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Cannabis (/ˈknəbɪs/; Cn-na-bis) is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative varieties, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre (hemp), for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some Cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of THC, the principal psychoactive constituent responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana. Marijuana consists of the dried flowers of Cannabis plants selectively bred to produce high levels of THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids. Various extracts including hashish and hash oil are also produced from the plant.

 

Description


Cannabis is an annual, dioecious, flowering herb. The leaves are palmately compound or digitate, with serrate leaflets. The first pair of leaves usually have a single leaflet, the number gradually increasing up to a maximum of about thirteen leaflets per leaf (usually seven or nine), depending on variety and growing conditions. At the top of a flowering plant, this number again diminishes to a single leaflet per leaf. The lower leaf pairs usually occur in an opposite leaf arrangement and the upper leaf pairs in an alternate arrangement on the main stem of a mature plant.
The leaves have a peculiar and diagnostic venation pattern that enables persons poorly familiar with the plant to distinguish a Cannabis leaf from unrelated species that have confusingly similar leaves (see illustration). As is common in serrated leaves, each serration has a central vein extending to its tip. However, the serration vein originates from lower down the central vein of the leaflet, typically opposite to the position of, not the first notch down, but the next notch. This means that on its way from the midrib of the leaflet to the point of the serration, the vein serving the tip of the serration passes close by the intervening notch. Sometimes the vein will actually pass tangent to the notch, but often it will pass by at a small distance, and when that happens a spur vein (occasionally a pair of such spur veins) branches off and joins the leaf margin at the deepest point of the notch. This venation pattern varies slightly among varieties, but in general it enables one to tell Cannabis leaves from superficially similar leaves without difficulty and without special equipment. Tiny samples of Cannabis plants also can be identified with precision by microscopic examination of leaf cells and similar features, but that requires special expertise and equipment."

Cannabis normally has imperfect flowers, with staminate "male" and pistillate "female" flowers occurring on separate plants. It is not unusual, however, for individual plants to bear both male and female flowers. Although monoecious plants are often referred to as "hermaphrodites," true hermaphrodites (which are less common) bear staminate and pistillate structures on individual flowers, whereas monoecious plants bear male and female flowers at different locations on the same plant. Male flowers are normally borne on loose panicles, and female flowers are borne on racemes." At a very early period the Chinese recognized the Cannabis plant as dioecious," and the (ca. 3rd century BCE) Erya dictionary defined xi
"male Cannabis" and fu (or ju ) "female Cannabis".
All known strains of Cannabis are wind-pollinated and the fruit is an achene. Most strains of Cannabis are short day plants, with the possible exception of C. sativa subsp. sativa var. spontanea (= C. ruderalis), which is commonly described as "auto-flowering" and may be day-neutral.
Cannabinoids, terpenoids, and other compounds are secreted by glandular trichomes that occur most abundantly on the floral calyxes and bracts of female plants.[20] As a drug it usually comes in the form of dried flower buds (marijuana), resin (hashish), or various extracts collectively known as hashish oil. In the early 20th century, it became illegal in most of the world to cultivate or possess Cannabis for sale or personal use.
Cannabis plants produce a unique family of terpeno-phenolic compounds called cannabinoids, which produce the "high" one experiences from consuming marijuana. There are 483 identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in the cannabis plant, and at least 85 different cannabinoids have been isolated from the plant. The two cannabinoids usually produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and/or Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but it is generally believed that only THC is psychoactive (this maybe disputed). Since the early 1970s, Cannabis plants have been categorized by their chemical phenotype or "chemotype," based on the overall amount of THC produced, and on the ratio of THC to CBD. Although overall cannabinoid production is influenced by environmental factors, the THC/CBD ratio is genetically determined and remains fixed throughout the life of a plant. [Non-drug plants produce relatively low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, while drug plants produce high levels of THC and low levels of CBD. When plants of these two chemotypes cross-pollinate, the plants in the first filial (F1) generation have an intermediate chemotype and produce similar amounts of CBD and THC. Female plants of this chemotype may produce enough THC to be utilized for drug production.
Cannabis indica may have a CBD:THC ratio 45 times that of Cannabis sativa. Cannabis strains with relatively high CBD:THC ratios are less likely to induce anxiety than vice versa. This may be due to CBD's antagonistic effects at the cannabinoid receptors, compared to THC's partial agonist effect. CBD is also a 5-HT1A receptor agonist, which may also contribute to an anxiolytic effect. This likely means the high concentrations of CBD found in Cannabis indica mitigate the anxiogenic effect of THC significantly. The effects of sativa are well known for its cerebral high, hence used daytime as medical cannabis, while indica are well known for its sedative effects and preferred night time as medical cannabis.


 

Early classifications

Relative size of varieties of Cannabis


In 1924, Russian botanist D.E. Janichevsky concluded that ruderal Cannabis in central Russia is either a variety of C. sativa or a separate species, and proposed C. sativa L. var. ruderalis Janisch. and Cannabis ruderalis Janisch. as alternative names. In 1929, renowned plant explorer Nikolai Vavilov assigned wild or feral populations of Cannabis in Afghanistan to C. indica Lam. var. kafiristanica Vav., and ruderal populations in Europe to C. sativa L. var. spontanea Vav. In 1940, Russian botanists Serebriakova and Sizov proposed a complex classification in which they also recognized C. sativa and C. indica as separate species. Within C. sativa they recognized two subspecies: C. sativa L. subsp. culta Serebr. (consisting of cultivated plants), and C. sativa L. subsp. spontanea (Vav.) Serebr. (consisting of wild or feral plants). Serebriakova and Sizov split the two C. sativa subspecies into 13 varieties, including four distinct groups within subspecies culta. However, they did not divide C. indica into subspecies or varieties. This excessive splitting of C. sativa proved too unwieldy, and never gained many adherents.
In the 1970s, the taxonomic classification of Cannabis took on added significance in North America. Laws prohibiting Cannabis in the United States and Canada specifically named products of C. sativa as prohibited materials. Enterprising attorneys for the defense in a few drug busts argued that the seized Cannabis material may not have been C. sativa, and was therefore not prohibited by law. Attorneys on both sides recruited botanists to provide expert testimony. Among those testifying for the prosecution was Dr. Ernest Small, while Dr. Richard E. Schultes and others testified for the defense. The botanists engaged in heated debate (outside of court), and both camps impugned the other's integrity. The defense attorneys were not often successful in winning their case, because the intent of the law was clear.
In 1976, Canadian botanist Ernest Small and American taxonomist Arthur Cronquist published a taxonomic revision that recognizes a single species of Cannabis with two subspecies: C. sativa L. subsp. sativa, and C. sativa L. subsp. indica (Lam.) Small & Cronq. The authors hypothesized that the two subspecies diverged primarily as a result of human selection; C. sativa subsp. sativa was presumably selected for traits that enhance fiber or seed production, whereas C. sativa subsp. indica was primarily selected for drug production. Within these two subspecies, Small and Cronquist described C. sativa L. subsp. sativa var. spontanea Vav. as a wild or escaped variety of low-intoxicant Cannabis, and C. sativa subsp. indica var. kafiristanica (Vav.) Small & Cronq. as a wild or escaped variety of the high-intoxicant type. This classification was based on several factors including interfertility, chromosome uniformity, chemotype, and numerical analysis of phenotypic characters.
Professors William Emboden, Loran Anderson, and Harvard botanist Richard E. Schultes and coworkers also conducted taxonomic studies of Cannabis in the 1970s, and concluded that stable morphological differences exist that support recognition of at least three species, C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. For Schultes, this was a reversal of his previous interpretation that Cannabis is monotypic, with only a single species. According to Schultes' and Anderson's descriptions, C. sativa is tall and laxly branched with relatively narrow leaflets, C. indica is shorter, conical in shape, and has relatively wide leaflets, and C. ruderalis is short, branchless, and grows wild in central Asia. This taxonomic interpretation was embraced by Cannabis aficionados who commonly distinguish narrow-leafed "sativa" drug strains from wide-leafed "indica" drug strains.
Popular usage
The scientific debate regarding taxonomy has had little effect on the terminology in widespread use among cultivators and users of drug-type Cannabis. Cannabis aficionados recognize three distinct types based on such factors as morphology, native range, aroma, and subjective psychoactive characteristics. Sativa is the most widespread variety, which is usually tall, laxly branched, and found in warm lowland regions. Indica designates shorter, bushier plants adapted to cooler climates and highland environments. Ruderalis is the informal name for the short plants that grow wild in Europe and central Asia.
Breeders, seed companies, and cultivators of drug type Cannabis often describe the ancestry or gross phenotypic characteristics of cultivars by categorizing them as "pure indica," "mostly indica," "indica/sativa," "mostly sativa", or "pure sativa."
One of the most popular and potent sativas in Africa is Malawi Gold, locally known as chamba. It is internationally known for its potency and its flavor.
Reproduction
Breeding systems
Cannabis sativa fruits (achenes) that contain the seeds.
Cannabis is predominantly dioecious, although many monoecious varieties have been described. Subdioecy (the occurrence of monoecious individuals and dioecious individuals within the same population) is widespread. Many populations have been described as sexually labile.
Cannabis flower with visible trichomes.
 


As a result of intensive selection in cultivation, Cannabis exhibits many sexual phenotypes that can be described in terms of the ratio of female to male flowers occurring in the individual, or typical in the cultivar. Dioecious varieties are preferred for drug production, where typically the female flowers are used. Dioecious varieties are also preferred for textile fiber production, whereas monoecious varieties are preferred for pulp and paper production. It has been suggested that the presence of monoecy can be used to differentiate licit crops of monoecious hemp from illicit drug crops. However, sativa strains often produce monoecious individuals, probably as a result of inbreeding.

Male Plant on the left and female plant on the right.
 

Mechanisms of sex determination


Cannabis has been described as having one of the most complicated mechanisms of sex determination among the dioecious plants. Many models have been proposed to explain sex determination in Cannabis.
Based on studies of sex reversal in hemp, it was first reported by K. Hirata in 1924 that an XY sex-determination system is present. At the time, the XY system was the only known system of sex determination. The X:A system was first described in Drosophila spp in 1925.Soon thereafter, Schaffner disputed Hirata's interpretation, and published results from his own studies of sex reversal in hemp, concluding that an X:A system was in use and that furthermore sex was strongly influenced by environmental conditions.
Since then, many different types of sex determination systems have been discovered, particularly in plants. Dioecy is relatively uncommon in the plant kingdom, and a very low percentage of dioecious plant species have been determined to use the XY system. In most cases where the XY system is found it is believed to have evolved recently and independently.
Since the 1920s, a number of sex determination models have been proposed for Cannabis. Ainsworth describes sex determination in the genus as using "an X/autosome dosage type".
A male hemp plant.
Dense raceme of carpellate flowers typical of drug-type varieties of Cannabis.
Psychoactive drug
 Tetrahydrocannabinol, Cannabidiol, and Effects of cannabis


Cannabis is a popular recreational drug around the world, only behind alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. In the United States alone, it is believed that over 100 million Americans have tried Cannabis, with 25 million Americans having used it within the past year.
The psychoactive effects of Cannabis are known to have a biphasic nature. Primary psychoactive effects include a state of relaxation, and to a lesser degree, euphoria from its main psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol. Secondary psychoactive effects, such as a facility for philosophical thinking, introspection and metacognition have been reported amongst cases of anxiety and paranoia. Finally, the tertiary psychoactive effects of the drug cannabis, can include an increase in heart rate and hunger, believed to be caused by 11-OH-THC, a psychoactive metabolite of THC produced in the liver.
Normal cognition is restored after approximately three hours for larger doses via a smoking pipe, bong or vaporizer. However, if a large amount is taken orally the effects may last much longer. After 24 hours to a few days, minuscule psychoactive effects may be felt, depending on dosage, frequency and tolerance to the drug.
The plant Cannabis sativa is known to cause more of a "high" by stimulating hunger and by producing a rather more comedic, or energetic feeling. Conversely, the Cannabis indica plant is known to cause more of a "stoned" or meditative feeling, possibly because of a higher CBD to THC ratio.
Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychotropic effects by itself (although sometimes showing a small stimulant effect, similar to caffeine),  attenuates, or reduces the higher anxiety levels caused by THC alone.
According to the UK medical journal The Lancet, Cannabis has a lower risk factor for dependence compared to both nicotine and alcohol. However, everyday use of Cannabis can in some cases be correlated with psychological withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and insomnia, and evidence could suggest that if a user experiences stress, the likeliness of getting a panic attack increases because of an increase of THC metabolites. However, Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are typically mild and are never life-threatening.

Ancient and religious uses
Religious and spiritual use of cannabis
The Yanghai Tombs, a vast ancient cemetery (54 000 m2) situated in the Turfan district of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, have revealed the 2700-year-old grave of a shaman. He is thought to have belonged to the Jushi culture recorded in the area centuries later in the Hanshu, Chap 96B.Near the head and foot of the shaman was a large leather basket and wooden bowl filled with 789g of cannabis, superbly preserved by climatic and burial conditions. An international team demonstrated that this material contained tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component of cannabis. The cannabis was presumably employed by this culture as a medicinal or psychoactive agent, or an aid to divination. This is the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent.
Settlements which date from c. 2200-1700 BCE in the Bactria and Margiana contained elaborate ritual structures with rooms containing everything needed for making drinks containing extracts from poppy (opium), hemp (cannabis), and ephedra (which contains ephedrine).
"While we have no evidence of the use of ephedra among the steppe tribes, we have already seen that they did share in the cultic use of hemp, a practice that ranged from Romania east to the Yenisei River from at least the 3rd millenium BC onwards where its use was later encountered in the apparatus for smoking hemp found at Pazyryk."
Cannabis is first referred to in Hindu Vedas between 2000 and 1400 BCE, in the Atharvaveda. By the 10th century CE, it has been suggested that it was referred to by some in India as "food of the gods". Cannabis use eventually became a ritual part of the Hindu festival of Holi.
In Buddhism, cannabis is generally regarded as an intoxicant and therefore a hindrance to development of meditation and clear awareness. In ancient Germanic culture, Cannabis was associated with the Norse love goddess, Freya. An anointing oil mentioned in Exodus is, by some translators, said to contain Cannabis. Sufis have used Cannabis in a spiritual context since the 13th century CE.
In the Punjab, Cannabis or Sukha ( ਸੁੱਖਾ ਪ੍ਰਰਸਾਦ ), "peace-giver", is the term Sikhs use to refer to it. Initiated by the tenth guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, cannabis or bhang (ਭੰਗ) was used to help in meditation and was also used before battles to aid as a painkiller, growing naturally all over Punjab. Narrated by many historical and native accounts cannabis is pounded by the Sikhs, especially during religious festivals like Hola Mohalla. Even today, Nihang Sikhs gather in their thousands at Anandpur, on the occasion of the festival of Hola Mohalla and display their martial skills and of course cannabis is pounded by the Nihang Sikhs. This tradition has been in place since the time of Guru Gobind Singh. Their fighting style is referred to as shastar vidiya, which is among the most intimidating and brutal martial art. The compositions from the Sri Dasam Granth are used in unison with the battle maneuvers.
In modern times the Rastafari movement has embraced Cannabis as a sacrament. Elders of the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, a religious movement founded in the United States in 1975 with no ties to either Ethiopia or the Coptic Church, consider Cannabis to be the Eucharist, claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ. Like the Rastafari, some modern Gnostic Christian sects have asserted that Cannabis is the Tree of Life. Other organized religions founded in the 20th century that treat Cannabis as a sacrament are the THC Ministry, the Way of Infinite Harmony, Cantheism, the Cannabis Assembly and the Church of Cognizance.
Rastafari and Sikh use tend to be among the biggest consumers of modern Cannabis use.