Both vilified and venerated, no other mere plant has stirred — and stimulated — the collective mind of humankind quite like cannabis. Traded from China to Pakistan on ancient silk roads, numerous kingdoms and cultures have made wide and varied use of the plant all around the world for millennia. That stands in stark contrast to its limited existence, confined largely to the basements and backyards of guerilla growers, today.
Beyond indica vs. sativa, there are many misconceptions about this fascinating, multifaceted herb and how it can affect the way you feel. Let’s break it up.
Cannabis is a female world
The cannabis plant is a hops-like flower with origins in Central Asia, where there is evidence of cultivation dating back as far as 12,000 BC, making it one of humanity’s oldest crops. The female plants are the most sought-after for growing and harvesting because of their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) buds. As cannabis evolved over time — its genus emerged over six million years ago — its buds became coated in crystallized THC as protection from ultraviolet rays. When you’re looking at a bud, you’re seeing trichomes (the blanket of crystal resin), cola (the buds growing tightly together), bract (the leaves) and the stigma (vibrantly coloured, hairlike strands for reproduction).
You’re already high
THC is one of 113 known chemical compounds called cannabinoids in the plant. These compounds are simpatico with us since they occur naturally in our bodies and interact with a network of receptors called the endocannabinoid system. And they are not all psychoactive.
Cannabidiol (CBD), for example, is an increasingly popular compound that doctors believe can aid memory and treat chemical disorders like schizophrenia. Cannabis’s ambassador, it’s helping governments with restrictive laws warm up to legalization. In Japan, for example, you can get jail time for simple possession and yet CBD is legal, with its first billboard advertisement approved for downtown Tokyo. The image: a woman with flowers in her hair. The copy: “The way to relax at 4:20.” Thailand is also loosening their laws, allowing licensed producers for medical purposes.
Nose your grow
The olfactory bang emitting from cannabis flowers is courtesy of naturally occurring essential oils called terpenes. These 200 distinctly scented oils vary in combination between strains and have differing effects. They are also naturally found in other plants (like lemons and pine), are used in aromatherapy and even mixed in cocktails.
It’s not the THC in different strains alone that gives users distinct effects. There are up to 140 terpene profiles in any given plant that, combined with the THC level, are thought to give strains their character. These chemicals working in concert is commonly (and contentiously) known as “The Entourage Effect.”
Follow your nose and learn the following main scent profiles* in order to discern how each flower might make you feel:
Scent profile: Citrusy with scents of lemon and orange
Effect: Elevates mood and relieves stress
Medicinal properties: Antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-carcinogenic properties. Can be used for gallstone treatment
Scent profile: Pine needles
Effect: Heightened focus and alertness
Medicinal properties: Can be used to treat coughs and open up air passageways
Scent profile: Menthol
Effect: Calming, stress relieving
Medicinal properties: Used in Chinese medicines to prep skin for acupuncture and treat cardiovascular diseases. It’s also said to have blood-thinning properties
Scent profile: Earthy, musky
Effect: Sedative effects classically attributed to indicas
Medicinal properties: High therapeutic potential in cancer treatment
Scent profile: Lavender, flowers
Effect: Elevates mood and relieves stress
Medicinal properties: A powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever
Beyond bong hits and blunts
Cannabis use has come a long way, baby. Here are a few ways to consume without combustion:
- Vaping: an electronic vaporizer pen can save your throat and lungs by applying heat to oil extract or a flower.
- Dabbing: a high-concentration resin called wax is burnt on a dab kit and is meant to deliver more THC to your system faster.
- Decarboxylating: a machine heats up buds to activate the psychoactive THC content. After it’s done heating, the bud can be chewed or sprinkled on a meal as garnish.
- Topical patches and lotion: a non-psychoactive application, anecdotal evidence suggests it eases aches and pains.
Is it true you won’t be able to take a whiff before buying corporate weed in Canada?
It remains to be seen whether or not an age-old staple of the cannabis-purchasing experience — smelling the buds before you buy them — becomes a thing of the past due to new packaging and labelling regulations.
“Smelling the nugs in the jar is crucial to the cannabis purchasing experience,” says Adam Greenblatt, Business Development Lead, British Columbia at Canopy Growth Corporation. This olfactory, gustatory experience is a huge loss to consumers, he thinks, “and does speak to consumer infantilization on the part of authorities, as well as a lack of comprehension as to what consumption actually is.”
Since each province and territory will go its own way with respect to how cannabis is sold, it looks like smelling your flower of choice depends on where you are. Dispensaries in Quebec, for instance, won’t let you see, touch or smell before purchase. Dispensaries in Saskatchewan, however, a province that has decided to allow budtenders to sell cannabis in privately run storefronts and online, might still let you nose.
Time will tell.
The C2 Montréal Minutes: Actionable insights for creative business leaders
This article is excerpted from Transformative Collisions: The C2 Montréal 2018 Minutes, a roadmap for progressive business leaders, bold entrepreneurs and those wishing to up their creative game. You can read it in its entirety here.
Illustrations: Lauren Tamaki
Further reading from the “Cannabiz” special:
- Weed, eh? The Canadian cannabis business case explained
- Meet Canada’s women in weed
- Becoming a chronic entrepreneur: Lessons from Snoop Dogg and Ted Chung
- Ganjapreneurs to watch: A roundup of rad cannabis innovators
- (De)criminalization: What comes after the war on drugs?
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