What is Cannabis? How is it related to hemp and marijuana? I have to admit I couldn’t imagine anything good coming from what I had always thought of as just pot. I had images of people smoking marijuana, getting high and becoming addicted to harder drugs. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and I knew about the kids who were going to parties to smoke pot and get high. I never thought it sounded fun. Altering brain chemistry like that doesn’t seem like a good idea—not back in the 70’s, and not today. But there are natural compounds existing in the cannabis plant that can be extracted into plant oils which have significant medicinal benefits. This is something I didn’t understand, so I had to investigate and what I learned changed my view on this plant. Because of that I had to say something about it here.

Cannabis plants come in two different varieties. Hemp is one—it has been used for eons. Hemp comes from the plant Cannabis sativa. Fabric, paper, rope, fuel, and medicine have been made from it. A different variety of the plant, Cannabis indica is used primarily for medicinal purposes because the fiber quality is not as good. This is the one typically abused for recreational use.

A major difference between the two types of plants is the appearance and the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) secreted. THC is the chemical that gives people the high we normally associate with marijuana. It has to be superheated to produce the high which explains why some people choose to smoke it (not something I would recommend!). Strains of cannabis approved for industrial hemp production produce only minute amounts of THC which is not enough for any significant physical or psychological effects. Typically, industrial hemp contains below 0.3% THC. Cannabis grown for marijuana drug purposes is hybridized to get more of this chemical and can contain anywhere from 6 to 20% or more THC. Consumer demand resulted in plant growers hybridizing the plant to concentrate more and more levels of THC so it would produce a stronger high or euphoric effect. This is what gives the plant a bad drug reputation.

This is part 1 of a 15 part series investigating cannabis. We have an outstanding presentation on cannabis given at our Summit last October. If you would like to see the list of lectures that were given at the very successful Summit, click on this link to see the options.

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