ADHD, stress relief, anxiety, depression, migraines, nausea, insomnia, appetite problems, muscle spasms, epilepsy, and more.
Non-medically, marijuana can help you relax, boost your creativity, energize you, and increase your focus. Of course, you may also enjoy the high associated with it, and the relaxation that comes with that feeling.
What Are Cannabinoids? What Else Is in Cannabis?
Given the discussion of endocannabinoids, most people want to learn a bit more about cannabinoids. There are over 100 cannabinoids in marijuana, with two of the most common being CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). These are the components that give benefits like pain relief and the psychoactive effects, respectively.
Interestingly, the specific type of THC that you ingest when you smoke, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is not present in raw cannabis. THC-A is its biosynthetic precursor, and once heated, it turns into delta-9-THC.
Cannabis also contains trichomes, the tiny hairs that are concentrated in its flowers. Those trichomes produce resin, which helps create the reaction you enjoy when smoking it.
Terpenes provide cannabis with its aroma and flavor. These occur naturally in a large number of plants, and all of the terpenes in various cannabis plants are also found in other legal ones. Pinene, for example, is also present in pine trees.
Is Marijuana Actually Bad for Your Health?
For years, the argument against marijuana – and the main argument against its legalization – was that it is bad for the health. Recent research shows that it is likely not as bad as it seems, at least in adults. It likely does pose problems for developing brains, and there is science to back this up.
There is a risk of respiratory problems, including issues with the lungs. However, there is evidence that light or occasional marijuana use will not cause permanent respiratory illnesses as smoking cigarettes will.
There is a small risk of becoming dependent on cannabis, but it is much less than critics would make you think. The actual percentage of users who become dependent is closer to 10 percent.
Realistically, smoking marijuana is not likely any worse than legal vices like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol. It just provides potential harm in a different way.
What Are Cannabis Strains? How Do I Pick?
If you go to your dispensary, you will likely see a cannabis menu, which can be overwhelming to beginners. You will see plenty of flowers, each with their own set of terpenes, effects, and aromas. Strains refer to the unique parentage and features of the given plant.
No cannabis strain will be the best. Each one will be the perfect choice for a different person. They will have different effects and smells, so choose based on what you want out of your cannabis. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff at your dispensary for advice or to do an online search for a strain to learn more about it.