Some Surprising Facts You May Not Already Know About Cannabis

If you’ve been watching the news lately, or even just following stories on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, you know that cannabis is a very popular subject these days. Many states, provinces and countries are in the process of reforming their laws regarding the use of cannabis, whether recreationally or for medical purposes. While there is plenty of information available that discusses the potential merits of cannabis, here are a few facts that you might not be aware of:

Cannabis’s true origins are a bit murky.  However, according to the DEA Museum in Arlington, Virginia, the oldest written references to cannabis date back to 2727 B.C., when the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was believed to have discovered the cannabis and used it medicinally.

Cannabis isn’t just for smoking; its fibers can also be made into rope or fabric. Perhaps the strangest use of hemp rope on record is as a method for transporting giant stone statues.

What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis? According to University of Saskatchewan biochemist Jon Page, industrial hemp plants are the same species as marijuana plants, but they don’t produce a substance called tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), which is the precursor to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Conversely, cannabis plants produce THCA, but don’t create much cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), a substance that occurs in abundance in hemp.

The effects of cannabis could be experienced differently by men and women, according to a 2014 study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Washington State University psychologist Rebecca Craft determined that the female rats used in the study were more sensitive to cannabis’ painkilling qualities, but they were also more likely to develop a tolerance for the drug than their male counterparts and that estrogen seemed to play a role in these gender-specific effects.

Some pet owners are using marijuana medicinally to help relieve the suffering of cats and dogs.  According to a 2013 article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, animals that ingest cannabis recover from the effects within a few hours, but it is very important to note that in large quantities, cannabis can be deadly to animals.

Strange names are a time-honored tradition among cannabis growers.  This tradition goes back at least as far as the 1970s, when strains such as “Maui Waui” (from Hawaii, naturally) came on the scene. Why such bizarre names? One reason might be the process behind the naming decisions.

“So many times, we’ve finally got to the end of a strain, and we have it right there and it’s done, and we’re like, ‘What do we call it?'” one of the co-owners of Amsterdam’s DNA Genetics, a cannabis seed bank, told the LA Times in July 2014. “And we sit there, and we call all our friends and smoke. That’s a brainstorm session.”

Cannabis compounds can inhibit certain liver enzymes known as cytochrome P450 enzymes. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, that Viagra won’t break down as readily in the blood of a cannabis user.

A 2002 case report in the journal Clinical Cardiology described the case of a 41-year-old man who experienced a heart attack after mixing cannabis and Viagra the previous evening. Though physicians couldn’t prove that a drug interaction caused the heart attack, they did caution other doctors to consider the enzyme-inhibiting side effects of pot when they prescribe Viagra.

Before the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, in America, cannabis was a common ingredient in medicinal tinctures, and sellers didn’t even have to disclose it on their labels.

However, during the 1920s and 1930s, Mexican immigration to the United States rose sharply as a result of the Mexican Revolution.  People migrating from Mexico brought with them the custom of using marijuana recreationally, and the drug became associated with public fears of the newcomers. Ultimately, Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner, Harry Anslinger, campaigned to clamp down on recreational cannabis, an effort that led to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. This law allowed for the importation of marijuana, but taxed it heavily, thereby making it too expensive for recreational use.