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What is cannabis?

Region: Ontario Answer Number: 2300

Cannabis is a term used to refer to the flowering cannabis plant. There are many main active compounds, or chemicals, called cannabanoids, in cannabis, that are responsible for the effects that consuming the plant provides. The most common are THC, a psychoactive drug that produces the “high” that recreational cannabis users experience and CBD, which does not produce an intoxicating affect and is most often used for therapeutic purposes.

A psychoactive drug is a chemical substance that changes brain function and may alter a person’s perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, or behavior.

Cannabis is widely accepted as originating from Central Asia, but is now grown all over the world and is commonly cultivated using indoor hydroponic technology, a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.

Strains of cannabis

The two most popular strains (also known as species or varieties) of the cannabis plant are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, although a plant may contain a hybrid of the two.

Cannabis sativa

  • most often used to experience a more uplifting, energizing high
  • the most popular and widely used strain
  • can grow up-to 25 feet tall
  • long, light green leaves
  • Cannabis sativa L is hemp cannabis and is normally grown for industrial use

Cannabis indica

  • most often used to experience a more relaxing, sedative effect
  • grows faster than sativa and is bushier
  • grows up-to six feet shorter than Cannabis sativa

Cannabis ruderalis

  • a less popular and not as widely used strain used mostly by breeders to enhance their hybrids
  • short, light green leaves

Cannabinoids – chemicals found in the cannabis plant

The cannabis plant contains chemical compounds called cannabinoids, which are made and stored in the plant’s trichomes (the small, clear hairs that stick out from the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant).

Over 100 identifiable cannabinoids exist in the cannabis plant and are known to affect the cell receptors that exist in the brain, central nervous system and other areas of the body including the immune system, and how they behave with each other. This produces a variety of mental and physical effects on an individual such as the ones mentioned above.

The two most commonly found cannabinoids in cannabis products are:

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – used to produce the “high” and ‘intoxicated” feeling associated with cannabis. There is a wide range of THC potency between cannabis products.

Cannabidiol (CBD) – does not produce a high or intoxicated feeling when consumed on its own (no other cannabinoid present). CBD may block or reduce some of the effects that THC has when present in a product with at least a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. It is believed by many to have therapeutic uses.

Terpenes are the chemicals found in the plant that give cannabis its distinctive smell.

Popular forms of cannabis and how they are consumed

While cannabis can be produced in many forms, the three main forms are:

  1. Marijuana: made from the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. The term marijuana is often used as the general term for cannabis. It is most often smoked or vaped. It is generally the least potent of all the cannabis products, however, inhaling the product usually results in the effects being felt quicker than other methods of consumption
  1. Hashish: made from the resin of the cannabis plant, dried and pressed into small blocks. It is also smoked or ingested by being added to food and (called edibles).
  1. Hash oil: considered the most potent cannabis product, is a thick oil obtained from hashish. It is also smoked or added to edibles or liquid cannabis products such as tea.

For more information, view In what forms can cannabis exist? and What is the difference between smoking, vaping and ingesting cannabis?

Why do people use cannabis?

Cannabis is most commonly used for medical or recreational purposes, While medicinal cannabis is often taken to relieve pain or help with other disorders, recreational cannabis is most often taken because of the different positive sensations many people experience, such as euphoria and relaxation. However, some people also experience effects such as fatigue, anxiety, and an increase in appetite.

It also has been used in some parts of the world for spiritual purposes, often as part of religious practices in early religions, or as a sacrament or aid to meditation in more modern times.

Federal Cannabis Act – the legalization of recreational cannabis in Canada

Regulated medical cannabis became legal in Canada in 2001.

On October 17, 2018 the federal Cannabis Act and its Regulations came into effect, making recreational cannabis legal in Canada. The Act was introduced to legalize, regulate and restrict access to cannabis.

For more information on cannabis and the laws surrounding its cultivation, consumption and sale, refer to other sections of Cannabis Law.

For legal advice and assistance with a cannabis related matter, contact our preferred cannabis law expert, Harrison Jordan Law.



Harrison Jordan Cannabis ONHarrison Jordan Cannabis ON




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