What does ‘cannabis’ or ‘marijuana’ mean?
According to the classification and scientific definition of cannabis, both hemp and marijuana are part of the Cannabaceae family and both are also classified as Cannabis sativa L. As such, both are cannabis.
In the United States, the term “hemp” is used to describe a cannabis plant that produces no more than 0.3% THC, which is the molecule that causes the euphoric and intoxicating effects associated with adult marijuana. The classification does not take into account any other cannabinoids. Therefore, if a plant produces 20% CBD and only 0.29% THC, it is still legally considered hemp.
What is marijuana used for?
Hemp has many uses. Its fibers can be used for canvas, paper, rope and other textiles. In addition, it is an incredibly efficient bioremediation (it extracts toxic substances from the soil as it grows), and its chips are increasingly used as a building material and as an alternative to fiberglass. Hemp seeds have long been used in many cultures for their nutritional benefits for humans and other animals. Now they are also being explored as a source of biofuel. And hemp flowers are now very popular for the production of CBD-rich oils. The flower part can also be used as an alternative to smoking tobacco.
Many laws have been created based on this percentage definition of hemp. It is the level of THC that the variety of the plant produces that differentiates it from the intoxicating variety of cannabis, “marijuana”, and allows its legal classification as a commodity crop.
In the US, “marijuana” or “drug crops” are the terms used in reference to the cannabis strain that produces more than 0.3% THC. There is an astonishing diversity of molecules that plants in this legal category are capable of producing. These include cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC). These cannabinoids are valued for their medicinal properties.
In fact, marijuana produces more than 100 unique cannabinoids that mimic compounds produced in the human body. These plant-based cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, can act in place of the body’s endogenous cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, when the body experiences a deficiency in its endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Cannabis strains, commonly referred to as “strains,” also produce terpenes, the aromatic molecules that are the main ingredient in essential oils produced by many plant species. Cannabis strains have unique terpene profiles, which determine the aroma and taste of the flower.
Although research is ongoing, we know that terpenes can potentiate or alter the psychological and physiological effects of phytocannabinoids. When consuming whole-plant cannabis, there is a unique interaction between all molecules that appears to have a superior medical benefit compared to consuming isolated molecules. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.
Cannabis is a versatile crop that can grow in many different climates. It is a sun-loving annual plant that thrives in various conditions, depending on the variety, hence its common designation of “grass”.
It can be male (male) or female (female), with its reproductive organs. The male staminant (stamen) and the female pistilate (pistils) usually appear on different plants. In the presence of pollen from a male, the female will begin to produce seeds. In the rare cases where sexual traits share a plant, it is known as a hermaphrodite.
Growing cannabis from a seed begins with germination, a process by which the seed “sprouts” and then feeds on a starting material, which can range from soil to rock wool. At this stage, the plant is considered a seedling.
To achieve greater uniformity, some growers start with clones, which are cuttings of a cannabis “mother plant” that has been kept in a vegetative state. Clones are genetic copies of the mother plant and will show more predictable growth and flowering patterns, as well as cannabinoid and terpene profiles, if grown under the same conditions.
Cannabis is typically grown on land indoors or outdoors, hydroponically indoors or in greenhouse conditions. There are several factors that affect the success of cannabis growth, including: climate, nutrients used, water quality and irrigation consistency.
The light cycle to which a cannabis plant is exposed during its lifetime has a marked effect on the growth of the mime, as well as on the expression of phytocannabinoids and terpenes. In addition, the number of hours of the day to which marijuana is exposed to light will determine the type of growth that the plant will experience: the vegetative (dedicated to growth and architectural functions) occurs with more than 16 hours of light per day and the flowering (dedicated to reproductive functions) occurs when light is limited to 12 hours per day.
Once marijuana is successfully grown and flowered, it is ready to be processed. The flower must be dried and cured for consumption or concentrate production. The freshly harvested plant can also be immediately sent for processing to create live resin concentrates. After the cannabis has been processed in the desired way, it is ready for consumption.
Similarly, once the hemp has been threshed, it is ready to be used as fibers, tow, seeds and flowers. Cannabis, no matter the variety, is really a plant of many functions.