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Demystifying Cannabis

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Recreational cannabis use is now legal in Canada! With this monumental development, many newcomers are exploring how to incorporate weed into practices for living their best life. In tandem, advocates from older generations are entering this new age of cannabis culture, now with more options and terminology than ever before! Indeed, knowledge is power and the nation-wide legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis has opened doors for adult users of all ages and backgrounds to determine how this plant may enhance anything from leisure activities to health conditions.  

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In this exciting new era, let’s review the following FAQs for a high level overview on what cannabis can mean to you.

How does the body respond to cannabis?

The cannabinoid components of cannabis, primarily THC and CBD (don’t worry, more on this in a minute) interact with our bodily systems similarly to the cannabinoids that already naturally occur in the body. Rolls right off the tongue, right?

The human body is equipped with a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS for short). The system is comprised of a network of cannabinoid receptors throughout our central nervous and immune systems that work to maintain a balanced and ideal state of functioning. Cannabinoids bind with these receptors and send information to the brain that can impact stress recovery, immunity and homeostasis.

When we consume cannabis, we introduce cannabinoids into our system that interact with our existing cannabinoids and receptors. Everyone’s distribution of cannabinoid receptors throughout the body are unique, so it follows that cannabis affects everyone a little differently.  

What does cannabis 'varietal' mean?

When it comes to wine and coffee, varietal means the finished product is made primarily from a single kind of grape or bean and when applied to cannabis, It is simply a way of categorizing different kinds of cannabis.  In the marketplace cannabis “strains” are referred to as “varietals,” referring to a particular variety of cannabis with its own genetic profile, appearance, aroma, cannabinoid and terpene profiles.

What is the difference between sativa, indica and hybrid?  

Sativa and Indica are subspecies of the cannabis plant. There are many anatomical differences between these plants; they vary in their production needs; origins; appearance and the effects they have been historically associated with. Presently, the vast majority of cannabis varietals possess some traits of both indica and sativa and have been cross-bred.

Broadly speaking, pure indica or indica-dominant varietals have been associated with sedative effects while pure sativa or sativa-dominant varietals are known for providing more energizing impact. Be mindful that the practice of categorizing cannabis into this binary is not necessarily useful in helping to select a strain that’s right for you. Every harvest of each varietal is unique and so is your body’s reaction to cannabis, which can also be influenced by your environment, history of use. Indicators like a varietal’s THC/CBD levels and terpene profile may provide more appropriate guidance on which type of cannabis works best for you.  

Will all cannabis get me high?

Generally speaking, no. This largely depends on the concentration of different cannabinoids in a varietal and how they interact with an individual’s body. Cannabinoids are the naturally-occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis that play a role in determining how a varietal will affect you. There are over 100 cannabinoids; however THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most commonly recognized cannabinoids that attribute to how we choose varietals. While they both provide an effect upon consumption, they act very differently.

THC is best known as the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive “high” most commonly associated with cannabis. High THC content is generally associated with more intoxication of the mind and body. Often adult users consume this to support relaxation and stress reduction.

In contrast, while CBD does not pose the same psychoactive effects as THC and overall generally does not pose any intoxicating impact. However, it still affects the mind and body; adults often use products high in CBD for anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory purposes. Varietals that feature a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, or ratios with a higher rate of CBD, can offset the intoxicating effects of THC.  

Learning these important distinctions will improve your knowledge and experience of being a user of legal cannabis and help to inform responsible and safe consumption practices. First and foremost, consuming a small quantity  of cannabis over a long period of time is crucial to not overdoing it. It helps to take time–say 10-15 minutes–between inhalations of a new varietal to give your body a chance to interpret the effects.

How long will cannabis stay in my system?

While the effects of cannabis typically dissipate within 24 hours, THC can be detectable in your blood for several days after consumption. How long it takes for the effects of intoxication from cannabis to dissipate for each person is much harder to nail down; it will depend on your individual tolerance and metabolism of cannabis and how much you have consumed.

Where can I buy topicals/edibles?

Currently, you cannot legally purchase cannabis topicals or edibles in Canada for recreational use. However, the Canadian government has said cannabis edibles and concentrates will be legally for sale some time in autumn 2019. Topicals and edibles are made using oil extracted from the plant, a process that is not yet government regulated, hence the extra year. If you can’t wait a year and are feeling crafty, extracting your own concentrates is not that hard! Check out our step-by-step guide for DIY easy edibles.

Are cannabis products available for pets?

Until more research is conducted to confirm the validity of whether cannabis can provide medical support to our furry friends, these products are not yet authorized for legal sale. Thankfully, Canopy Growth Corporation was recently granted approval from Health Canada to pursue a clinical trial to research the use of cannabis-based products–specifically cannabidiol (CBD)–to treat animal anxiety.

This research represents the first instance of a company seeking federal regulatory approval to explore the use of cannabis as a therapeutic treatment for animals. The findings generated from this studies will influence the future potential of accessing legal cannabis products for pets in Canada.

Have more questions on legal cannabis? Let us know by sending us a direct message @vanderpop on Instagram and Facebook!

Article by Sophie Naprawa, Maggie Buxton-Simpson and Lucia Stephen

Image by Marlo Hwang


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