Cannabis is a species of flowering herb, also considered a psychoactive drug. The main active compound in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). When the flowers of the cannabis plant are harvested and dried, it becomes one of the most commonly used drugs in the world. Cannabis is considered a depressant drug, because it slows down the activity of the central nervous system, affecting the messages between the brain and body. It can also have a hallucinogenic effect in large doses. The cannabis plant consists of more than 100 cannabinoids with Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) being the two main compounds of the plant.
- CBD: This non-psychoactive cannabinoid does not make people feel “high” and has medical properties. This compound is used to help relieve pain, reduce depression, and reduce inflammation. It is also known to help with nausea, migraines, glaucoma, epilepsy, asthma, seizures, and many more medical conditions. Researchers are still trying to explore the full potential of CBD.
- THC: This psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant is responsible for the “high” that most people relate to recreational marijuana use.
CBD vs THC
Strains of cannabis
Cannabis features three subspecies: Indica, Sativa, and Ruderalis. It is debatable, whether or not Ruderalis should be considered its own subspecies or a descendant of Indica, which adjusted to extreme climates and shorter growing season in the North where it originates.
Either way, Ruderalis plants are small and yield relatively little medicinally, there it is generally unappealing to patients, breeders and cultivators alike, the attention of cannabis enthusiasts is solely on Indica and Sativa strains.
Each of the strains has it’s own unique effects on the mind and body, resulting in a range of medicinal benefits, so it is important to find the right strain for each patient.
Usually, Indica plants are short and bushy with wider leaves which grow faster and have a higher yield. Indica plants have higher CBD and lower THC.
Medicinal qualities of Indica include: increased mental relaxation, muscle relaxation, reduced nausea, reduced pain, increase in appetite, increased dopamine counts (a neurotransmitter responsible for the brains reward/pleasure response), ideal for night use.
Sativa usually grows much taller than Indica, with think and narrow leaves. The leaves are generally a lighter shade of green than Indica, they take longer to grow and need more light. Sativa plants contain lower levels of CBD and higher THC counts.
Medicinal qualities of Sativa include: anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, effective on chronic pain, increase mental focus and creativity, increases serotonin (a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating a range of functions including mood, sleep, appetite and learning capacity, best for day use.
What other names does it have?
Cannabis is known by many different names, often it has unique nicknames specific to different regions, although some of the most common alternative names associated with the plant include; pot, weed, grass, dope, and of course marijuana. Other less common names include hash, mull, green, smoke, hydro, skunk, hooch, reefer, ganja and more.
Why do people use cannabis?
Cannabis is primarily used for two different purposes – medical and/or recreational.
- Medical cannabis is used to treat a number of health conditions and diseases such as anxiety, depression, pain, managing cancer-related symptoms, controlling blood pressure, etc. Medical cannabis can be smoked, vaped or ingested in different forms such as tablets, cannabis-infused edibles and beverages, skin lotions, sprays, CBD oils, etc. Medical cannabis products are based on CBD and have a very low or no concentration of THC.
- Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is used to get high. Recreational cannabis products consist of high concentrations of THC and low levels of CBD. The THC compound when smoked is absorbed into our blood through the walls of our lungs or through the walls of the stomach and intestines when eaten. Our bloodstream carries THC to the brain and produces the “high” effect.
What is cannabis’ current legal status around the world?
Canada and Uruguay have legalised both medical and recreational use of cannabis, while other nations and some US states have legalised the medical use of the drug. Other countries have decriminalised the drug, while some have relaxed penalties or ignore them.
Legal status of recreational cannabis across the world
Many countries are looking forward to legalising cannabis for recreational use, to end the black market’s control on the industry, save on policing marijuana-related crime, and control violent crimes within their jurisdictions.
What is cannabis’ current legal status in New Zealand?
In December 2018, New Zealand’s government passed a law legalising medical marijuana, making it available to patients suffering from chronic illness. The legislation will also allow patients who are terminally ill to begin smoking illegal cannabis immediately without fearing criminal penalties.
As per the new law, qualifying patients would be able to possess 28 grams or 100 joints of cannabis.
New Zealand legalised cannabis for medical use nationwide
This new medical cannabis law opens the way for companies in New Zealand to manufacture medical marijuana products for local, as well as international markets. Legalisation of medical cannabis may lead to a whole new industry in the country, which will shrink the thriving black market by introducing a fully legal, quality controlled market.
The new law came ahead of an already planned referendum on recreational cannabis use, which the government has promised to hold in 2020.
Soon after legalising medical cannabis, the country’s justice minister announced that New Zealand will hold a referendum on recreational cannabis legalisation during the 2020 general election. This referendum is a part of a confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and the Greens political parties.
If New Zealand passes laws to legalise recreational cannabis, it may become the first Asia-Pacific country and the third nation worldwide to fully legalise marijuana.
The cannabis legalisation referendum is gaining overwhelming support from many political parties, governments, industry watchers and the general public of New Zealand. As of now, it is expected that kiwis will soon be able to use cannabis for both medical as well as recreational purposes.
Historically, the cannabis plant has always been prevalent in society, and it continues to increase in popularity in New Zealand. So what’s the hype about? Well, it’s mostly due to its benefits and its recreational value. It’s also unique in its effects, with different compounds of the same plant -- CBD and THC being the most abundant and popular – both have very different effects and purposes when separated.
Cannabis can be used for treatments of several medical conditions, or it can simply be used to get “high”. Of course, like all other substances that were once or are still prohibited, it has its disadvantages. A little research into the drug should give some fundamental insight that every kiwi should know about cannabis, especially considering a vote on its legal status is scheduled.