Cannabis or Marijuana?

So which is it?  Have you have heard both “cannabis” and “marijuana” and wondered if the terms are interchangeable?  They are not. 

The term “marijuana” is a negative slang term that was attached to the cannabis plant in the 1930s, during the first wave of anti-cannabis sentiment in the U.S. (Learn more about the history of cannabis in the U.S.)  “Marihuana” as it was called then, came from the term that Mexicans used for the plant, and anti-cannabis crusaders drew on growing anxiety about immigrants to stigmatize the plant by associating it with Mexicans.   

The genus Cannabis, part of the Cannabacaeae family, has 3 important species: cannabis ruderales, cannabis sativa, and hemp.  Cannabis sativa contains the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, while hemp does not.  Hemp is an agricultural product used for making fibers, clothing, and increasingly, for extracting the cannabinoid, CBD (without any traces of THC).  The cultivation of hemp has a long history in the U.S., going back to colonial times, when it was required for colonist famers to grow hemp by order of the King.  During the 1930s hemp cultivation was outlawed in the U.S, then briefly allowed and encouraged during WWII, and then outlawed again.  Due to its significant agricultural benefits, and how much hemp is actually imported into the U.S., Senator Mitch McConnell has proposed allowing hemp cultivation in the U.S. under the most recent Farm Bill.   

 Cannabis sativa is what we generally refer to as “marijuana” or pot, and is cultivated for its cannabinoids, primarily THC, which provides a number of physiological benefits, including pain numbing, relaxation, and a sense of “high” or well-being.  Interestingly, THC is primarily found in the female flowers of the plant. 

 The Cannabis Sativa plant contains over 100 cannabinoids including the two most well known, THC and CBD.  It also contains over 200 Terpenes – aromatic molecules that evaporate easily and give cannabis it’s aroma.  Terpenes have therapeutic value and differ from strain to strain.  Terpenes are found throughout the plant kingdom.   

Cannabis also contains 23 Flavonoids which are nutrients with antioxidant effects. 

 With the current attention and focus on THC and CBD, it is incredible to think that cannabis contains over 100 additional cannabinoids that may also have therapeutic value!!  We have really only scratched the surface of what this plant can do.  With increased legalization, cultural acceptance and availability, we expected the research on the cannabis sativa plant to continue to reveal exciting ways to use the plant for many years to come.

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