Although there is much debate about their origins, it is generally accepted that there are three sub-species of the cannabis genus. These are Sativa (the most prominent), Indica and the less-favoured Ruderalis. Many growers cross breed these strains to produce cannabis with a range of specific, sought after properties.
When it is prepared for use as a psychoactive substance, cannabis comes in three main forms: cannabis resin (or hashish), ‘herbal’ cannabis (or marijuana) and cannabis oil. When smoked, cannabis has a sweet, herbal smell. Stronger smelling, high strength marijuana, known as ‘skunk’, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Cannabis plants grow in a variety of climates, although for out-door growing they thrive in the sub-tropics and can reach up to 15 feet in height. In UK indoor accelerated cultivation, 3-4.5 feet would be more typical.
Cannabis resin is a sticky brown substance which is scraped, shaken or harvested, from female, (unfertilised) buds and flowers of the plant when it is sufficiently mature.
‘Hash’ is generally black, brown or blonde. There is also hashish of greenish or reddish hue. A green tinge may indicate that the hashish contains a large amount of leaf material. Hashish colour usually reflects the methods of harvesting, manufacturing, and storage.
The reduced availability of good quality resin is one reason often cited for the huge increasing trend to use and produce herbal cannabis in the UK. The term ‘imported herbal cannabis’ usually refers to a product derived from the (outdoor grown) leaf and bud and seed of the female Sativa plant.
Cannabis oil is a treacle-like liquid, refined by solvent extraction of the plant material or resin, and yields a particularly potent form of the drug. It is smoked with ordinary tobacco, either by mixing it directly with the tobacco or by smearing it on a cigarette paper which is then used to roll up tobacco.
The noun ‘skunk’ is now used as a generic term for any potent variant of cannabis female flowering top or ‘bud’ which impressed devotees so rapidly that all high strength varieties have today adopted that description, outside of the specialist growers and smokers. Often the labelling of cannabis as ‘skunk’ is due to its aroma (hence the name) and plant characteristics which has no bearing on its actual genealogy. Many varieties sold as ‘skunk’ are no more than mass produced standard cannabis ‘bud’ variants.
This ‘skunk’ is produced by using a variety of cultivation techniques to produce reliable, specific, desired effects. These techniques include organic methods, hydroponic culture (growing without soil; see ‘Home grown cannabis’ below) and specialised plant training techniques. Plant characteristics can be altered by cross pollination, varying nurture and storage environments, light and water management and harvesting stages. The drug is then prepared for use by drying the unfertilised female, flowering buds of a mature cannabis plant.
Before ‘skunk’ became widely available, a seedless cannabis variety, called Sinsemilla, (‘without seeds’ Spanish.) was common. This variety was similar in strength to skunk but naturally occurring, rather than artificially modified.
Cannabis and cannabis resin will typically contain between 2 and 8% THC. ‘Skunk’ usually contains 4-20% THC. Another form of cannabis, cannabis oil, is the most potent form of the drug with concentration of THC up to 80%.
For information on THC/CBD/CBN see the Medical Marijuana section on our website.
‘The brain and organism on which hashish operates will produce only the normal phenomena peculiar to that individual – increased admittedly, in number and force, but always faithful to their origin. A man will never escape from his destined physical and moral temperament: hashish will be a mirror of his impressions and private thoughts – a magnifying mirror it is true, but only a mirror.’
Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867)