Cannabis has been grown and used for centuries as food, medication, fuel, fibre, shelter—as well as many other uses. When the plant is grown for its fibre and pulp it is called “hemp” and the crop is densely sown. When it is grown for its leaves and buds it is called “cannabis,” and the plants are planted more sparsely.
Cannabis is a fast-growing and sun-loving dioeciously plant (meaning that the seeds will grow into male or female plants). When grown for its medical or psychoactive effects, the males are separated from the females and destroyed as soon as they can be identified, to avoid fertilization. Without fertilization, the female plant will focus its energy on producing flowers and resin. The primary source of the active cannabinoids is found in the leaves and flowers or, more specifically, in the glandular trichomes found on the vegetative material. These trichomes hold the sticky resin that is used to make medicine into oils, topical creams, etc.
Unique to the cannabis plant is a group of chemicals called cannabinoids (or phytocannabinoids). Approximately one hundred different cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid, and the THC content is often used to differentiate hemp from cannabis. Hemp plants generally have a THC content of <0.3%, while the medicinal cannabis plant has >1% THC content.
Cannabis Plant Showing Trichomes
There have been several species of the genus Cannabis, but in general Cannabis Savita and Cannabis indica are the most widely recognized for their high THC content. While the Hemp Plant, is more widely known for its very high CBD content.
The Savita plant generally is taller with longer branches and slender palmate leaves, while the indica is more compact with shorter branches and broader palmate leaves. The sativa generally produces a more psychoactive stimulating effect, while the indica produces a more sedating or relaxing effect.
The Cannabis Sativa plants grow taller and thinner than Indica strains. They thrive in warmer weather. The leaves of Sativa are much narrower than those of Indica, and are typically a lighter shade of green. Sativa plants can grow to astonishing heights of up to 20 feet when cultivated outside, and they have much longer vegetation periods. Once the plant begins to flower, it can take from 10 to 16 weeks to fully mature. Since vegetation periods are on the long side, these plants typically produce a higher yield compared to Indica strains, but they tend to possess a lower THC percentage (around 12 to 16% on average).
Sativa plants are also known to be pungent smelling, with aromas ranging from sweet and fruity, to earthy with undertones of diesel fuel. Although these strains provide similar effects, there are distinctive differences in smell, formally known as their ‘terpene profile’. Once one becomes familiar with the different terpenes that are present in cannabis, it then becomes feasible to detect strain differences based on scent alone. Cannabis Sativa strains are effective in treating mental and behavioural issues related to stress, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD). Sativa strains are known to produce an uplifting and cerebral effect on humans that is typically energizing and stimulating. These strains often cause those under their influence to deeply analyse the human experience and think creatively, which makes Cannabis Sativa very popular among philosophers, artists and musicians. Some Sativa options even have been found to enhance light and sound, making music, movies, and other genres more vibrant.
Effects of Sativa:
- More stimulating and uplifting
- Energizing and thought provoking
- Increases focus and creativity
- Supports immune system
- Best for use in daytime
Benefits of Sativa:
- Reduces nausea
- Stimulates the appetite
- Fights depression
- Positive, uplifting, cerebral effect
- Energizes and stimulates
- Promotes creativity
- Relieves headaches and migraines
- Relaxes muscles, relieves pain
- Acts as an expectorant
The Cannabis Indica is a shorter stout plant with smaller yields, but higher potency (~18% THC) compared to Cannabis Sativa. Indica plants are believed originate from the Middle East (Pakistan and Afghanistan), so they can thrive in cool seasonal environments. Indica strains are typically darker green in coloration and have shorter, fatter leaves.
Since Indica plants are shorter, they are better suited for indoor growing. Indica buds are thick, dense, and they flower from 8 to 12 weeks. The flavours and smells of Indica include; pine, pungent skunk, earth, hash, or a sweet and sugary fruit flavour. Commonly medical marijuana patients use Cannabis Indica to relieve stress, provide full-body pain relief, and help initiate quality sleep at bedtime. Individuals who suffer from diseases such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, sleep apnoea and insomnia tend to benefit from the effects of Cannabis Indica.
Indica generally more physical than cerebral (however, the relief of physical symptoms can have a (positive psychological effect)
- Sedation, pain relief and relaxation
- Best for later in the day and bedtime
- Perhaps better for anxiety than depression
Benefits of Indica:
- reduces pain
- muscle relaxant
- relieves spasms, reduces seizures
- reduces inflammation
- aids sleep
- reduces anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder
- reduces nausea
- stimulates appetite
- relieves headaches and migraines
- reduces intra-ocular pressure
This is another type of cannabis with potential benefits which have only begun to be explored. This category of cannabis grows wild in parts of Eastern Europe and Russia, so it is adapted well to colder climates. Ruderalis contains lower percentages of THC, but is frequently cross-bred with sativa strains to produce plants that grow shorter like Ruderalis, but can also flourish in more extreme weather outdoors where pure Cannabis Sativa typically does not do well.
These hybrids are known as auto-flowering strains, because of the short flowering period Ruderalis is noted for (2 to 3 weeks after germination). Ruderalis strains are more resistant to insect infestation and disease pressures, and are believed to have a higher CBD content. The whole life span of these plants can be as short as 7 weeks, plus they are relatively simple to grow, which has made them more popular among home growers.
There are a wide range of cannabis options in between Indica and Sativa strains. These options are known as “Hybrids” and show traits directly related to the genetics in any particular lineage. Hybrids can be broken down into three basic categories:
1. Sativa-dominant Hybrids: These hybrids provide a cerebral high with a relaxing body effect (physical and mental stress relief).
2. Even Hybrids (50/50): These are ideal strains for people seeking a perfect balance of head and body effect.
3. Indica-dominant Hybrids: These strains provide a full-body pain relief, with a relaxing head high. They are recommended for night-time use to go to sleep, or daytime relief from minor pain. These strains tend to be beneficial for patients who suffer from various types of autoimmune diseases as well as insomnia or depression.
The Hemp Plant
Hemp, plant of the genus Cannabis (family Cannabaceae) that is cultivated for its fibre or its seeds, which contain about 30 percent oil and may be eaten. Hemp is sometimes confused with the cannabis plant that serves as sources of the drug cannabis and the drug preparation hashish. All three products (hemp, cannabis, and hashish) contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans. However, cannabis cultivated from hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of cannabis or hashish.
Hemp originated in Central Asia. Hemp cultivation for fibre was recorded in China as early as 2800 bc and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was planted in Chile in the 1500s and a century later in North America.
Hemp is the same plant as dagga, its scientific name is “cannabis sativa.” For thousands of years hemp was used to make dozens of commercial products like paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. In fact, the very name “canvas” comes from the Dutch word meaning cannabis, which is marijuana. That’s correct, real canvas is made from marijuana!
Many years ago hemp/cannabis was unjustly banned. However, hemp has recently been rediscovered as a plant that has enormous environmental, economic, and commercial potential. What follows are some fascinating facts about hemp/marijuana – facts that will shock most people:
The potential of hemp for paper production is enormous. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can produce 4 times more paper than one acre of trees! All types of paper products can be produced from hemp: newsprint, computer paper, stationary, cardboard, envelopes, toilet paper and even plastic.
FACT: THERE IS NO TREE OR PLANT SPECIES ON EARTH CAPABLE OF PRODUCING AS MUCH PAPER PER ACRE AS HEMP! HEMP IS NUMBER ONE!
Paper production from hemp would eliminate the need to chop down BILLIONS of trees! MILLIONS of acres of forests and huge areas of wildlife habitat could be preserved.
Trees must grow for 20 to 50 years after planting before they can be harvested for commercial use. Within 4 months after it is planted, hemp grows 10 to 20 feet tall and it is ready for harvesting! Hemp can be grown on most farmland throughout South Africa, where forests require large tracts of land available in few locations. Substituting hemp for trees would save forests and wildlife habitats and would eliminate erosion of topsoil due to logging. Reduction of topsoil erosion would also reduce pollution of lakes/rivers/streams.
Fewer caustic and toxic chemicals are used to make paper from hemp than are used to make paper from trees – LESS POLLUTION!
Hemp can also be substituted for cotton to make textiles. Hemp fibre is 10 times stronger than cotton and can be used to make all types of clothing. Cotton grows only in warm climates and requires enormous amounts of water. Hemp requires little water and grows anywhere!
Hemp naturally repels weed growth and hemp has few insect enemies. Few insect enemies and no weed problems mean hemp requires NO HERBICIDES and FEW or NO PESTICIDES!
Building materials that substitute for wood can be made from hemp. These wood-like building materials are stronger than wood and can be manufactured cheaper than wood from trees. Using these hemp- derived building materials would reduce building costs and save even more trees!
Hemp seeds are a source of nutritious high-protein oil that can be used for human and animal consumption. Hemp oil is NOT intoxicating. Extracting protein from hemp is less expensive than extracting protein from soybeans. Hemp protein can be processed and flavoured in any way soybean protein can. Hemp oil can also be used to make highly nutritious tofu, butter, cheese, salad oils, and other foods. Hemp oil can also be used to produce paint, varnish, ink, lubricating oils, and plastic substitutes. Because 50% of the weight of a mature hemp plant is seeds, hemp could become a significant source for these products.
Most hemp-derived products are NONTOXIC, BIODEGRADABLE, and RENEWABLE!
Unlike virtually all hemp substitutes, growing hemp requires very little effort and very few resources.
Hemp produces more biomass than any plant that can be grown. This biomass can be converted to fuel in the form of clean-burning alcohol, or no-sulphur man-made coal. Hemp has more potential as a clean and renewable energy source than any crop on earth!
Hemp was NOT banned because it was a harmful drug. Hemp was banned because it was a competitive threat to the wood products industry and newly developed synthetic fibres that were patentable, and therefore more profitable than hemp. Corporations that profited from the demise of hemp propagated a smear campaign against hemp by claiming that marijuana use was a major drug problem (it was not) and that marijuana use caused people to become extremely violent – another falsehood. Unfortunately, these false claims went unchallenged and the American Congress outlawed hemp in 1937. Unfortunately, millions of South Africans still believe the lies spread about Cannabis /hemp. This pushed the entire world to begin adopting their stance on cannabis. South Africa on the other hand outlawed this plant way before the Americans did and to this day, still the last remaining apartheid law in place.
On the eve of Cannabis prohibition in the U.S., two articles about hemp appeared in major U.S. magazines. They were:
“The Most Profitable and Desirable Crop That Can Be Grown” From: Mechanical Engineering, February 26, 1937
“New Billion Dollar Crop” From: Popular Mechanics, February 1938
These articles reveal that hemp was on the verge of becoming a super crop because of new hemp processing technologies that were recently developed. Unfortunately, the potential of hemp was never reaped because of Cannabis prohibition.
Hemp is legally grown for commercial use throughout much of Europe, India, China, Russia and Ukraine. In 1994 the Canadian government approved one experimental hemp field – its first legal hemp crop in 40 years. In 1995, there will be 11 government-approved hemp fields in Canada! If South Africa does not legalize hemp for commercial use, a significant economic and environmental opportunity will be lost; the benefits will be reaped only by our economic competitors.
FACT: NO TREE OR PLANT SPECIES ON EARTH HAS THE COMMERCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND ENVIRONMENTAL POTENTIAL OF HEMP. OVER 30,000 KNOWN PRODUCTS CAN BE PRODUCED FROM HEMP!