What is cannabis?
Street names: marijuana (grass, weed, pot, dope, ganja and
others), hashish (hash), hash oil (weed oil, honey oil)
Cannabis sativa, also known as the hemp plant, has been
cultivated for centuries for industrial and medical use, and for its “psychoactive,”
or mind-altering, effects. Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil all derive from
the cannabis plant.
More than 61 chemicals, called cannabinoids, have been
identified as specific to the cannabis plant. THC
(delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid, and is
most responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana use.
Hemp grown for industrial use has very low levels of THC.
Hemp fibres are used to make rope, fabric and paper. Hemp seeds are high in
protein and yield an oil with nutritional and industrial value.
Many claims about the medical uses of marijuana have not
been scientifically proven; however, some have. In Canada, THC and other pure
cannabinoids are available in three prescription medications:
- Marinol (dronabinol) is synthetic THC and Cesamet (nabilone)
is another synthetic cannabinoid. Both are prescribed to relieve nausea and
vomiting and to stimulate appetite. This can help people who have AIDS or who
take drugs used to treat cancer.
- Sativex, the world’s first prescription medicine derived
from the cannabis plant, was approved in Canada in 2005 for the relief of
pain in multiple sclerosis. Sativex is a combination of THC and cannabidiol.
Where does cannabis come from?
Cannabis is native to tropical and temperate climates, but
is cultivated around the world. Modern illegal growing operations use
sophisticated methods to produce high-potency marijuana.
People with a medical exemption from Health Canada may grow
their own supply or designate someone to grow it for them. Research-grade
cannabis is grown by a producer appointed by the federal government.
What does cannabis look like?
Marijuana is the dried flower buds and leaves of the cannabis
plant. It ranges in colour from grayish green to greenish brown and may contain
seeds and stems. Hashish is the dried, compressed resin of cannabis flowertops.
It ranges in colour from brown to black, and is sold in chunks. Hash oil is
made by boiling cannabis flowertops or resin in an organic solvent, which
produces a sticky reddish-brown or green substance. The THC content of each
variety of cannabis varies, although hash is generally more potent than
marijuana, and hash oil is usually the most potent form.
Marijuana, hash or hash oil are sometimes mixed with tobacco, and are most often
rolled into a cigarette called a joint, or smoked in a pipe. Cannabis is
sometimes cooked in foods, such as brownies, or made into a drink.
Who uses cannabis?
Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada (after alcohol use by minors).
However, most cannabis use is infrequent and experimental.
A 2009 study reported that 42 per cent of Ontarians over the
age of 18 had used cannabis at some point in their life, and 12 per cent had
done so in the past year.
Another survey from 2009 found that about 26 per
cent of Ontario
students in grades 7 to 12 had used marijuana at least once in the previous
year. About three per cent reported daily use in the past four weeks. These
rates of use were significantly higher among males than females.
Copyright © 2003, 2012 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health