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Unfamiliar with pretty much the entire cannabis space, our writer set out to answer some of her questions (and yours) about the basics. You can take this as your starter’s guide to understanding cannabis.

THC and CBD are cannabinoids. They’re a group of related chemical compounds found in cannabis plants that — when consumed — make our brain receptors cause mental and physical effects.

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Indica marijuana plant leaf

Indica is a bushy plant that sprouts wide leaves. It generally grows faster and has more flowers than sativa plants. Most people think of Indica strains as sense-based and often sedating — the cannabis you’d take if you were looking to unwind. Common effects are relaxation and sleepiness.

Bubba Kush
Northern Lights
Grape Ape


Sativa grows taller than indica and has narrow, wiry light-green leaves. Sativa strains are often used when folks want to have a good time with friends. It is more cerebral and energizing, and can be used to encourage creativity. Effects are generally an uplifting, energetic feeling — it has been described as euphoric.

Strawberry Cough

Sour Diesel
Super Lemon Haze


The truth is, most strains aren’t either indica or sativa — they’re actually hybrids.
Strains have been crossbred for ages, and it’s likely that cannabis labeled “indica” will also have properties of sativa in it. Common positive effects from hybrids are creativity, energy, and relaxation, for example. (It depends on the parent strain — if there’s more indica, you’re likely to get a more relaxed feeling instead of more energetic.)
Note: There can be negative effects from all strains. These effects do pass, but can be overwhelming. Not everyone will enjoy cannabis.

OG Kush
White Widow
Blue Dream


Cannabidiol (or CBD) is an active cannabinoid in cannabis. This is the cannabinoid that doesn’t produce the same “head high” — it doesn’t affect the brain’s receptors in the same way THC does. It does, however, increase the endocannabinoids that are found in the body. It goes to the body’s receptors that are associated with anxiety, pain, and inflammation, and has been shown to help with pediatric epilepsy. Oils, edibles, and topicals are the most common forms of CBD. The World Health Organization has gone on record saying CBD has no public health risks or potential for abuse.

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You’ll most commonly find CBD oil as a liquid extract in bottles with a dropper in the lid. It can be mixed in food or drink, or you can put drops under the tongue (which allows it to absorb faster than putting it in food). The oil is most often used for symptoms associated with anxiety and stress, pain, and insomnia.



You use these the same way you would a lotion or other topical cream. There are many forms, including balms, sprays, creams, and gels. Oil-based lotions absorb deeply and water-based absorb faster. Use topicals for localized pain and inflammation.



Food and drinks infused with cannabis are called “edibles.” Prepackaged edibles are legal in Canada, as are homemade infusions. Word has it you get a different high when cannabinoids are absorbed through the stomach (as opposed to the bloodstream). You know the most common ones already — magic brownies anyone? — but it’s not just baked goods anymore. Pretty much any recipe can incorporate cannabis through things like oils and butter. Here’s the thing about edibles, though: Dosing can be tough. It takes time to set in, so rookies might feel the need to eat more than they should. You should pay careful attention to dosing and the length of time it takes to be activated in your body (some take up to two hours). The other thing to know is that the effect of edibles can last longer than cannabis that’s vaped or smoked — it can often last four to 12 hours, or longer.

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“This time, I was determined to use cannabis to relieve the pain caused by surgery, and to reduce anxiety and improve sleep.”


Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC) is what you consume if you’re looking for that energetic and creative high (that is, more psychoactive effects). Your behaviour and mood are definitely altered when ingesting THC. It sends dopamine to the brain (there’s the energy) and is nearly identical to anandamide, which is a chemical in the brain that works as a neurotransmitter and sends messages throughout the nervous system. It affects the brain’s centre of thought, pleasure and other regions. Too much of it can really kill that high (you could have a not-so-fun experience), so most experts advise starting at a low percentage of THC and take it slow in a comfortable place with a relatively good mindset.


These convenient and discreet devices allow you to smoke cannabis without rolling a joint. Cannabis needs to be heated between 325 to 465 degrees Fahrenheit in order for it to activate cannabinoids and terpenes. Vape pens do this incredibly quickly with no trouble at all; you simply press a button to activate. Pens are made up of a battery, mouthpiece, cartridge or tank, atomizer, and power button. TERPENES These are the essential oils of a plant, and they give cannabis its robust aromas and flavours. There’s some research that shows terpenes can have an impact on our mental and physical well-being. Examples of terpenes are linalool, which has a floral scent and is said to help with anxiety and depression; alpha- and beta-pinene, which has a pine scent and it can help with inflammation and pain; myrcene, which smells like cloves and musk and has anti-inflammatory and relaxing properties; and limonene, which is found in lemons and can relieve stress and help digestion.


So how long does cannabis last? There’s no expiration date but it can generally be stored from six months to a year before it loses taste and potency. The good news is, if you happen to find a joint that’s been stored in a cool, dark place, it’s probably still worth using. Store your cannabis in mason jars or similar containers out of the sunlight. (Vacuum sealing will keep oxygen out.) Whatever you do, don’t stick it in the fridge or freezer — it ruins the flavour and you could get mildew growth. Plastic bags and containers are also a no-no. Edibles, oils, and topicals should be stored according to package or bottle directions and used by the expiration date.

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