Cannabis has come a long way from being downright illegal to being allowable for recreational and medical use in some states. While still not legalized on a federal level, the growing number of people consuming cannabis or cannabis-laced products says a lot about what makes it popular. Given enough time and clinical studies, the future looks bright for this leafy wonder.
Recent statistics show an interesting tidbit regarding who’s fueling the cannabis train. Although millennials account for most cannabis sales in the U.S., sales to Generation Z people registered the highest year-on-year growth at 127%. Nationwide, cannabis sales went up by 67% amid the COVID pandemic keeping everyone in their homes. (1)
It’s safe to say that many of these Gen Z-ers are first-time cannabis users, having discovered its purported benefits through the latest scientific findings or word of mouth. But whatever the age group, it’s important to know several things about consuming cannabis before doing so. They can mean the difference between responsible and illegal use.
- The jury’s still out regarding health benefits
Even until now, the U.S. has had a love-hate relationship with cannabis. It was first made illegal around the 1930s, particularly the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. While the law was eventually deemed unconstitutional, by this time, the stigma had persisted. 21st-century society is still only starting to learn the truth behind the ban on cannabis.
While studies on cannabis have been around throughout history, fierce opposition to legalizing cannabis has required scientists to validate these past trials as thoroughly as possible. As such, even if a cannabis study points to a positive health benefit, it’s not unusual for its authors to say that the jury’s still out on its actual effects.
Nevertheless, first-time cannabis users should take time to educate themselves on the plant and the arguments for and against it. Specialized information sites like Leaf Nation and others have been posting everything users need to know about cannabis for a long time. It pays to be duly informed, especially when considering a long-term dependence on its products.
- Cannabis has good and bad effects
When misused or abused, any drug will do as much harm as it does good—and cannabis is no exception. As a plant with psychoactive compounds, cannabis directly affects the brain, mainly the parts responsible for memory, learning, decision-making, and motor coordination. In fact, a 2015 study found that three in ten users in the U.S. suffer from marijuana use disorder. (2)
One such compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is often cited as the reason cannabis should remain illegal. By binding with the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors, THC manages to put the brain in a euphoric state, commonly called ‘getting high.’ Its side effects include coordination problems, memory loss, and anxiety.
Recent laws like the 2018 Farm Bill have allowed the cannabis industry and the government to strike a balance. This law enabled the cultivation and distribution of hemp, which is a class of cannabis, provided that its THC content remains below 0.3%. Any cannabis crop that breaks this THC limit will face federal sanctions under the Controlled Substances Act.
- Cannabis is not one plant
It’s worth noting that the term “cannabis” doesn’t just refer to either marijuana or hemp, among others. Even this article refers to cannabis as a genus of plants under the Cannabaceae family, of which three strains are prominent: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. However, the industry commonly uses the first two, as the third has low levels of THC. (3)
Contrary to popular belief, Sativa and Indica differ in appearance and the effects they induce. Sativa has thicker leaves, fewer branches, and can grow up to 18 feet. On the other hand, Indica has thinner leaves, more branches, and can grow only up to four feet. Both strains have their variations, like indica var. kafristanica and sativa var. spontanea.
Knowing the strain present in cannabis-laced products is crucial because their effects on the body vary. For instance, Sativa serves as a stimulant, ideal for getting work done, while Indica relaxes the body and mind, perfect for going to bed. It’s also common for some products to use a hybrid strain to balance out the two benefits.
- ‘High’ time depends on the method of intake
How the cannabis or a laced product is consumed determines the time it’ll take for the cannabis to kick in. It boils down to how long the compounds reach the bloodstream; the closer an organ is to it, the faster the cannabis will kick in. Here’s a rundown of the peak effectivity of three typical consumption methods: smoking, vaping, and eating.
- Smoking cannabis has a kick-in time of several minutes, with the effects lasting between one and four hours. Examples include joints, blunts, pipes, and bongs.
- Vaping cannabis is relatively the same as smoking, though with the added advantage of more controlled consumption. Examples include herb vaporizers, oil pens, and wax pens.
- Edibles,like laced foods and tinctures, make up the majority of cannabis products in the market. However, they’re slow to kick in at between 30 to 60 minutes, with their effects peaking after six hours.
It’s reasonable that edibles would take the longest to kick in, as the digestive system still has to break them down to derive the compounds. Meanwhile, smoking and vaping happen fast since the gas exchange in the lungs occurs just as quickly. The compounds enter the bloodstream via the process with relative ease.
- The user is still responsible
Lastly, but most importantly, regardless of everything that has been explained in this piece so far, cannabis use is still a matter of responsibility. First-time users should understand cannabis and its effects to adjust their daily routine accordingly. For instance, it would be unwise for someone who just smoked cannabis to get behind the wheel immediately.
Cannabis isn’t expected to be fully legalized anytime soon, but years of market growth have made it clear that it’s here to stay. Going down this road will undoubtedly entail equal parts benefits and risks. Be informed about cannabis by reading articles like this to avoid being at odds with the law.
- “Cannabis Industry Statistics 2021,” https://flowhub.com/cannabis-industry-statistics
- “Data and Statistics,” https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm
- “An Overview of Products and Bias in Research,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604179/
- “Smoking, Vaping, Eating: Is Legalization Impacting the Way People Use Cannabis?” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5010515/