So what is Cannabis?
Cannabis is the name of the plant that has gotten plenty of attention over the years. It is also used to refer to products made from the flower of this plant. It’s really that simple, it’s just a flower that we are talking about. This flower is harvested at its peak production time (when resin content has the highest amount of THC or CBD possible), then dried, cured, packaged, and sold. Consumers then grind up the dried flower and smoke it or vape it.
All of the various ways to then process this product has led to numerous types of cannabis extracts and concentrates. While these sound complicated and often use advanced technology, they all start the same way. It all begins with a plant, which produces a flower. We then use this flower in all sorts of ways. Once dried and cured, this bud (called dried flower or marijuana) is ready to be smoked or vaped.
Cannabis is often called weed because the plant is actually a weed. Marijuana has a more racist and mixed history of use. Some people use it to just describe the Dried Flower and subsequent products, while also using it to describe the plant more broadly at times. They all mean the same thing basically. Don’t let these names confuse you, just know that Cannabis, Marijuana, and Weed are basically the same.
Hemp is also Cannabis, but it has been bred for fiber instead of the precious resin. Legally defined as having under 0.3% THC content in the flowers, these variations of the plant have been used for industrial purposes for decades. More recently, higher CBD producing variations have also become popular for extracting CBD from the flowers and using the rest of the plant for other stuff.
Smoking it means burning it, this is done not just for fun, but to activate the compounds inside Cannabis. If you were to just eat the dried flower, it would not produce the psychoactive effects that come from smoking or vaporizing it. Vaporizing means heating it up to the point where the compounds become active and vaporize (turn into vapor, like steam).
For other methods like eating Cannabis, heat is still required at some point in the process. One way involves heating up the flower to the point where it browns and activate the compounds, without burning or wasting too much. This bud can then be eaten alone or with food.
If we want to draw out those valuable compounds without consuming all that plant matter, then we get to the topic of extraction. This involves using a solvent ‘a carrier substance’ to draw the compounds into for more isolated consumption. Cannabis oils have been used throughout history, even being a large part of North American medicines before prohibition. People add the dried flower to an oil, then heat it up to the point of activating the compounds. At the same time, the compounds are being pulled into the oil. You then remove the plant matter and can consume the oil.
Using Alcohol as your Solvent
Alcohol can also be used if it is high-proof enough. The process is the same as with the cannabis oils, except you can heat the alcohol to the point of vaporizing before the cannabis compounds. This gives you the option of burning off the booze to just leave the compounds is a concentrated liquid. These are what I would call tinctures.
There are more advanced solvents used to create many of the newer products we see on the market. Many cannabis oils use one of these more modern methods, like CO2 extraction, and then add oil to that product for sale. Instead of using the oil in the extraction process. Other solvents include propane, butane, and others. These compounds are perfectly safe when used appropriately and fully removed from the final product. Always get these products from regulated labs. If you want a highly concentrated product without oil, alcohol, or having to use other solvents there are a few options. The Cannabis concentrates made today are highly potent. Expect to see 40-99% THC content compared to 10-25% THC in dried flower.
Water and Ice can be used as the solvents when you are making a product called bubble hash. Another option involves pressing dried bud between two hot plates, called a rosin press. Both of these methods are great starting points for those wanting to try out slightly more advanced extraction methods. For most of us, we will prefer buying these products over making them ourselves.
There is a ton of stigma around Cannabis. The reasons for this are complex and go back many years. Basically, a combination of political, social, racial, economic, and medical forces led to Cannabis becoming the face of the war on drugs. Is the stigma justified? If we are talking about concerns over health impacts, then these are valid concerns. If we are judging people for their life choices while consuming all the pharmaceuticals, alcohol, coffee, or nicotine we want, then it ain’t so good. For those who refrain from all psychoactive substances, that is a fair perspective to have. For the rest of us, changing our state of mind is a human joy we don’t want to live without.
Sadly there is stigma, but it is reducing. I think we could all benefit from caring less about what others think of us. In places where it is legal, smoke it proudly if you’d like. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too. We don’t judge those who don’t blaze, and we should push for them to show us the same respect.
Cannabis has a strong smell to it. It is a loud plant that is no doubt. Luckily new delivery methods allow us to avoid this when we want. The same goes for the health risks of smoking any plant matter, moving toward vaping is an excellent harm reduction method. Take that even further and only go with edibles, oils, and drinks. There are so many ways to consume Cannabis without having to smoke it. The only reason we didn’t have more of these options sooner was because of prohibition, while we were being judged for smoking. I’m thankful we now have choices in places like Canada, California, Colorado, and more.
If you’re in a place where it’s legal, be respectful about where and when you smoke. But if you have some lingering scent on your clothes, who gives a crap. Stop worrying about what others think and start enjoying your high experience more fully.
As a real side-effect of Cannabis, the dose is critical to preventing anxiety. The other essential factor is your set and setting. Being worried about being arrest has been and is a valid concern in many places, it is not anxiety. So it makes sense we may feel heightened anxiety in that situation. It’s no wonder so many people smoke privately at home. Without the fear of legal persecution, I’ve found that my law-related anxiety has completely disappeared. It is a great feeling. If you’re prone to anxiety, manage it while high as you do while sober (but with even more self-care and attention).
Final Thoughts on the Growth of Cannabis
Considering the stigma and legal hurdles faced, Cannabis has had a pretty remarkable history. The last 100 years of prohibition are starting to crumble as more jurisdictions legalize medical and recreational cannabis. We will continue to see the evolution of the Cannabis strains and products made from extractions. I hope people find useful factual information to create personal opinions, not based on dogma. Cannabis is not a cure-all, and it comes with lots of problems and side-effects. Become informed about Cannabis so that you can make healthy choices and consumption habits. Make cannabis part of an overall healthy lifestyle as best you can through developing healthy high habits.