How Marijuana Works

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a commonly used term referring to the cannabis plant. There are three species of cannabis: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. They are primarily differentiated by the characteristics intrinsic to each plant. Cannabis sativa plants at maturity grow to be tall and thin with long leaves, while cannabis indica plants grow to be short and wide with shorter leaves. Broadly, effects vary across species with indica varieties primarily producing relaxing, sleep-like, effects in users; while sativa varieties primarily produce up-lifting and energetic effects in users. There is a significant amount of hybridization within the cannabis plant, where indica dominant species are crossbred with sativia dominant species in order to impact effects. In fact, in the current market virtually all available cannabis is hybridized. The cannabis ruderalis species is rarely used in medical or recreational spaces due to its low cannabinoid content, but is commonly used to create paper, clothing, fuel and other products under the name “hemp.”

Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoids are the part of the chemical profile of the cannabis plant responsible for its mood altering effects. The most well-known cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). There are approximately 180 additional chemical compounds within the cannabis plant which contribute to the plants physiological effects.

Cannabis interacts with the human body through the endocannabinoid system. This is a complex system of receptors located through the body which cannabinoids found in cannabis bind to; this interaction ultimately leads to the individual feeling the physiological effects of cannabis consumption. Additionally, the body produces its own set of cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, which play a role in a number of different naturally occurring physiological processes.

Methods of Marijuana Ingestion

There are four main methods of ingesting marijuana: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical. Each method has unique characteristics that make it more or less appropriate for some consumers. Learn more about how marijuana is consumed.