There’s no stopping the shift. After decades of repression, cannabis is clawing its way back into public awareness as a medicine. For consumers, this is an exciting but also a confusing time. Much of what we assume is true turns out to be wrong, or at least inaccurate. The main rule is: use your common sense!
Sour Diesel. Gorilla Glue. Purple Haze. Tangerine Dream. Strawberry Kush. Anyone wanting to buy from an American dispensary will be spoilt for choice. But is there actually “kush” in everything that has “kush” on the label? No! The legal cannabis market is still in its infancy and there is no official body to check the origin and quality of the products on offer. How could there be, when cannabis is still banned at a federal level?
The situation is even more precarious in the Netherlands. Despite what many people think, cannabis is still illegal there. The authorities simply turn a blind eye to its sale and consumption under the so-called “tolerance policy”. Because production is completely prohibited, the coffeeshops are obliged to buy their goods on the black market. The current legislation plays into the hands of criminals, puts the health of consumers at risk, and means the state misses out on millions in tax revenues.
Should we move on from “indica vs. sativa”, to full spectrum cannabis?
For cannabis patients, things are looking slightly better. Bedrocan is the only manufacturer of medicinal cannabis to have a contract with the Dutch Ministry of Health. Anyone who purchases a named variety from them can be sure to receive high-quality goods.
The cannabinoids and terpenes contained in the product can be seen in the so-called full spectrum profile on the company’s website. Full spectrum cannabis contains the complete range of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that can be extracted from cannabis. Many experts agree that full spectrum profiles are more useful for judging the likely effect of a variety than the previous breakdown into indica and sativa varieties. Just recently, we published a report saying that this classification was now outdated because the scientific standard has moved on.
Thanks to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, we now know that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD dock onto receptors in the human brain and body and thereby control important bodily functions. We are also discovering more about how terpenes work. For example, scientists have shown that alpha-Pinene, a terpene that smells of pine needles and exists in many cannabis varieties, stimulates alertness.
But what we still don’t know is how the various cannabinoids and terpenes interact and influence one another. Alpha-Pinene may stimulate alertness, but there are indications that the effect may be reduced or even changed by other terpenes.
Jeffrey Raber, whose company Werk Shop has analysed hundreds of varieties of cannabis, has this to say: “What we have learned from basic research on a single terpene cannot be widely extrapolated. It really is the complete cannabis compound that we need to understand better.”
Like Dr Ethan Russo, who is viewed as a luminary in the field of cannabis research, he suspects that the real power of cannabis comes from the interaction between the substances it contains, known as the entourage effect. It is like a symphony. Only when all the instruments play in time and in tune with one another do you get a pleasant overall sound.
Until we understand the entourage effect better, the full-spectrum profiles need to be treated with caution. They feign a level of accuracy which is simply not true. Cannabis is a living organism, and even if the same variety is grown under the same conditions, individual plants will possess different amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes. That is why at Sensi Seeds, we do not provide full spectrum profiles for our varieties.
This is why everyone responds differently to cannabis
The Israeli scientist Rafael Mechoulam is credited with discovering THC. To find out how it works, he gave a group of friends 10 mg of THC in its pure form. According to Mechoulam the feedback from each was very different: “Some said: ‘well, we just feel kind of strange, in a different world, we want to sit back and enjoy. Another one said ‘nothing happens’, but he couldn’t stop talking. A third one said, ‘well, nothing’s happened’, but every 15-20 seconds he’ll burst out laughing.” You will certainly have noticed that people respond very differently to cannabis. We now have a pretty good idea why that is the case.
Genetics play a major role. Research findings show that people with a certain genetic mutation are prone to feeling worried and paranoid. Problems with short-term memory that are typically associated with cannabis consumption can also be traced back to certain genes. Around 20% of the US population produces more endocannabinoids than the rest, due to a gene mutation. It is assumed that this group is less inclined to consume cannabis.
Cannabis affects men and women differently. Men are more likely to suffer severe hunger attacks – the munchies – and need to consume more to get the same effect.
Another decisive factor for the effect of cannabis is the person’s general state of health. Let us assume that you suffer from a disease for which cannabis is a useful treatment, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or fibromyalgia: There is a good chance that after consuming cannabis you will mainly experience a reduction in the symptoms of your illness and feel “normal”, rather than high.
Perhaps the most important reason why we all experience cannabis so differently is because we are all unique. No two people are the same, and depending on our individual temperaments, moods and life experiences, we respond differently to cannabis. That brings us back to the theme of this article.
Use your own common sense. Really.
Product names and evaluations, indica vs sativa, full spectrum profiles, personal experience, dosage advice, recommendations from growers and friends – all this provides valuable information if you are looking for a new variety or want to improve your experience of cannabis. But it is much more important to use your common sense. That may sound like a cliché, but things are not always that simple. We are bombarded all day long. Information reaches us every second, and the dividing line between advertising and information is blurred, just like the line between public and private life.
People who are self-aware, listen to their own sense of reason and are not afraid to follow their own path will cope best. Recently a friend told me that she likes only indica varieties because sativas make her too sluggish and demotivated. I wanted to argue, but I stopped and thought about it first. Just because something is true for most people doesn’t mean it is true for you. So keep an open mind, think critically and do only what’s right for you. Amen.
- Disclaimer:This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.