Everybody's talking about it, your friends are using it, even your children know what it does...but you can't get a firm understanding of the word and what its potential uses are. Don't stress; this article is for you and anyone else who wants to understand what this word and plant really mean! Let's start with the most basic question:
What Is Cannabis?
Cannabis is often referred to as a drug, but in fact it's a plant and is non-addictive. It has three main species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis ruderalis. Initially, all species of the cannabis plant originated on the Asian and Indian continents but have since travelled all across the globe. Today, cannabis exists in every corner of the earth and has various names such as pot, weed, reefer, dope, ganja, skunk, hydro and blow, to name just a few.
Why do people like cannabis?
Cannabis is rich in molecules called cannabinoids, which are naturally occurring and react with our bodies in various ways via the Endocannabinoid System present inside all of us. Animals have the same system and even more receptors inside their bodies, which is part of the reason why cannabis works so well for them.
People consume cannabis in various ways and, for the most part, are doing so to absorb the molecule THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol). This cannabinoid is very well known for producing a euphoric high. THC is psychoactive and can affect humans in different ways. Cannabis is made to be shared and consumed together, and as humans, we relate to the social environment of consuming cannabis together as a positive interaction.
Another well-known cannabinoid is CBD (cannabidiol), which in recent times is increasingly being used to treat many indications and their side effects. It is widely used for its medical benefits and this cannabinoid is not psychoactive. There are many more cannabinoids such as CBV and CBG, but so far there is very little research on these. As time goes by, expect to hear more about these fantastic molecules.
How do people use cannabis?
Smoking cannabis is the oldest and preferred method for using cannabis. By smoking the organic material in a rolled joint, it will ensure the natural cannabinoids are absorbed into the bloodstream via the lungs, which will result in an almost instant effect. This may be the quickest way to ingest cannabis, but you can also use a vaporiser, or smoke concentrated forms of cannabis known as hashish, or even eat it in your favourite food. North America has a very well-established edibles market and products such as chewing gum, sparkling mineral waters, and chocolate cookies are super popular. Because cannabis is gaining mainstream popularity, there are now many choices on how to get high or medicate yourself.
How long does cannabis stay in your system?
Cannabis and THC, in particular, could stay inside your system for up to 90 days if you consume regularly. It is not advised to drive while under the influence of cannabis and roadside swab tests in Australia are known to be very sensitive. CBD and Hemp derived products such as oil will not show up in any Australian roadside tests because they test only for the psychoactive compound THC.
How does cannabis make you feel?
After you consume cannabis and depending on the person and how much they consume, the effects can vary greatly. The most common symptoms of using cannabis include feeling:
- Happy and elated
- Unable to concentrate
- Laughing and talkative
There are physical symptoms as well that can affect people at different levels of intensity:
- Red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Munchies (increase appetite)
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of coordination
It's important to note that consuming cannabis with THC in it can affect your response time and decision-making skills, it's not advisable to drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of THC.
Long term use of cannabis can cause a wide range of effects on a person, and it depends on how much is consumed per day and what type of cannabis is consumed. Humans will become very tolerant to the effects of cannabis and will need to consume more to receive the same effects. This can also lead to dependence and could have a reduction in cognitive functions. Additionally, smoking cannabis can increase other side effects, such as Asthma and Bronchitis. People with mental health issues are warned not to consume in large volumes as it's possible to experience anxiety, depression and psychotic symptoms. It was previously believed that cannabis could trigger underlying mental health issues, but current research is demonstrating that in many of these cases,users have been self-medicating with cannabis. We now understand that these underlying mental health difficulties are more likely related to genetic and/or socio-economic conditions and cannabis may have been helping to manage them.
What to do if my child is consuming cannabis?
The best course of action is to speak with them about their use of cannabis. Most likely it occurs in a social setting with friends who are also experimenting with cannabis early on in their lives. Cannabis does not make people aggressive or lead to an increase in hospital admissions, unlike Australia's most dangerous drug - alcohol. Cannabis is quite harmless in this sense as it makes the user feel relaxed. If it's being consumed at a party, then you can guarantee that the fridge is the only thing that gets raided.
The popular belief that cannabis is a gateway drug and leads to harmful addictions has been proven time and time again to be a pure myth with no clinical justification. In fact, recent studies have proven that cannabis does not cause any drop in IQ.
Are my family or friends consuming too much cannabis?
Cannabis has been deemed non-addictive, but this will not stop people from consuming vast quantities of cannabis, which sometimes happens. Australia has a fascination with smoking cannabis and cigarettes together, a terrible idea as users tend to become addicted to cigarettes rather than cannabis itself. If you are aware of someone who is smoking cannabis two to three times per day or before going to places like school or work, then this could be signs of an abuse problem. Cannabis is not a harmful substance like other drugs of dependence, and please keep this in mind when approaching the situation. Cannabis can be utilised to medicate, help people feel relaxed or chill out and be mindful for a few hours. Cannabis is often the "lesser of two evils" when compared to other substances people use to change their mental state but this does not mean that it is never abused. If your loved one is consuming too much cannabis, please proceed with an intelligent conversation around the plant and encourage them to try other ways to relax together: get some exercise, dance, play music, make some nice food.
Does CBD get you high?
The answer is no, this is not a psychoactive molecule and is mainly used to relax people and treat certain conditions. In fact, CBD has been used to help reduce dependency for people that are addicted to smoking THC.
This clinical trial in 2011 showed that CBD could interact directly with neural pathways in our bodies that control pain. This may be the answer we need to stop the opioid crisis affecting many countries worldwide.
A 2007 study researching dermatitis and CBD found that the endocannabinoid system plays a protective role in contact allergy on the skin.
A 2014 double-blind trial demonstrated that CBD has the possibility to improve the quality of life in patients that have Parkinsons Disease.
Is cannabis legal in Australia?
Cannabis is not legal in Australia unless you have a valid script that is approved by the government; this would be under the Special Access Scheme, which is an approved government pathway. Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana as it's sometimes called, is only given on approval to individuals with specific indications which have been signed off on by a GP.
Both federal and state governments still prosecute for possession, cultivation, driving under the influence and being in possession of certain accessories such as bongs or pipes. 99% of the transactions conducted in Australia are illegal and happen on the black market. Cannabis seeds are widely imported from overseas and grown in people’s houses to supply the demand. Black market cannabis can be laced with nasty chemicals and other irritants harmful to your health, which is done to increase the yield of the flowers and make the illegal cannabis appear more potent.
What are some of the other uses for cannabis?
Hemp, which is low in THC (the psychoactive molecule), has been used for thousands of years to make rope, fibres and textiles. After almost 100 years of prohibition commercial innovation is slowly catching up, and companies are now making bio-fuel, plastics, high-end building materials and of course, food products.
The movement is gaining momentum with many media outlets reporting daily on cannabis news. Canada now allows for fully recreational adult use of cannabis, and most states in America allow cannabis to be accessed legally in some form by the general public. Europe has many countries which allow cannabis to be sold and certain countries in South America such as Mexico and Uruguay and now opening up. In the Middle East, Israel has long been a world leader in cannabis legislation. It's just a matter of time before we can safely consume cannabis here in Australia without fear of being arrested.
How does cannabis grow?
The Cannabis plant is versatile and will grow under a number of harsh conditions and climates in almost any corner of the earth. Most varieties of cannabis plant prefer warmer climates and grow perfectly in the sub-tropical climate of Queensland. The closer to the equator the better, and in countries such as Columbia have some of the best growing conditions in the world for cannabis and have been well known historically to pump out the buds.
Depending on your strain, light source and growing conditions (indoor or outdoor), cannabis plants tend to have similarities in each grow. All plants go through a vegetative growth stage following by a flowering stage, though each step is slightly different depending on the plant. The result is always about how large and sticky you can get the flowers to grow.
Cannabis is a wonderfully versatile plant. Here in Australia, we fully expect that in a few short years, we will be able to grow this medicine, food, textile and source of entertainment in our very own backyards.