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What is cannabis?
Powerful intoxicant lurks in ancient plant
You’ve no doubt heard slang names for
cannabis products: pot, weed, grass,
hash . . . and many more. The array of
colourful terms can be bewildering.
Yet at its core, cannabis is quite simple.
Cannabis is a broad term that describes
the various products made from the
leaves, flowers and resins of the Cannabis
sativa and Cannabis indica plants, or
hybrids of the two. Cannabis is one
of the world’s oldest domesticated crops.
One strain of cannabis produces
hemp for industrial textiles, such as
rope and fabrics. Other strains produce
marijuana. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
is marijuana’s main active ingredient.
THC is a cannabinoid that acts on
cannabinoid receptors in the brain and
body. Cannabinoids regulate how cells
send, receive and process messages.
They’re like a dimmer switch that slows
down communication between cells,
resulting in a euphoric effect on users.
Canada banned cannabis in 1923,
although it’s not known why. One
theory credits a growing national
anti-drug movement fuelled by suffragist
Emily Murphy. One chapter in her
1922 book The Black Candle was called
Marahuana—A New Menace.
Cannabis use grew in the 1960s, driven
by the “hippie psychedelic ethos,” said
a Senate committee report at the time.
The 1972 Le Dain Commission report
recommended removing criminal
penalties for cannabis possession, but
About 20 years ago, public opinion
polls started showing that most
Canadians thought smoking marijuana
didn’t need to be a federal offence.
The Liberal government expects to
legalize and regulate non-medical use of
cannabis this year, making good on its
2016 election promise. Canada will be the
second nation after Uruguay to legalize
non-medical cannabis. Nine U.S. states
have also done so.
One of the reasons, says a Canadian
task force, is that “the current approach
to marijuana prohibition is not working.”
Governments at all levels are working
on rules for growing and selling
cannabis, as well as lowering risk.