The Complete Beginner’s Cannabis Guide and FAQ

The Complete Beginner’s Cannabis Guide and FAQ

Don't you hate the word "complete." It's a promise that always leaves something out.

Still, there are always questions people fail to ask before or answer well, so we'll try to complete this beginner's cannabis guide and 20 FAQs for those thinking about it.

The definitions:

#1—What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a plant. "Cannabis" is the botanical name for a stiff, upright, high-fiber, flowering plant with serrated leaves and glandular hairs.

#2—What is the origin of cannabis?

Artifacts point to cannabis originating in Central Asia, Mongolia, and southern Siberia some 12,000 years ago. Used for its fiber, archeology documents the Chinese using it for marijuana in 2737 BCE.

#3—What are the main strains of cannabis?

In botanical terms, cannabis strains have developed as Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis.

Most of the world's cannabis cultivation is devoted to growing and processing cannabis for its hemp fiber, which is used in many forms. But others have bred cannabis for its psychoactive and medicinal properties: Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, and Cannabis Ruderalis.

#4—What is Cannabis Indica?

Cannabis Indica is a broad-leafed native to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Pharmacologists have found it holds a greater THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content. THC is credited with producing the psychological high sought by many in recreational use.

#5—What is Cannabis Sativa?

Cannabis Sativa is a narrow-leafed, bushy plant native to eastern Asia. Pharmacologically, it has a significant CBD (cannabidiol) content, which produces sedating and anti-anxiety effects that contribute to most of the medicinal benefits attributed to cannabis.

#6—What is Cannabis Ruderalis?

Cannabis Ruderalis may or may not be a distinct species of cannabis. But its claim to fame is its ability to survive hostile climates and human intervention. Short and stalky, ruderalis has been bred into strains of Indica and Sativa to fortify its survival.

#7—What is marijuana?

Marijuana and cannabis are used synonymously. But "marijuana" consists of the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.

The pharmacology:

#8—What is cannabis made of?

Cannabis plants are made of fiber and other components common to herbaceous flowering plants. These include the terpenes that contribute aroma and flavor.

It contains hundreds of cannabinoids, chemical compounds that are the subject of most interest in cannabis:

  • THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
  • CBD (cannabidiol)
  • CBN (cannabinol)
  • CBC (cannabichromene)
  • CBG (cannabigerol)

#9—What are endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are chemical compounds naturally produced by the human body and found in the Endocannabinoid System throughout the brain and body. The most relevant of these are:

  • 2-AG (2-Arachidonoylglycerol) activates the brain's CB1 receptors. Its presence or absence affects neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and stroke-related brain injury.
  • Anandamide is called "the bliss molecule" because it is associated with the euphoric sensations following vigorous exercise.

Science believes these endocannabinoids, directly and indirectly, affect mood, pain perception, inflammation, and cognitive performance.

#10—What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol binds to the brain's CB1 receptors. This psychoactive component delivers the "high" sensations of euphoria, relaxation, increased appetite, altered sensory perception, time/space distortion, and enhanced socialization. It also has anti-nausea, anti-emetic, and anti-inflammatory properties. It may represent 30% of the cannabis plant's chemical content.

#11—What is CBD?

Cannabidiol does not bind to CB1 receptors. It works indirectly by diminishing or deflecting other chemical reactions. It occurs at 10-20% volume) with much lower density than THC. In doing so, it can offset or modulate the effects of THC to make cannabis more beneficial to medical patients. Research continues to observe its positive medical effects on anxiety, depression, epilepsy, inflammation, schizophrenia, smooth muscle convulsion, and spasticity. States that have legalized medical marijuana have listed as many as 40 eligible medical conditions.

#12—What is the chemical interaction?

Organic Chemist Raphael Mechoulam, Ph.D., a renowned professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, isolated THC and drew its connection to the human endocannabinoid system. To keep it simple, cannabinoids improve the flow of messages along the central nervous system by invigorating or modulating the electrochemical transmission between cells.

The delivery system:

#13—How do you smoke cannabis?

Typically, cannabis parts of flowers and leaves are ground into small flakes. They are rolled in paper into cigarette-shaped joints. After lighting carefully, smokers inhale the marijuana smoke into their lungs, where they inhale it for about two minutes before exhaling.  

You should take a break after two or three tokes before lighting and repeating the process. This prolongs the effects and reduces waste. You might also consider smoking with a bong or pipe.

#14—Are there other ways to use cannabis?

Some users prefer to dab. That involves sniffing the fumes emitted by heating cannabis tinctures, extracts, or wax. Each of these is a derivative of cannabis.

Some absorb cannabis through their skin after being applied as a lotion, topical, or transdermal patch. And others consume cannabis as food or drink. Cannabis-infused edibles and beverages have grown in popularity because of their convenient and discreet use.

The health effects:

#15—What are the adverse effects?

Moderate use of most cannabis strains may produce dry mouth, red eyes, and cough. Chronic use of potent cannabis strains can lead to CUD (Cannabis Use Disorder), which, while not a physical addiction, may suggest an undesirable dependency.

Because it increases appetite, you may put on weight, and without additional hydration, you may see symptoms of dehydration.

And there is a general scientific consensus that chronic use by adolescents may harm brain development.

#16—What are the positive effects?

Cannabis strains differ in their THC: CBD ratio. And the differing balances affect different people differently.

Still, THC and CBD are known to have anti-anxiolytic, anti-emetic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Additional research also indicates they may:

  • reduce the size and metastasis of cancer tumors;
  • offer promising therapy for PTSD patients;
  • ease the suffering of terminal patients;
  • provide a reliable alternative therapy for people living with recalcitrant epilepsy;
  • prevent the proliferation of neuromas in neurofibromatosis patients;
  • and more.

The legal system:

#17—Is cannabis legal?

The Drug Enforcement Agency categorizes cannabis as a Schedule 1, "drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote."

That means cultivation, sale, possession, transport, and use of marijuana (cannabis) are violations of Federal regulation. This effectively limits research on interstate commerce with cannabis.

However, some 29 states have legalized medical cannabis, and nine states have legalized recreational cannabis.

Cannabis may or may not be legal in other nations of the world, and some have severe penalties for possession and use.

#18—How can I buy and use cannabis legally?

Regulations and procedures vary widely among the legal states. In most states, you must secure a recommendation from a diagnosing physician registered with the state. With that, 18-year-old citizens can obtain a medical marijuana card to use as identification at an approved medical cannabis dispensary.

In states that have approved adult use, sell only to 21-year-old citizens. Most do not permit sales to non-residents, but there are exceptions, too.

#19—Why is it illegal if it is good for you?

No one has ever attributed a recorded death to overdosing on cannabis. Cannabis has served to help people with an addiction wean off smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and using opioids.

When you smoke cannabis, you will inhale the toxins associated with combustion. But, the intake does not compare with that of cigarettes.

Vaping, bongs, and dabbing have been associated with accidents involving flames and combustibles.

Edibles can lead to too much of a reaction because they work more slowly than the smoking effect.

And marijuana is an inebriant. This requires users to practice control and responsibility, especially when consumption affects driving and operating other machinery.

None of the reasons listed here appear to justify the Federal prohibition. Marijuana has been illegal since it became a socio-political and racial prohibition in the 1930s, and that prejudice has only begun to break down.

#20—Why not buy cannabis on the black market?

Keeping cannabis illegal prolongs and strengthens the black market. And, even though black market pricing may way under price the legal dispensaries, there are many reasons to buy cannabis from legal sources.

Medical cannabis and recreational-use dispensaries sell products that have been tracked from seed to sale. This seeks to label products fully and clearly and control the quality of cultivation, process, and packaging.

Your takeaway guide

Cannabis doesn't have to be complicated, but if you are a beginner, you may wonder if it is right for you.

Cannabis is more potent and popular than ever, so these questions might solve some of your concerns. If you have more, let us know!