Cannabis Basics

Cannabis is the most commonly used illicit mind-altering drug in the world. It is classed as 'a minor hallucinogen with depressant qualities'. When smoked or eaten, it has mild mind-expanding, painkilling, and intoxicating effects.

The cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years as a herbal medication and intoxicant. Of the two main species, Cannabis Indica is the strongest, and is used to make hash and stronger grasses, like skunk. Indica grows from 3 to 6 feet high with fat dark green leaves, purplish buds and a distinct stinky smell, hence the name skunk.

Cannabis Sativa, also known as hemp, is traditionally used to make rope and fibers. The plants are very tall with thin light green leaves, reddish buds, and a sweet fruity smell. When smoked, it creates a more alert, cerebral high, over Indica's sleepy groggy effects. Many modern strains are crossbreeds of the two species.

The main active ingredient is delta-9-THC or just THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for short. The more THC in the product, the more potent it is. Several factors determine how much THC will be in a particular crop of weed, including:

  • Soil
  • Time plant was harvested
  • Type of plant
  • Weather


Cannabis comes in two main forms: marijuana (also known as grass), the dried leaves and female flower heads; and hashish, compressed blocks of resin extracted from the plant. Hash oil is also available.

Marijuana normally contains between 1 and 5 percent THC by weight (1) although modern growing techniques have boosted this to 10-15 percent. This one's very strong.

Hashish is traditionally stronger (up to 26 percent) but on the street it is often adulterated, usually with paper pulp or caryophyllene, a constituent of cloves. (2) Depending on the purity of the substance, hash can range in appearance from black to a golden color.

Most hash in the UK is of the weak, adulterated 'soapbar' variety. This type of hash can be contaminated by a variety of other substances that are not designed to make the user feel "high." Hash seized and analyzed by authorities has contained glue, engine oil and soil. Animal feces have also added to hash as an extra ingredient.

Hash oil is made by taking Mary Jane or hash and dissolving it in a solvent. Butane, alcohol and acetone may be used for this purpose. Any plant material that remains in the liquid solution is removed. The mixture is left until the solvent evaporates.

The substance that is left is a thick, sticky oil. It ranges in color from white, which is the purest form, to a green, red or brown substance. The level of THC varies, depending on the grade from 5 percent to approximately 35 percent.

If the hash oil comes into contact with clothing, the item will be ruined. When hash oil is spilled on the skin, it will remain in place until a solvent, such as denatured alcohol, is used to remove it.

Medical Benefits of Smoking Weed

In the United States, Mary Jane has been classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. This designation indicates marijuana falls within the following specifications:

  • It has no currently accepted medical use.
  • The drug has a high potential for abuse.
  • There are safety issues for the person who chooses to use the substance.

Some people claim that using this substance helps to relieve symptoms of severe illnesses. Examples of medical conditions these claims relate to include:

  • AIDS
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple sclerosis

People who use weed for medical purposes can still be arrested and prosecuted. Many of the legal actions are conducted under state or local laws. Patients using marijuana for medical purposes can also be prosecuted under federal law.

In Canada, people living with "grave and debilitating illnesses" can apply to the federal government for permission to use marijuana to relieve their symptoms. If the application is approved, the individual will usually be allowed to use between 1-3 grams per day. The weed is supplied to approved individuals on a monthly basis by a government agency. If a person wishes to grow his or her own weed for medical purposes, they must get approval before being allowed to buy seeds to grow the product for their own use.