As Canada recently claimed its title as the world's largest country to legalize cannabis, people of all ages have been pondering the magical origins of the good green.
Marijuana, pot, weed, grass and dope are all common names for the fast-growing, flowering cannabis plant, which is native to Central Asia. The most specific recorded origins of the flower’s medicinal use dates back to Chinese emperor Shen Nung in 2737 BC, though unspecified medicinal use has been documented based on carbon-14 dating techniques closer to 4000 BC. More popularly, the widespread use of hemp in the production of clothing and rope traces back thousands of years.
Over 2,000 years later, the dried bud was finally enjoyed by the public — though not in the same recreational way one might be familiar with. In China, it was common to extract the seeds from the plant — which have more than 400 chemicals in them, along with essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6 — for food and fibre. As the myriad uses for the plant were discovered, cannabis farming was widespread and thought to be the most valuable crop of the time.
Things changed in 19th century North America when cannabis criminalization staked a claim in society. The positive perceptions of the abundant plant disappeared as newspapers shamed pot smokers, further stigmatized in the '70s with the emergence of the war on drugs.
So what caused cannabis to go from an essential fibre used in the production of durable industrial materials to a dangerous illegal substance?
The plant consists of hundreds of chemical substances and is the only known source of the psychoactive cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both of these compounds have the same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, 2 oxygen atoms. But the unique arrangement of the atoms determines the body’s reaction to the two cannabinoids.
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, meaning that it doesn’t produce the “high” commonly associated with consumption of the funky green plant. This healing and relaxing compound is extracted from the industrial hemp plant of cannabis and is popular for its antioxidant and neuroprotective properties. That’s why CBD balms and oils are commonly used to soothe medical pains such as inflammation, tissue or joint repair and arthritis.
The miracle healer’s evil step-sister is THC, which is the hallucinogen found in the resinous flowers of female cannabis plants. When consumed, THC activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain which latch onto memory, pleasure movements, thinking, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception, according to to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The short term effects of THC vary — both in the individual body’s chemistry and in the strain and concentration of THC.
The two main strains of cannabis are indica and sativa. The aromatic molecules between the two strains are individualized, producing different sensations when consumed. The sativa strains originated in the steppes of Mongolia, where ancient Chinese scriptures document its use. Indica strains originated in Hindu Kush mountain range — hence the popular Purple Kush.
Thanks to the geographic origins of both strains, pot smokers are free to explore their options to find a blend that suits their desires. Though hybrids of the two strains are common today, sativa specific strains are known for being the energetic, happy daytime weed. The chemical balances in sativa produce serotonin in the brain which helps regulate one’s learning, mood and sleep habits. Try Maui Wowie and Green Crack for the ultimate creative euphoria.
For calming effects and mental or muscle relief, go for L.A Confidential or Blue Cheese. These indicas are mellow. They produce mental and muscle relaxation while also increasing dopamine levels which work to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. This makes for the perfect pre-bed, Netflix binge-watch, post-work chill bowl.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a certified stoner, it’s worth looking into the history and science behind the plant causing controversy throughout the country. Cannabis has come a long way in consumption throughout North America and as legalization becomes more normalized, the plant will likely continue to be used for it’s medicinal perks along with its conscious-altering properties.
To partake in the festivities and see what the ancient farmers in Asia were raving about, head to Ontario Cannabis Store and order a special delivery right to your door.