Cannabis Basics - What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is an herbal plant species that possesses powerful therapeutic properties. It has been grown throughout the world for thousands of years in numerous cultures and civilizations for the purposes of fiber, cloth, rope, paper, food, as a versatile multipurpose medicine, and for recreational enjoyment. It has been divided into three major subspecies - cannabis indica, cannabis sativa (which most strains of industrial hemp are a part of), and cannabis ruderalis. Under these three categories, there are several thousands upon thousands of varietal strains each with different genetics throughout the world today. 


More than just a plant however, cannabis is many things - it even goes by hundreds of colorful street and slang names: marijuana, weed, pot, mary jane, ganja, reefer, grass, tree, herb, chronic, dro, dank, just to name a few of the popular ones. With that said, ask various individuals from all walks of life, “what do you know about cannabis?,” you would receive very different answers from person to person. 


Ask your average stoner or pothead and they’d likely say it’s their favorite flower to get lit and high for a good time. You can smoke it in a joint, a bong, vape it in a volcano or pax, you can press and burn some hash, you can dab concentrate wax, shatter, or rosin, you can eat it in an edible, drink it in a drink, use it in a lotion, and so much more, believe it or not. Plus it makes food taste extra good, music sound extra intricate, funny things extra funny, and hey, it’s a great way to chill out. What’s wrong with that? It’s safer and healthier than alcohol and other drugs.

Ask any misinformed and miseducated individual who still supports marijuana prohibition and they’d likely call cannabis and marijuana “devils lettuce” and the most harmful narcotic that causes brain damage, that makes you dumb, that causes you to be lazy and sleepy, but also somehow such a danger to society that you’re likely kill your brother. These are all racist driven lies that were made up during the 1930's to drive prohibition and later the War on Drugs, and they have no scientific basis whatsoever...but yet there are still those who hold these views which are flat out wrong. 

If you ask a well natured loving hippy about cannabis, he or she will likely tell you that it’s an amazing gift from mother earth. One that could help save the planet as a major tool and ally in agricultural sustainability. They’d probably go on about it’s healing and spiritual properties - to which members of the Rastafarian religion would agree with.

Ask a DEA agent about cannabis and this person will more than likely tell you that it’s a Schedule I narcotic, with no accepted medical use, and that the administration sees it as worse than cocaine, meth, oxycontin, and fentanyl. This view seriously needs to be updated and educated.

Ask a doctor who isn’t learned at all about cannabis, and he or she will likely tell you that there’s not enough research and patients should avoid it…

Ask a scientist, researcher, doctor, or nurse who is knowledgeable about cannabis and they will likely tell you that it’s an amazing herb, with powerful therapeutic compounds that cannot kill you, that there’s this exciting scientific frontier called the endocannabinoid system that has serious potential to change the face of medicine, and that more and more research is desperately needed. We’ve already got thousands of studies that date back to the 1960s, we need more.

Ask a hemp farmer about cannabis and they could on and on about the history of hemp and it’s more than 50,000 uses - resilient building material, natural biodegradable plastics, nutrition packed food, clean burning fuel, long lasting fabrics and clothes, just to name a few. It could’ve been a billion dollar crop in the earlier half of the last century until yellow journalism from the 1930s and racist propaganda lumped marijuana with hemp, which resulted in the marihuana tax act of 1937 - essentially banning and making illegal the cultivation of this amazing plant. The reasons behind this were that the competing industries of lumber, petrochemicals, and pharmaceuticals saw the hemp plant as a threat to their business. Agricultural historians and farmers today believe the plant could still be a trillion dollar crop that could benefit farmers throughout the world if society would stop being so ignorant to the potential of this plant. 

Ask an entrepreneur who’s looking to start a cannabusiness, and they’d likely tell you that the “Green Rush” is the hottest thing since the internet. It’s the fastest growing industry of our era, and that the recreational adult use marijuana industry, the industrial hemp textile industry, and that medical cannabis for pharmaceutical companies is going to be a huge goldmine.

Ask a social justice warrior about the plant and they’ll tell you that it should have never been made illegal in the first place. That Harry J Anslinger, the first drug czar who played a key role in bringing about prohibition and that President Nixon, who brought about the War on Drugs, were both openly racist and used “marihuana” and the cannabis plant, as “narcotic tools” to pursue people of color and to put them into America’s overpopulated prison complex. They’d likely discuss statistics showing that people of color have been disproportionately and wrongfully affected by the enforcement of archaic drug laws. 

Last but not least, ask a medical patient who does use cannabis for their treatment - an epileptic child, a Parkinson’s patient, a cancer sufferer, a war hero and veteran with PTSD, an elderly person with Alzheimer’s, an opiate addict, an individual with the triple threat of chronic depression, anxiety, and insomnia, and the growing number of medical marijuana patients out there - they’d likely tell you that cannabis has helped to ease their suffering, given them quality of life back, possibly that it’s even saved their lives.  


It may be a little hard to digest and comprehend - that cannabis could be so many things for a simple plant, especially one associated with stoners, musicians, Cheech and Chong, and your favorite homie with the trees. And yet it is. There is so much more to learn about it and there are new industries that are a result of it’s evolution within our society. The subject of cannabis is far more complex than most of us could have ever imagined, and yet beyond it’s wild history, the facts and truths we can learn from the cannabis plant and its history point and give way to a surprisingly positive boon that could benefit humanity in so many ways.




Written by

Danny Gagaoin 
Cannabis Education and Research Director