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Getting Started with Cannabis

Are you just getting started with cannabis? Are you looking for information about the medical marijuana card process? Do you want to learn more about cannabis derivatives like edibles and CBD oil? You’ve arrived at the right place.
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What is Cannabis?

The word 'cannabis' is generally used to describe a variety of plant phenotypes that fall under the taxonomic classification Cannabis sativa L. Contrary to what many people think, 'cannabis' can encompass much more than just the dried flowers and leaves of the plant. Today, cannabis, also known as marijuana, is grown all over the world. It can be grown in virtually any climate, and due to recent high demand, it is being cultivated indoors in massive quantities using expansive hydroponic technology.

Cannabis is of course often smoked in the form of a joint, but thanks to recent research showing the positive healing properties of the plant, many different consumption techniques are now common - including things like edibles, topical lotions, and oils. Each product has specific healing properties and is aimed at helping different medical conditions.

When referring to the actual cannabis plant, you will find that while it can be grown in many parts of the world, it mostly flourishes in mild climates. The plant itself is characterized by its iconic fan leaves and dense flowers, which are complete with a gorgeous arrangement of crystalline trichomes.

Cannabis is often categorized into three sub-species (Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis), though this taxonomic breakdown is more of an anecdotal 'acceptance' rather than a true evidence-based classification.

Cannabis sativa – These plants tend to be tall, with thin leaves and widely - spaced branches. Sativa-derived products are commonly used for both recreational and medical purposes. Cannabis sativa plants are suitable for outdoor gardens, and they tend to provide patients with uplifting, energizing properties. Sativa strains are often used to treat depression, ADD, fatigue, and mood disorders, among many other things.

Cannabis indica – Indica plants subtly juxtapose the traditional sativa phenotype. These plants are often short and dense, with stubby leaves and trichome-packed flowers. While indica can grow well outdoors, they are most often suited for indoor, climate-controlled operations. Indica strains are often smoked by patients during the evening, as the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the plants tend to provide sedating, sleep-promoting effects. For this reason, indica strains are often used to help treat anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and more.

Cannabis ruderalis – Certainly the most mysterious of the three cannabis sub-species, ruderalis plants are quite rare. They are characterized by varied leaflets in the mature leaves, and are extremely hardy, resilient plants that do well even in the harshest of outdoor conditions. In the past, ruderalis cultivars have been used to create sativa and indica hybrids that offer select traits.

It is important to understand that each strain of cannabis has its own characteristics, and can help treat different medical conditions.

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Legal Aspects of Cannabis

Cannabis dates back to 2737 BCE, and was believed to be used as a therapy for many ailments in the Far East. The earliest known record of English-speaking countries using cannabis was when the plants were introduced in Jamestown in 1611. In these colonial times, the plants were mostly bought and sold as a commercial crop.

For over 300 years -up until 1937, to be exact - cannabis extract was used as an ingredient in medicine to treat a variety of illnesses and common problems. This included things like toothaches, menstrual cramping, and even childbirth. This all changed when the plant was brought into the U.S. on a larger scale during the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1911. During this time cannabis developed a stigma in many parts of the United States, and an overall negative image of the plant was borne. In 1937, Harry Anslinger, Head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, pushed to classify cannabis as an illegal substance. It was then that the infamous MTA Act of 1937 was created.

Today, cannabis is still classed as an illegal drug on a federal level. However, the perception towards the plant has significantly changed. In a recent study, it was recorded that nearly 70% of Americans think cannabis should be legalized on a broad scale. Furthermore, roughly 71% of Americans believe that the federal government should not try to prohibit the sale and use of cannabis in states that have laws permitting its possession.

While cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug on a federal level, many individual states have adopted a proactive approach towards the plant. In fact, the majority of U.S. states now allow cannabis possession at either the medical or recreational level. Various states have implemented laws that permit approved patients to consume cannabis in different forms. As of now, over 30 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

In terms of legality, hemp occupies a different space altogether compared to other varieties of cannabis. In fact, hemp was removed altogether from the Controlled Substances Act after the passing of the U.S. Farm Bill back in 2018. The Farm Bill permits the legal cultivation of hemp, and this has in fact opened a variety of options (in the form of hemp-derived CBD products) for patients living in states that don’t allow the use of medical marijuana by allowing them to buy CBD oil.

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Medical Cannabis Benefits

There is still much debate as to whether medical cannabis can help treat patients as effectively as traditional medicine. However, over the last several years, quality research has grown by leaps and bounds. And of course, this is in addition to the countless numbers of anecdotal reports involving patients that have used cannabis to recover from a number of severe medical conditions.

One of the most famous stories is that of young Charlotte Figi. Charlotte’s story went viral on the internet when she was only 6 years old. The young girl was experiencing over 300 epileptic seizures per week until she was successfully treated by a CBD-rich strain of cannabis.

CBD oil, which is an extract of specific genetically-selected strains, literally changed her life, helping her to overcome a 6-year battle with chronic seizures. Since the release of her story, CBD products in all different forms (oils, capsules, topicals, edibles, etc) have gained immense popularity throughout the United States.

Today, the high-CBD Charlotte’s Web strain, along with dozens of other strains such as OG Kush, AC/DC, and more, are being used by millions of people worldwide to combat a wide range of medical conditions.

As a matter of fact, studies now suggest that medical cannabis (including CBD-specific products) may have potential to help over 100 medical conditions. Among these are conditions such as anorexia, arthritis, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and PTSD.

Unfortunately, the healing potential of cannabis is still not acknowledged by everyone. This is of course due to the generations of stereotyping and stigmatism it has received. Some even still identify the plant as a gateway drug, even though alcohol is statistically far more dangerous.

For nearly four decades, all forms of cannabis were classed as a Schedule 1 drug. This means that unlike other medications, cannabis has not been researched to great extent. Furthermore, the plant is still off-limits and prohibited in several states due to restrictions on use and possession.

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What’s the Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp?

People often get confused between the terms 'cannabis' and 'hemp.' While there aren’t many differences, it is important to understand that there are in fact variations between these two cannabis cultivars. While both plants belong to the species Cannabis sativa L, they each contain different phytochemical components, as well as obvious differences in phenotype. For example, high-THC cannabis plants tend to be shorter and wider than hemp’s narrow and tall physique.

Furthermore, marijuana is widely known for both medicinal and recreational purposes, while hemp is grown almost exclusively for medical use, dietary supplements, skin products, clothing, and accessories. The crucial pharmacological difference is that hemp doesn’t contain high amounts of THC - the psychoactive component that gives you the “high”.

In fact, industrial hemp that is cultivated for the above purposes contains less than 0.3% THC. THC in most cannabis strains ranges anywhere between 10%-25%. Hemp is becoming extremely popular for its abundant CBD content, and is easily found nowadays in most states, regardless of whether or not a medical cannabis program is in operation.

In regards to appearance, hemp and cannabis look quite different. If you observe the plant's flowering buds, you’ll notice that the shape of cannabis flower tends to be in the form of dense, tightly-packed buds. Hemp tends to have narrower flowers and skinnier leaves that are concentrated at the top of the plant. Hemp is also typically taller than other cannabis cultivars, reaching up to 15 ft in height in some instances.

Cultivation differences between hemp and cannabis can also be quite drastic. Cannabis requires an extremely monitored environment, and demands strict daily watering and nutrient regimens. Hemp, on the other hand, is typically grown in large multi-acre plots; its growth cycle is around 4 months, while that of cannabis is just 60-90 days.

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How Does Cannabis Affect Your Body?

Cannabis affects the body differently from individual to individual. In fact, the same exact cannabis strain may provide dramatically different effects on two different people. This is due to things like genetics, tolerance, general medical health, and most importantly, the presence (or absence) of specific endocannabinoid receptors in the body.

The effects of cannabis also depend on the method of consumption. For example, the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis can be quite different to the effects of oils or edibles. This is because phytocannabinoids - the active compounds in cannabis - interact with our bodily systems in different ways. Consider many of the CBD oils for sale that you see nowadays all across the country. Most of these oils are consumed sublingually (below the tongue), which involves a distinct mode of phytocompound absorption compared to something like inhalation or digestion.

That said, cannabis and the way it affects our bodies is still largely a mystery to researchers. What we do know is that cannabis helps people by influencing something called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. Specific plant-based phytocannabinoids in cannabis and hemp interact with naturally-occurring endocannabinoid receptors in the body, which we all have. When this happens, a wide range of psychological and physical benefits may become apparent. The two most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but there are dozens of others, including CBG, CBC, CBL, THCV, and more.

Some cannabinoids within cannabis signal the body to create more endocannabinoids and build more receptors. This may trigger the body to manipulate the physiological processes of things like inflammation, pain, and emotional response. From research, we know that physiological processes of the ECS can help to repair cells, promote immune response, encourage healthy sleep patterns, promote the destruction of dangerous cells (apoptosis), and even mollify emotional and behavioral abnormalities that lead to things like stress, anxiety, and mood disorders.

What’s more astonishing is that the cannabinoids in cannabis are almost identical (save for some subtle structural differences) to the endocannabinoids produced naturally in the body. This allows plant-based cannabinoids like THC and CBD to directly and indirectly influence dozens of internal physiological processes.

Still, there is much to be learned about these cannabinoids and how they can be utilized to treat specific medical conditions. Although researchers are beginning to fathom how our body interacts with cannabis, we are still surely just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of cannabis-based therapy.

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How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient?

When it comes to medical cannabis, it is important to understand the legalities of your state. Each medically-legal state has its own qualifying conditions and guidelines for which an individual may qualify to receive cannabis treatment. In most states, the process will require you to have an evaluation with a registered cannabis doctor before you can apply to receive a medical marijuana card.

It’s important also to understand that you are required to apply for a cannabis card in the state that you permanently reside. Currently, only a few dispensaries accept medical cannabis ID cards from out-of-state customers.

If you live in a state like California or Washington, the process of obtaining a medical cannabis card is much easier. California specifically has adopted a more lenient process through Prop 215. In 1996, with the passing of Proposition 215 (otherwise known as 'The Compassionate Use Act;), medical cannabis became legal in California.

This state law permitted patients to cultivate and possess their own medicine for personal use. The only legal requirement was that the patient had to have a doctor’s recommendation. Also, with the passage of the Telehealth Act, patients in some states can now obtain a medical cannabis card online without having to go to a doctor for a physical evaluation.

This has turned the medical cannabis application process into an extremely simple one. In states that permit Telehealth, residents can complete the process from the comfort of their home. States that have not adopted this approach will require you to go through the conventional route of obtaining a marijuana card, which includes having a physical evaluation and submitting relevant application fees to the state.

Here at WayofLeaf, you will conveniently find your state’s process explained in our state-by-state guides section on the site.

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Can you Obtain Medical Cannabis if you live in an illegal state?

The short answer is no, but there could be alternative cannabis options that you are not aware of. We encourage everyone to sign up to our site, FREE of charge, to receive information about the cannabis process in their state. You can start the medical cannabis card process here. For those of you in non-legalized states that are looking for an alternative to medical cannabis, you will find a plethora of information on the site that discusses the benefits of hemp-based CBD oil. The CBD oil market is growing at a rapid pace, and is soon expected to surpass the $20 billion revenue mark. When purchasing CBD oil, however, it’s important to know that many CBD oil brands import their oil. This makes it difficult to control and regulate product quality. We recommend reading the assortment of up-to-date articles on our site to better understand what goes into making the best CBD oil. Also, it's crucial to know and understand what kind of product will work best for you, and our doctor-reviewed guides are here to help.

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Why Do Patients Love Wayofleaf?

Our website is a vast resource packed with information about all things cannabis. We have a growing community on Facebook and social media, and are constantly engaging with readers to provide the most up-to-date information on policies, health studies, and more. We also review hundreds of products and make a daily effort to provide our readers with the market's most up-to-date information about cannabis research. This is all in an effort to help readers make the most educated decisions possible when it comes to personal cannabis-based health and wellness. Thanks to our experience, history, doctor guidance, and foothold in the industry, we understand the true benefits of cannabis and how we can best help our readers in the process of obtaining their medical cannabis card. And of course, every bit of information on the site is FREE, the only thing we ask is that you help us spread the word about the amazing healing properties of cannabis. Thanks for visiting, and enjoy the site!

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