Recreation or medication, how can you tell which quality a cannabis plant most clearly features?
Imagine you see two cannabis plants side by side. They appear to be identical and are exactly alike in every respect. But one cannabis plant will make you high, and the other will stop that throbbing pain in your knee, or ease your glaucoma, or offer many other medicinal benefits. What determines if it’s use is recreation or medication?
What are the qualities that account for this difference? The first cannabis plant has an abundance of (brace yourself) Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA. When heated by smoking or in an oven while making edibles, the heat causes a certain portion of the THCA compound to break away. The remaining compound is Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. This is the compound that is “Psycho-active” – meaning it will act on receptors in your brain and give you a buzz.
The other plant has a very low, or only trace amounts of THCA, but does have lots of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the compound in cannabis that is medically helpful. So, although it won’t make you high, you will find relief from many medical conditions that respond well to CBD.
Both plants contain each compound, but in very different quantities. This is the quality that determines if the plant gives you recreation or medication. The amounts of each compound is determined by the strain of cannabis and some environmental conditions. Almost every known strain has been evaluated in laboratory conditions and cataloged in this online resource.
Canna-factoid: A cannabis plant which has only trace amounts of THC, meaning the plant has levels of THC below .3% is legally considered to be “hemp,” and not cannabis. Hemp has been cultivated for over 10,000 years for use in making rope, cloth and medicine. And there is a lot of hemp currently being grown in Europe. But here in the US, there are still laws in many areas that prohibit its cultivation.