Cannabis is a leafy plant which grows wild in many of the tropic and temperate areas of the world. It is cultivated both indoors and outdoors for the production of its flowering tops. These beautiful tops give off an amazing aroma and are usually stored in an air tight container to preserve freshness. The most commonly used form of cannabis are the leaves and flowering tops (buds) which may be either smoked or eaten; It also comes in a more concentrated resinous form called hashish, and as a sticky black liquid called hash oil.
There are three distinct species of cannabis: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, though there is some argument as to whether these should be considered varieties rather than species.
Most recreationally used cannabis is the result of interbreeding between these three types. The term ‘hemp’ is generally used to describe low-thc varieties of cannabis which are grown for industrial uses.
Earliest Record of Cannabis Use
The earliest record of cannabis use is from a compendium of medicines which was compiled for the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in about 2727 BC. Although it grows in many parts of the world and so has a long history of use in many cultures, especially in Asian and African where the plant thrives in the warm climate.
Since then the cannabis plant has been used for everything from making rope and cloth to its many medicinal purposes. Queen Victoria used to take cannabis in a tincture form (dissolved in alcohol) to alleviate her period pains.
Cannabis has been used medically world-wide for centuries, and legally in this country up until 1928, although many people in the UK use it illegally as an effective reliever of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, hypoglycaemia and, in certain instances, as a medication for the terminally ill.
Cannabis in United Kingdom
The use of cannabis for its psychoactive (intoxicating) effect has always been a political issue. In Britain cannabis was first used by young West Indian immigrants and by people who went to fashionable Soho jazz clubs during the 50s onwards.
The 60s hippy culture predictably reached Britain and with it came the availability of cannabis to a wide range of young people.
The use of the drug declined slightly during the 70s but with the dance scene kicking off in the 80s with acid house, ravers, party goers and clubbers found it the perfect drug to bring them down and chill out with after a hard nights dancing.
Cannabis: Different Variations
The various forms of cannabis mostly come from the plants Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, which grow throughout the world. Cannabis is available in three main forms, as a dried herb (composed of top leaves and buds – usually known as grass), as a resin (usually known as hash or hashish) which is extracted from the buds and flower heads in the country of origin, and less commonly as a sticky liquid (hash oil) which is prepared from the resin.
Cannabis resin found in the UK comes from a variety of sources, traditionally the Indian subcontinent, Lebanon and Morocco, all of which differ considerably in texture, colour and aroma. Some are soft and pliable (usually from Pakistan), whilst others can be hard and brittle (often from Morocco and Lebanon).
Most resin turning up on the streets will have been reformulated in Europe after leaving its country of origin. Different types of resin have different names such as ‘red seal’, ‘gold seal’, ‘squidgy black’, ‘rocky’, ‘slate’ and ‘soapbar’ (although there are many more).
Herbal Properties of Cannabis
Herbal cannabis or grass is slowly gaining a greater market share. On a practical level grass is much harder to smuggle due to its bulk and aroma. Traditionally imported from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, herbal cannabis is increasingly being ‘home grown’ in the UK and Europe, mainly due to the increasingly sophisticated growing equipment available.
Many strains of intensively grown and particularly strong herbal cannabis are becoming increasingly common. Strains known as ‘Northern lights’, ‘Super skunk’ and ‘Sensi (sensemilla)’ have a far higher content of the chemical in them which causes the drugs intoxicating effect (the chemical is called THC or tetrahydrocannabinol).
How is Cannabis smoked?
Cannabis is most commonly smoked. Usually by mixing it with tobacco and rolling it up with cigarette papers into a cannabis cigarette (often called a ‘spliff’, ‘joint’, ‘reefer’, or ‘jay’).
However, it can also be smoked with or without tobacco in various forms of pipes and smoking devices (such as ‘bongs‘ or ‘water pipes‘). Nowadays the smoking of Cannabis through pipes (often using water to cool the smoke) has become more prevalent due to its greater efficiency.
In cultures where Cannabis is predominant such as the Caribbean it is most commonly smoked neat. This method is safer since it avoids problems associated with tobacco smoking.
Can you eat Cannabis?
Cannabis can also be eaten on its own or mixed in with recipes such as cakes, biscuits (hence ‘hash cookies’) or hot drinks. Eating Cannabis means that the active ingredients have to fight their way through the stomach contents before they can be absorbed into the blood.
This is less efficient (therefore the user gets less ‘value for money’) and the dosage is less controllable. A smoker of Cannabis can stop smoking once he or she reaches the required level of intoxication, however when eating getting the dosage right is a far harder business.