Cannabis 101 | A Beginners Guide to Cannabis
As you may have noticed, our website is all about Cannabis.
While the terminology is different (ie CBD, Hemp etc..) we are talking about the very same plant that you see in piles on crime-watch. The Cannabis plant is widely misunderstood (even by those who use it too) and surrounded in myth, misinformation and outright speculation.
For us, CBD is the keystone on the road to full Cannabis legalisation – which is why big pharma and industrial agriculturists are slowing down the process to get their assets ready to meet demand. We can quite easily look into the future of Cannabis in the UK by looking over the pond into the US; whether you agree or disagree, Cannabis legalisation is around the corner.
When the time comes, we are a little worried that the years of prohibition will have caused a dangerous gulf in knowledge which will ultimately lead to irresponsible use or users who do not respect the power of the plant.
We wanted to take the time to put together a Cannabis 101 | A Beginners Guide To Cannabis to draw out the important aspects of Cannabis to spread learning and respect for the humble-herb.
We are passionate about education and do not advocate that you break the law in the county that you live in. This post is purely informational – Call us Cannabis Sommeliers = we’re not stoners, we just love the complexity.
Cannabis is one of the oldest, most mysterious species of plants that grow on our planet. Evidence of the use of Cannabis in human history dates way back to 8000BC (the Oki Islands near Japan) and the 5th millennium BC in China evidence of Hemp fibre was found. Cannabis is originally from Central Asia and India where it was used as a food source, for its fibres to produce materials (like clothes, rope and a primitive paper), for religious and recreational practices (we all know what that means).
The recorded popularity of Cannabis would spread quickly via the use of edible Hashish from Persia to the Arab world, and then on to Egypt. It would then find its way into southern Africa (via the nomadic Bantu tribes) and taken to western civilisation (via the Spanish, trade and colonisation).
The cultivation of Hemp has been recorded in the UK since 100AC where it was used for a wide range of purposes- and stayed that way for thousands of years.
From humble beginnings, the popularity of smoking, and eating cannabis grew, and its use in textiles and materials would be fundamental in the development of a quickly modernising world. Even in history as recent as the second world war where industrial hemp was used to produce US uniforms, canvas and rope to support the war effort. It’s popularity weaned as new artificial fibres were invented.
Cannabis then started to expand to new populations of western societies – although it was a niche sub-culture, it would start to creep into the mainstream. During the years after the war in the UK, and US, Cannabis was largely used recreationally at night clubs and musical events. It was not until the 1960’s that there was a dramatic surge in Cannabis use among college students and young people- particularly in the 1960’s & 70’s (The Beatles? Pink Floyd Anyone?).
While the origins of criminalisation started in the 1800s (when British colonial rule was concerned about the impact on its workforce), it was not until the US ‘war on drugs’ was there a global shift in general public attitude towards cannabis. Sadly, this had a huge impact on the ability to research the active compounds.
More recently, the understanding of Cannabis is evolving and there is now a growing interest in legalisation and regulation. Afterall, Cannabis has constantly been a firm fixture in mainstream culture and is still one of the most openly consumed illegal recreational drugs in the world and there is no sign of this trend slowing.
The first thing to know about Cannabis is that there are 3 main strains – Indica, Sativa & a Hybrid of the two. It is said in popular culture that an Indica is ‘chilled out’, a Sativa is ‘energising’ and a Hybrid is what it says on the tinfoil packet (a mixture of the two)
The Sativa is generally long and branchy with long life cycles (they prefer colder climates) while the Indica is generally shorter and thicker with shorter life cycles (& prefer warmer climates).
Thanks to prohibition, until recently there was very little understanding as to why these strains had different characteristics which are partly why they have been grouped in the way that they have – it also makes it easier for beginners to understand where to begin. We go into much greater detail into the cannabis strains in our blog post: Indica Vs Sativa.
The strain of the Cannabis does not dictate the experience that the user will have- the overriding influence on experience are the active phytochemicals found in Cannabis; these are Cannabinoids, Terpenes and Flavinoids.
Hopefully, if you have had a look around our website, you will already be an expert in Cannabinoids. These are active phytochemicals that attach to the network of receptors called the Endocannabinoid System. There are two main Cannabinoids in Cannabis: CBD & THC. There are other cannabinoids (such as CBG, CBC, CBN, CBDa, THCa, THCv, CBDv ) but we will keep it nice and simple for the moment.
CBD you will already know about- it is not psychoactive and has a wide range of well-being benefits. A product that has a very high percentage of CBD will not make you high and these days you’re more likely to find a tincture/ oil or bath bomb. CBD has been somewhat normalised in today’s world in these forms, and it is quite unusual for many to think about CBD in its true form: a cannabis bud.
For a little while, while the CBD industry here in the UK was still maturing, you could very easily find ‘CBD Flower’ in vape shops. This was Cannabis- but they had been cultivated to produce an abundance of CBD. In our book- CBD flower is the first step to full cannabis legalisation and is why there was such a quick effort to shut this aspect of the industry down. Although technically, CBD flower sits in a grey area of the law (it is both legal and illegal all at once) – it looks, smells, feels and tastes almost identical to a high THC strain- only a keen eye could tell them apart (THC crystals form on high THC strains).
THC is the cannabinoid that most people are interested in; it is THC that is psychoactive and is the reason why Cannabis is still prohibited in the UK.
All the weird and wonderful side effects that are associated with Cannabis are caused by this Cannabinoid. In small doses, the Cannabinoid can cause a sense of Euphoria, make you hungry and make you feel a little dizzy. In high doses, it can, however, cause paranoia, insomnia, slowed cognitive function and anxiety. Longterm abuse of THC can have a serious impact on your long term health- including slower cognitive function, increased levels of mental health issues, insomnia and an increased risk of psychosis.
These side effects seem worrying right?!.. but think of it this way: Do you enjoy a beer at night? One or two on a Friday night is unlikely to cause too much trouble- now swap the 2 for 20 beers and there is a big difference
The negative impact of Alcohol is longer than most peoples arms- in the short term will cause nausea, slowed cognitive function, anxiety, depression, dizziness and an awful hangover. Longterm it can cause cancer, liver failure, degenerative brain diseases, immune-support failure and mental health issues.
There is an argument that high THC Cannabis should remain illegal- but we must consider that 20 pints of alcohol is a weekend’s entertainment to some. Obviously – both substances demand respect.
The real issue comes with the current underground market of Cannabis: The strains are either too strong, or have been sprayed with other drugs such as Acid, DMT or who knows what else. The street-weed is certainly not always safe, and is not what we would advocate for- we want education and regulation.
A Range of Cannabinoids!
The sweet spot is when the strain has a mix of both CBD & THC. They work together in perfect synergy to enhance/ regulate their individual characteristics. A differing ratio of cannabinoids changes the way the Cannabis interacts with our body.
For a really cerebral and ‘spacy’ effect- you go high THC. For a lower more grounded effect you choose a higher CBD strain. We produce two types of oils- a full-spectrum oil (contains THC) and a 0% THC oil – for those who have tried both, they will certainly tell you that there is a big difference.
We often refer to Terpenes as the unsung heroes of Cannabis- the effects of Terpenes are often attributed to those of Cannabinoids. They are most commonly known as the phytochemicals which give Cannabis its distinctive smell, taste/ flavour and somewhat contribute to the way experience. This is down to the fact that terpenes also impact the way that our body uses Cannabinoids and have their own important impact on the experience. There are 8 main terpenes in Cannabis:
Pinene: Just from reading the name you may be able to guess where Pinene gets its name? That’s right, from Pines. You may also find Pinene in rosemary, basil, dill, some citrus fruit peels & pine nuts. It’s aroma is famously woody, deep, rich and earthy. Grab a handful of Pines or Rosemary and rub the pines between your hands; that is the aromas you are looking for.
Myrcene: Is a terpene that is most commonly associated with the Indica strain of Cannabis, but it can be found in Bay leaves, Hops, Thyme, Mangos, Lemongrass and Cannabis. Its is identified by its musky, earthy and herbal aroma that is akin to that of Cardimans and Cinnamon.
Limonene: Now, this one is for those who like the tang of citrus. As the name suggests, Limonene can be found in Lemon, Lime & Grapefruit Rinds (most citrus skins, actually), Peppermint, Rosemary, Juniper and Cannabis. It has a tangy citrusy aroma that is very identifiable. If you scrape a citrus fruit skin with a fork or take in the scents of a freshly peeled orange, then this is the aroma of Limonene. It is partly why adding Citrus rind to cooking or a Cocktail is so popular!
Linalool: Although Linalool is considered as a minor Terepene in Hemp and Cannabis, it is certainly the one you are guaranteed to be one of your all-time favourite scents; Lavander. Linalool is found in over 200 plants including, Mint, Nettles, Sage, Oregano & Thyme, Citrus Rind, Cinnamon, Rosewood and Cannabis. The aroma is distinctly floral in character- get yourself some Lavander oil to put in the bath. Glorious!
Humulene: Is another minor Terepene that has a distinct aroma that IPA lovers will know well. It has a hoppy, woody and deeply earthy. This Terepene can be found in Corriander, Basil, Northern American, Asian and European Hop varieties, Gensing, Ginger, Cloves and Cannabis. Imagine a nice cold IPA on a summers day; Citrus bitterness and a floral punch.
Ocimene: Is most famous for its sweet, herbal and often woody aroma that is very similar to that of Myrcene. This Terepene can be found in a whole host of pungent plants such as Hops, Mangoes, Bergamot (a type of Citrus fruit commonly found in Northern Africa and the Gulf region), Basil, Lavender, Orchids, Pepper, Mint, Kumquats and Cannabis.
Caryophyllene: Is a very interesting compound as it is the only Terpene to act like a Cannabinoid and interact with our Endocannabinoid System. It’s aroma is peppery, spicey and woody- imagine a handful of cloves. Caryophyllene is found in Cloves (surprisingly), Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Hopes Oregano, Rosemary and Cannabis Sativa (Which includes Hemp).
Terpinolene: Last, but certainly not least, Terpinolene is the really the key to making a Sativa CBD Oil different to an Indica Oil; Sativa CBD oils (like our Dina & Diablo) contain much higher levels of Terpinolene. The Terpene’s aroma is floral, piney and herbal, and it can be found in Apple Skins, Cardigans, Tea Tree Oil, Cumin, Lilacs and Cannabis.
Traditionally (and in history) Cannabis resin was produced to be edible, but as time has passed the favoured method of consumption seem to be either smoking or vaping. You can consume cannabis in a number of ways, and each has a completely different impact on your body/ your experience.
Smoking: Smoking seems to be the most popular consumption method, and has been one of the oldest methods of consumption that we cover. A thousand-year-old smoking pipe found in Ethiopia has Cannabis residue in it- and the fumes from cannabis were used in religious rituals way back to the plant’s origins in Asia. These days, you’re more likely to find cannabis in a ‘spliff’. The cannabis is ground and smoked on its own, or cut with tobacco/ other smokable herbs.
The combustion of the cannabis plant decarboxylates the active cannabinoid compounds which are drawn into the lungs with the burned plant matter. It is very common to smoke cannabis using a shisha or bong. Down to the combustion wastage, the experience is less potent, and the effects are quite heady, come and go relatively quickly. Smoking cannabis is not particularly healthy either.
Vaping: Similar to smoking, vaping a Cannabis product means that you consume the cannabinoids via your lungs. It means that you will feel the effects quicker, and they will be more intense, but the experience will last a fairly short period of time compared to other consumption methods.
There are two methods of vaping: a vape oil (which is a normal flavoured/ unflavored vape oil which has been infused with cannabinoids) or a burner/herb vape. The burner/ herb vapes heat up the plant in a pipe/ instrument which vapourises the essential phytochemicals but does not burn the plant- the ‘hit’ is cleaner, stronger and said to be much healthier than full combustion; you simply get all the good stuff.
We can also lump ‘dabbing’ here too – which is using a cannabis ‘resin’ or ‘crumble’ (a cannabinoid extract). This is often a very potent product and contains a high dosage of cannabinoids.
Edibles: Edibles are way more common than you think- particularly CBD edibles which are just about everywhere. You can find an array of CBD goodies in high street stores. THC edibles are still illegal in the UK but are particularly popular with elder generations who have long given up on the idea that weed will melt your mind – and when you’re in your twilight, who cares!?
While cannabis is still followed by a stigma, for some it is much more enjoyable and discrete to bake the cannabis into a food-substance. This can be a cake, bread or a fatty substance such as gelatine (gummies) – the fattier the food, the more effectively the cannabinoids will be absorbed.
The experience is much slower, can be more intense and can last for a particularly long time- THC rich edibles should be managed with some caution. Unlike inhaling the cannabinoids, it can take anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes for the cannabinoids to come into effect and up to 2 hours before the effects reach their peak. Plenty of first-timers, or overconfident uses, have been caught out by thinking that the edibles are not working and end up taking way too much (resulting in adverse side effects or getting way more baked than expected – pun absolutely intended).
As you are consuming the Edibles via your stomach you are more likely to feel hungry, the experience is often heavier.
Drinks: Lets class this as a subsector of edibles: you can find cannabis products of all kinds that are drinkable. If you want to go old-school, you can drink Hemp/ Cannabis tea which only requires some hot water. Alternatively, if you want to be more modern, there are a whole range of CBD infused fitness/ fizzy/ sweet and savoury drinks that can be found very easily in supermarkets or online.
Micordosing: This is very similar to an edible – and it is important to note that cannabis products are not always taken recreationally. Microdosing refers to the process of taking a carefully-considered amount of something every day. If you are reading this and already take a CBD oil, you are micro-dosing. Cannabis-based products come in a wide range of forms- including tinctures, capsules, dissolvables and even chewing gums. There are many things out there that are micro-dosed by millions of people every day- from CBD oils to Rick Simpson oils and more.
Topically: As easy as it sounds- putting some good old oil in your hair or on your skin. Cannabinoids are very easily absorbed into the skin so if it has a high THC concentration you may get high!