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Cannabis Basics and Related Terms
There are three basic groups of Cannabis sativa varieties currently being cultivated:
In the seventeenth century Americans were encouraged to grow hemp by the government for use in the production of rope, sails and clothing. The Jamestown colony passed the New World's first marijuana legislation in 1619, declaring that all settlers were required to grow Indian hemp. Mandatory hemp cultivation laws were also passed in Massachusetts in 1631 and in Connecticut in 1632, geared toward the fabrication of rope and fabric, practices which were widespread through the 19th century. At Mount Vernon, one of George Washington's three primary crops was hemp.
When cultivating marijuana for medical and recreational use, only the female plants are grown, each planted to allow room for them to spread out and flower. Male plants are eliminated in order to prevent them from pollenating the female plants, causing the female plants to go to seed and ruin the flowers, or buds (the smokable part of the plant). Experienced growers usually clone female plants to use as starters instead of growing from seeds, theoretically eliminating the possibility of the female plants becoming accidentally pollenated.
Once the plants are harvested and dried, the buds are clipped off and the little leaves within them are manicured away. The trimmed buds are placed in jars to cure for two to eight weeks, after which they are ready to be used. The leaves are often discarded, although they can be used for various purposes.
The primary method for ingesting marijuana is, was, and probably will remain to be by smoking it. The evolution of how that is done is another indication of the increased sophistication of the industry.
Let's roll up a doobie!
Since John Glenn first orbited the planet, the idea of 'smoking marijuana' has for most people evoked an image of someone awkwardly taking a drag (or 'hit' or 'toke') from a clearly homespun, funny-looking cigarette-ish creation. In 2018 googling 'smoking marijuana' will yield a plethora of images, a surprising majority of them showing people smoking a joint, even though most current users prefer some sort of pipe or water pipe, and seeing someone smoke a joint has become an increasingly rare occurrence.
Back in the day, depending on the state you lived in, there may have been one or more 'head shops' in your town or mall – places where you could by black lights and posters, lava lamps, tie-dyed T-shirts, and 'smoking accessories' which were unvaryingly in a glass case near the cash register. You might find small wooden pipes and little containers that could be used to discretely carry a bit of marijuana with you, or maybe just rolling papers - Zig Zags; there were two different kinds. That was it.
Water-pipes were exotic-sounding things that were not an option for most, who could barely afford the marijuana, even if one could be found to buy. Some people used tobacco pipes or corncob pipes, but predominately people just rolled a joint. Easy to smoke, easy to save half for later, easy to carry/conceal, easy to share. It seems so odd now, but it was not uncommon for someone that had marijuana and wanted to get high, to have to wait around for someone that knew how to roll a joint to show up before they could do so. Really!
As the 70's wore on and melded into the 80's, and laws regarding 'smoking accessories' lightened, both the variety and availability of paraphernalia increased dramatically. Bongs of all shapes, sizes and materials became more commonplace, along with an ever-growing variety of pipes, rolling papers, one-hitters and various doo-dads designed to help you covertly transport and use marijuana. Today the assortment of glass bongs is amazing – some standing four feet high and priced at over three hundred dollars. People don't much smoke joints anymore - the marijuana is just too good to put in a joint.
Imbibe without smoking!
Along with the abundance of pipes and bongs available on the market, the most recent innovation is called a vaporizer and using it is called ‘vaping’. This smokeless method heats cannabis at a much lower temperature, releasing the psychotropic cannabinoids and terpenes into a vapor that does not contain the harmful byproducts produced by smoking. There are many types of vaporizers on the market, ranging from desktop models priced in excess of three hundred dollars, to handheld models that sell for fifty or sixty dollars. Unlike while smoking marijuana, the resulting odor is light and unassuming, and if you didn’t know what it was you might not recognize it as the smell of marijuana at all.
For people that have an aversion to smoking – period, there are 'edibles'. Most famously incarnated as 'pot brownies', edibles can take the form of almost any baked good, and enable the user to get high without the smoke and the smell. Additionally, brownies and other baked goods are easy to transport and partake of in almost any situation.
The psychoactive effects of cannabis are released by heat, whether by smoking, vaping or cooking. When cooking with cannabis, it is crucial that you use fat (oil, butter, milk) because THC is fat soluble and not water soluble. That is why just eating marijuana will not yield the desired results. When cannabis is heated and cooked with a fat such as butter or oil, the THC is released from the cannabis and integrates into the butter or oil. Brownies are a very good medium for ingesting marijuana because most recipes call for a healthy amount of vegetable oil, and the chocolatey-ness of the brownies serves to mitigate the strong taste of the marijuana. Add some walnuts to the batter and the brownies can be downright tasty!
Another common edible is cannabutter, which is created by adding ground buds and/or leaves to melting butter, letting it simmer for an hour or so, and then straining out the marijuana. The resulting substance can be used to spread on toast, or used in place of the butter called for in your favorite recipes.
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