Cannabis: The Basics
Cannabis is an herb that belongs to Cannabaceae family and comprises of a single species called hemp. Also referred to as marijuana, cannabis has thin stems and thin jagged leaves that can branch into a range of five to seven. The plant can grow up to 18 feet and may sometimes pop up along driveways and roadsides from stray seeds.
Cannabis plant produces two types of flowers, the female and male, which are often small, green in color and often grow in clusters. The female flower has spike-like clusters and maintains the green, a month after blossoming up until the seeds ripen.
An absolute indication of a female flower is the burnt orange or white hairs, which are simply the pistils, sex organs. In addition, a heavier layer of resign, a thick substance that helps trap the pollen produced by the male, coats the female plant. Basically, when the pollen lands on the female, the flower is fertilized and it begins to produce the seeds. However, in cases where pollen does not reach the female flower, production of resign is doubled resulting into frosty layer of hairs or trichomes.
Keeping the female flower from pollen helps increase potency since no part of its energy is used in creating seeds. Yields may also increase as it concentrates on producing resign and the buds. Therefore, the unfertilized flower has no seeds, is referred to as sinsemilla, and has a sweet and potent smoke.
The male flower on the other hand grows in elongated clusters along its leaves and usually turns yellow after it has blossomed. The male flower also hardly has trichomes but rather multiple “pollen sacks”. The pollen storage appear as tiny hanging tulip buds and mostly blossom into light-green or white flowers on maturity. The male flower is less potent but also has cannabinoids such as the CBD and THC.
That said, what are the implications of having either male or female cannabis flowers? In simple terms, growing both sexes of the plant together can be a disaster since pollination can occur, and this result in loss of buds. That is why you should remove the male plants from females at the right time, which is before pollination takes place. Basically, the marijuana plant begins to produce “pre-flowers” that should alert you about the specific gender before the actual flowering takes place.
If you don’t detect the gender early enough, you could ruin your yields since pollen is sneaky and virile. You will be surprised to learn that pollen can reach female flowers miles away, and can travel through ventilation ducts.
It is important to point out that separating the male from the female plant does in no way mean that the male plant has no value at all! Even though you can buy cloned mother plants and generate consistent buds from females, you’ll soon realize that you need more resinous plants. Actually, you can clone a more resistant variety that can withstand bud rot and molds, and that flowers fast. Since the male contributes to over 50 percent of the genetic composition, you should select a good father plant to create your own breed. It’s believed that crossing an Indica male with a Sativa female yields the best quality of cannabis.
Extracts from the flower buds, the stems and leaves from the cannabis plant can be brewed in tea, eaten raw, vaporized or made into a tincture.
Marijuana has hundreds of compounds among them the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is believed to contain the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The THC works by binding the brain regions that are responsible for pleasure, pain, and time perception. Once the receptors are bound, this stimulates release of dopamine, a brain chemical known to bring about “feel good” effect. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that THC compound also alter the brain’s chemistry and may cause addiction.
There are 3 main sub-species of the cannabis plant:
1. Cannabis Sativa
This variety has long and slender leaves; with pronounced serrations which appear like spikes. This sub-species can have various colors ranging from bright green, lime green or even dark green. Its largest leaves can form up to 13 leaflets.
2. Cannabis Indica
This variety has wider and larger leaves compared to the largest sativa leaves and usually has about 7-9 leaves. Indica variety is basically olive green in color, and a light green coloring is often a sign of particular deficiency.
3. Cannabis Ruderalis
This variety is the smallest among other subspecies and its largest leaves have 5-13 leaflets. In terms of width, its leaves are closest to the Indica but they are much narrower.
Brief History of Marijuana
The cultivation of cannabis is believed to date back to thousands of years from the 28th century BCE. Thought to be a native of India and China; the plant could possibly have originated from the northern Himalayas.
In USA, cannabis use in medicine was reported as early as 1800s but was later banned in the 1930s in 24 states. Early in 1920s after the Mexican immigrants adopted the recreational version of marijuana, sentiments from anti-immigrants triggered the ban. Later in the 1950’s; the Boggs Act and the Narcotics Control Act suggested a 2-10 years imprisonment for offenders possessing marijuana.
Nevertheless, in the 1970’s, penalties were less severe up until today where marijuana is classified as schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the US government still considers marijuana as having high potential for abuse. However, 23 states have already legalized use of recreational or medicinal form of marijuana.