Beginners Guide to Cannabis
Beginners Guide to Cannabis
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Intro to Cannabis

History

From 1500 to 200 BCE cannabis’ use as a medicine spread across the world, from China to India, Persia, Egypt and Greece. Evidence suggests the plant may have played a vital role in the development of agriculture, which had a profound impact on both human beings and our planet. Cannabis first appeared in the Western Hemisphere during the colonization of the Americas, where its sturdy fibers were used in the production of rope, paper and clothing. By that time, cannabis was widely used as an herbal medicine across the world, and eventually added to the U.S. Pharmacopeia in 1850. Every major pharmacy in America offered medicinal cannabis tinctures until its prohibition began in the 1930s.

Biology

One of the most unexpected controversies around cannabis concerns its species – experts are divided on whether there is only one species of cannabis, or whether there are several distinct species. The most widely accepted description of the cannabis plant breaks it down into three subspecies: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis.

These descriptions have been embraced by the cannabis community who commonly distinguish “sativa” strains from “indica” strains based on the perceived differences of effects. Most strains today are hybrids, a result of crossbreeding sativa and indica strains together, the primary effects of which are determined by the most dominant strain.

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Cannabis Sativa

Tall and open branched with narrow, spindly leaflets.

  • Plants grow tall and are usually around 6 ft. tall
  • Flowering stage: between 10 and 16 weeks
  • Yield Size: 1.5 to 2.5 oz per plant
  • Effect: Broadly categorized as having stimulating, expansive mind-altering effects.
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Cannabis Indica

Shorter, bushier and conical in shape, with relatively wide leaflets.

  • Broad and short leaves
  • Plants are short and grow between 2 and 4 ft
  • Flowering stage: between 8 and 12 weeks
  • Yield Size: 3 oz to 1 pound per plant
  • Effect: Indica strains are known for their sedating, mellow body effects.
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Cannabis Ruderalis

Short, branchless, and grows wild in parts of Europe and central Asia.

  • Short and stalky plants
  • Grows between 1 and 2.5 ft.
  • Flowering stage: Automatically flowers after 21-30 days of vegetation
  • Yield size: 1-2 oz per plant or less
  • Effect: The effects of cannabis ruderalis alone are minimized by its naturally low concentrations of THC. However, ruderalis genes offer the ability for breeders to create an autoflowering hybrid with the advanced potency and flavor profile from its genetic partner
Science

In the late 1980s researcher Allyn Howlett discovered a receptor in the brain that the cannabinoid THC binds to. Another primary receptor was identified and the pair became known as CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors can be found in abundance in the brain, nervous system, glands and organs, while CB2 receptors are found in the immune system. CB1 receptors are primarily stimulated by cannabinoids like THC, and are responsible for effects on memory, mood, sleep, appetite and pain sensation. CB2 receptors appear to be activated by cannabinoids like CBD (and THC to a lesser degree) and work to reduce inflammation and immune response.

The E.C.S.

In 1990, Israeli cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam discovered what became known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a biological regulatory system that promotes balance and well-being in all mammals. Not only did it explain how cannabinoids work with the body’s receptors, the system was discovered to have involvement in numerous, vital physiological functions- including its ability to directly affect our body’s response to injuries and inflammations.

This profound discovery could be called one of the twenty first century’s greatest scientific breakthroughs, and it ushered in a flurry of studies. In fact, there are now over 22,000 published studies or reviews in scientific literature pertaining to the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids – nearly half of which were published in the last ten years.

The ECS is always at work. The receptors are activated either by the body’s own endogenous (internal) cannabinoids, or by plant cannabinoids (also called phytocannabinoids) like THC and CBD.

The cannabinoids and receptor mechanism is often described as a lock and key system. When the ECS is working properly, signals are firing and optimal functioning is happening in the body. When the endocannabinoid system is not functioning properly, phytocannabinoids can be introduced, plug in to the receptors, and switch the ECS on to do its job. The better the ECS is working, the more our bodies are in equilibrium, and the less likely we are to develop disease.

Here are some of the capabilities of the ECS that have been discovered so far:

  • Balances and strengthens the nervous and immune systems
  • Initiates pain control
  • Calms inflammation
  • Initiate neurogenesis (production of new nerve cells)
  • Involved in protective mechanisms against illnesses including neurological diseases and nerve damage
  • Found to suppress numerous cancers and possible Alzheimer’s Disease
Spirituality

Of the 400+ identifiable chemicals known to exist in the plant, and at least 85 different cannabinoids, only THC has been found to be psychoactive. Remarkably, this makes cannabis one of a handful of plants with the power to affect human consciousness. Since ancient times, shamans (spiritual healers) from a diverse array of cultures around the world have used cannabis in their work. From the Scythians to the Rastafari, the alchemists to the Curanderos, cannabis has found a place in healing traditions across the world.

Spiritual Uses of Cannabis:

  • Quieting the mind for meditation
  • Seeing through delusions and shifting perspective
  • Diagnosing and treating diseases of the body, mind and spirit
  • Achieving transcendence, unity and spiritual bliss

Ways to Use Cannabis

Smoking
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Smoking dry herb is the most controllable and efficient way to use cannabis.  The  effects are felt instantaneously and this form of consumption offers almost immediate relief.  Smoking marijuana is a great option for someone who is concerned with possible self over medicating and provides the opportunity to start of with a low dose and build from there.  It allows the consumer to have the most control over the effects that the cannabis has on their mind and body and give them the ability to build up until the level of wanted relief is reached.  Smoking is also the most effective way that our body can absorb CBD.  Although smoking is a popular and effective way of consuming cannabis, it does produce carcinogens and isn’t recommended for everyone, especially those that suffer from Asthma or other respiratory problems.

Smoking flower is a preferred way of consuming cannabis because it gives us the ability to zone into a specific problematic area and focus on relieving unwanted symptoms more accurately than other forms of cannabinoid ingestion.  We do this by finding and using different strains in attempts to minimize or maximize different symptoms and results.  Finding the right strain to compliment each individuals needs and genetic makeup is crucial in creating one’s own desired results.  A specific strain that works really well for one person may not have the same absolute affect on a different individual.  This is due to how each of our Endocannabinoid Systems are composed and the synergy of external cannabinoids and terpenes we introduce it to.  Our ECS is the deciding factor in the way they interact with our own body’s chemistry.  Each persons Endocannabinoid System is different and is the deciding factor of how different cannabinoids and strains affect us.

The only way to determine what really works best for you is to do the old fashioned method of trial and error.  At first it can be a little overwhelming with such a variety of strains to choose from.  Where do I even start?  Lets try to make things easier by breaking it down into a few steps.  Check out our section “What Strain is Right for You?” for a step by step guide.

Vaping
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Vaping is another form of cannabis consumption that is fast, easy, and effective.  Vaping products, especially portable devices, are flooding the market giving the consumer a variety of options.  Cannabis vaping has been around and used by all walks of life for thousands of years and is now available to suite the needs of any lifestyle.  Consumers are given the option to vape dried cannabis flower or cannabis concentrate.  Cannabis concentrate is just a more potent form of cannabis.  Concentrates are made from separating and filtering out impurities and excess lipids(fats) from the Cannabis plant.  This process provides a purer product that contains a higher ratio of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds than flower alone. Whether you are vaping flower or concentrate, this form of consumption provides the consumer with a cleaner inhaling experience than if smoked regularly.  Smoking cannabis requires the use of a flame or higher temperature device to activate the beneficial compounds such as CBD and THC.  When the plant material is burned, some of the plant creates carcinogens and tar, that is then inhaled as smoke.  Marijuana smoke has not been proven to worsen respiratory diseases but can be a difficult or unpleasant experience for consumers with sensitive respiratory systems or breathing difficulties such as asthma.  Vaping is a great alternative that gives the same amount of control over dosing and symptom relief as smoking cannabis does, without the smoke and odor.  Instead of burning the plant material, it uses a lower heating temperature that simply melts of excess lipids and activates the compounds without causing combustion.  This reduces the production amount of carcinogens and tar by an exponential amount.  Vaping is thought to be a safer, cleaner, and more convenient option for cannabis smokers.

 

There are several options to choose from when it comes to picking a Vaping device, these include:

 

Table Top Vaporizers –  Electric devices typically designed to vaporize dried flower into a bag or

hose that is then inhaled from.  This is the cleanest and healthiest form that one can inhale cannabis.  Table Top Vaporizers heat the plant material at a very low setting and the consumer is able to get the highest amount of cannabinoids and terpenes.  At the same time is consuming the least amount of carcinogens as possible.  After one use of a Table Top Vaporizer, most other similar devices will be familiar enough to use without further explanation. Table Top Vaporizers are constructed of 4 parts: a temperature dial to assure heating accuracy, a heating element that burns the cannabis product, a heating chamber where the product is placed, and a mouth piece (typically a bag or hose).

 

 

Portable Vaporizers –  Similar to a Table Top Vaporizer, these typically give you the option to burn flower or concentrates.  They use a heating device, usually some sort pf coil and are controlled by a temperature dial or button system.  They are pretty discreet and are able to transport and charge almost anywhere which is very convenient.  Whether you prefer flower or concentrate, consumers can enjoy a smokeless experience with the same control.  Just take your product, place it in the heating chamber, pick a setting, hold the button, and inhale to the amount of your liking.  Most portable vaporizers come with a few settings to choose from, all ranging in temperatures.  The hotter the setting, the harsher the hit is and the more cannabinoids and terpenes will be lost.  For first timers, always start with the lowest setting.

 

Vape Pens –  Vape pens are climbing in popularity due to their simplicity and virtually being hassle free.  There are vape pens that are disposable and ones that have a replaceable cartridge containing cannabis oil or concentrate.  The disposable vape pens are easy to use and have a set amount of concentrate.  After all the oil is smoked these pens can be thrown away.  Disposable pens are a great choice for a first timer or someone who has a light smoking schedule.  They are also convenient for consumers trying new strains or concentrates.  Since dispensaries don’t typically honor product returns for dissatisfaction, disposable vape pens are ideal for consumers to have a chance at trying something without breaking the bank.  If smoking concentrates is your thing, investing in a vape pen set might be the way to go.  Vape pens consist of two parts, a battery and a replaceable cartridge.  Error on the side of caution and always ask your budtender if a cartridge is compatible with your battery before you checkout if these two items are purchased separately.  Some companies only make their products compatible with their own and other brands cartridges or batteries will not work.  Vape pen cartridges come in a variety of sorts and are made with different solvents and usually contain some sort of additive to make the concentrate vapable.  Different types of solvents used in oil cartridges are propane, butane, carbon dioxide, and sometimes ethanol alcohol.  When choosing any form of concentrate, it’s important to make sure it’s from a reputable brand and free of any left over solvents.  Also, free of any extra chemicals and pesticides.  So make sure your dabs are tested ladies!  Tainted concentrates can make you feel ill, paranoid, and can leave your head feeling cloudy.  Most oil in vape pen cartridges are cut with an additive because the concentrate alone is too thick and additives are needed to dilute it enough in order to make vapable.  Some popular additives that are being used currently in the market are vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, polyethylene glycol, and medium chain triglycerides like coconut oil.  Often terpenes are also introduced in or back into these cartridges as well.  These terpenes can be derived from cannabis or so called food terpenes can be added for flavor and effect.  Cannabis terpenes are definitely the better way to go but some consumers prefer the overload of flavor created by food terpenes.  Whatever you like, there is a choice for you.

Edibles
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Edibles provide totally different effects then any other form of cannabis consumption.  This is a good choice for someone with respiratory issues or for women who need longer lasting results.  Edibles come in such a variety of yummy treats now days.  There are gummies, drinks, chocolate, candies, cookies, brownies, honey, rice crispies, coffee etc…you name it, its probably out there.  There are two way medibles are made, either with cannabis flower or cannabis extracts.  Most of them are made by cooking the cannabis material with a cooking agent such as coconut oil or butter and making it into something tasty.  Cooking the cannabis, activates the cannabinoids which are then absorbed through our stomach and intestinal walls and processed by the liver.  The effects take longer to feel but last a lot longer once they kick in.  The results from ingesting cannabis typically last for about 4-6 hours but sometimes can be for longer.    The recommended first dose for taking a medible (medicated edible) is 5mg.  Wait 45 minutes and then increase your intake in 5mg amounts until the seeked amount of relief is reached.  Depending on how full the stomach is, will effect how soon the medible can be felt.  On an empty stomach, effects can be felt as soon as 15min and on a fuller stomach can sometimes take over two hours to kick in.  Medibles effect everyone differently, some women have a higher natural tolerance and it takes a lot more to relieve symptoms or be able to feel the effects than others.  Some woman on the other hand are more sensitive and can have an overwhelming experience of anxiety and feeling very uncomfortable from taking too much.  Although marijuana has never been known to result in death, the feeling of ingesting too much can be overbearing and takes a few hours to go away.  To have the best experience edibles are best to be tested in smaller doses and gradually built up until find what feels right for your mind and body.  So when choosing a medicated edible use caution, not enough is better then too much.  If purchasing from a dispensary don’t hesitate to ask your budtender amount the cannabinoid content of the medible and the recommended dosing for that product.  A lot of them have a specific way to divide the product equally to make accurate dosing much easier.

Tinctures
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Cannabis-based tinctures were a standard American medicine in the late 1800- early 1900s. They are available in a variety of cannabinoid formulations and dosages. Tinctures are absorbed sublingually, so the cannabinoids go directly to the bloodstream.

 

Onset: The onset of alcohol-based tinctures is faster than edibles- but not as rapid as inhalation methods. Full effects are usually felt within 20-30 minutes.

 

Duration: Frequent users may find that effects last for a couple of hours, whereas infrequent cannabis users may feel the effects for several hours.

 

Pros: Some formulas have concentrations of less available cannabinoids like THCV and CBN. Very discreet, with no odor.

 

Cons: Tinctures are commonly formulated with alcohol, which may not be desirable for some users. Light, heat and oxygen will degrade the THC content, so bottles must be opaque and tightly sealed.

Topicals
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Ayurvedic practitioners have used cannabis-enriched lotions, balms, salves and other preparations for thousands of years. The cannabinoids are absorbed into the skin for more focused therapeutic effects.

 

Onset: Five minutes to two hours.

 

Duration: Lasting upwards of 12 hours.

 

Pros: Ideal for localized pain and inflammation, including arthritis, bone fractures, skin conditions, cramping, and migraines. No psychoactive effects, so new users and those with a low THC tolerance can use them with confidence. Transdermal patches can provide hours of relief. Very discreet.

 

Cons: Some products may contain parabens or artificial fragrances which can irritate sensitive skin and cause other health issues.

Full Spectrum Oil
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High potency THC oil nicknamed for cannabis advocate Rick Simpson, who became a vocal proponent of cannabis’ healing abilities after using a homemade oil to treat his own cancer. His formulation has been expanded upon by other patients and companies, with high THC and CBD variations available in many Collectives. Patients are often advised to start with an amount of oil roughly the size of half a grain of rice, and slowly increase their dose over a prolonged length of time, up to 1 gram per 24 hours.

 

Onset: 15 minutes to 1 hour.

 

Duration: Anywhere from 4 – 10 hours.

 

Pros: Patient success stories, though largely anecdotal, abound online of people using a full spectrum oil to stop the growth of various skin cancers and tumors.

 

Cons: While the anti-proliferative effects of CBD and THC have been documented in studies using animal models, to date there have been no scientific human studies proving the viability of full spectrum oils on specific forms of cancer. If you’d like to pursue this type of treatment, it’s best to do it under the supervision of a licensed integrative oncologist.

Dabbing
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A relatively new form of cannabis ingestion, ‘dabbing’ is for high tolerance users only. The term refers to heating a small amount of marijuana concentrate (called a ‘dab’) on the head of a titanium nail with a blowtorch, causing combustion.

 

Don’t let the small amount of cannabis product fool you- this highly potent form of cannabis (also called wax, honey oil, budder, butane honey oil (BHO), and shatter) can contain up to 80% THC.

 

The effects are considerably more physically and psychologically intense than using other forms and can be on par with a strong dose of edibles.

 

Onset: Immediately after inhalation.

 

Duration: Slightly longer than other inhalation methods.

 

Pros: For seriously ill patients, dabbing can be an efficient way to get a large amount of cannabinoids into their system and experience immediate relief. Users also love the heightened flavors and taste.

 

Cons: The concentrated smoke from dabbing can release carcinogens at degrees over 365. Because of the high THC content, dabbing regularly will quickly raise a user’s tolerance so that other forms of ingestion are no longer felt. The fast uptake of a high level of THC can result in anxiety, nausea, and even passing out.

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What Strain is Right for You?

Whether you are jumping on the cannabis train for the first time or are a lifetime connoisseur, its important to find strains that work well with your individual body.  Finding the strain that is right for you is crucial in order to give you the best cannabis experience possible.  Every mammal has their own unique Endocannabinoid System which controls how different strains affect us.  One strain that works really well for one person, might not be the best choice for another.  Finding strains that create the most synergy within our individual selves and with our own ECS will create the most effective and beneficial results.  With thousands of strains out there and counting, it seem overwhelming or seemingly impossible to start narrowing the choices down.  Here is a step by step guide to help navigate through the world of cannabis strains.

1)  Start a Strain Journal

This will be key in recording what strains you try, the parental lineage of the strain, the effects it had on your mind and body, what you liked about it, what you didn’t like, the smell/ terpene profile, and anything else you would like to write down.

 

2)  Identify Wanted Results

Have a clear understanding of the end result you are wanting to acquire.  For example,  “I am looking for something that may help increase my appetite,” or “I am having problems sleeping, I am wanting to find something that might allow me to fall asleep easier.”

 

3) Do a Little Self Research

Each strain is made up of a different set and amount of cannabinoids and different types of cannabinoids affect us in different ways.  There are 8 main cannabinoids that you will want to look at.

  • Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid (THCA)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)

 

Each cannabinoid has specific attributes.  Here are two charts that clearly indicate the major cannabinoids and what their known therapeutic qualities are.

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The next step would then be to look up certain strains that are higher in those specific cannabinoids and go from there.  For example, if I was looking for something that may help relieve symptoms of Bipolar Disorder or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I would be looking for a strain that contains CBD,THC, and CBG cannabinoids.  If I was looking for a strain that may help relieve symptoms of Fibromyalgia, I would be looking for a strain that contains CBN cannabinoids as well as THC and CBD cannabinoids.  Here’s a couple handy sights that are easy to use to help narrow down what strains to try once you find what cannabinoids you are looking for.

 

www.Potbotics.com

 

Another way to find the best strain for you is to use a website like ‘Leafly’ to look up symptoms you are wanting to relieve.  For example, type into the Leafly search engine “Strains for Depression.”  This will give you a list of strains that have specific terpene and cannabinoid profiles that aid in relieving symptoms for depression.  Narrow it down to 3 strains and then click on the link to locate a dispensary carrying that strain near you.

Now the fun part, once you have the strains in your possession and in a safe environment try one strain at a time.  Allow about 4-5 hours minimum in between trying each strain.  This way, an accurate analysis of the strains whole effect on ones self, from beginning to end, can be determined.  After you smoke and try each strain individually, record how that strain made you feel, if it helped relieve any symptoms or made things worse, what it smelled like, what it tasted like, and most importantly what its parental lineage is (what strains make up a particular strain)  Example: Blue Dream is made up of its parents Blueberry X Haze.

Think of marijuana strains in terms of a big family tree.  Each strain has a set of parents, and each parents generation has a set of parents.  Strains are typically made of 2-4 strains put together.   All weed strains descended from 10 main strains known as the original Landrace Strains.  Once you find a strain that benefits you in the ways you are seeking, from there try a couple more strains that contain one of those parent strains.  So if I tried Blue Dream and thought it was benefiting me and wanted to see if I could find a strain that gave me even more relief, I would then try a strain that was half blueberry and half something else such as Blue Cheese (Blueberry X Cheese).  I would also try a strain that was half Haze such as Silver Haze (Northern lights #5 and Haze).  After trying the two new strains individually, with no less than 4-5 hours in between ingesting each strain, I would record my findings and compare.  Did I prefer the Blue Cheese or the Silver Haze?  If I enjoyed the Blue Cheese more I could determine that my body    and determine which side of the family tree worked better with my body chemistry.  After which I could then begin looking for more strains on that particular side of the family tree.  Thus helping narrow down the guess and check method with helping to educate about how each strain and its synergy with ones own body chemistry.