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Cannabis is commonly known as the plant from which marijuana is obtained, a drug that is widespread all over the world; marijuana exploits the hallucinogenic active ingredients present in the leaves and in the resin emitted by cannabis plants, although in fact not all cannabis species and subspecies contain sensitive amounts of hallucinogenic substances. The genus cannabis includes three species of annual plants, originating in Europe and Asia, cultivated for thousands of years for their economic value, since in ancient times these plants produced a vegetable oil used to prepare paints and fuel; a strong vegetable fiber, used to make strong ropes and fabrics; animal fodder and paper pulp.
In fact in past centuries cannabis was a plant very present in Italy, cultivated above all in the Po valley. Over time, the use of alternative textile fibers, such as jute and synthetic fibers, the use of mineral oils and wood to produce paper, has led to a drastic reduction in the production of cannabis for industrial purposes ; so much so that nowadays this plant is commonly known as a drug, and not for other properties.
When the plant was widespread in cultivation, its therapeutic effects were also used, and hemp oils and extracts were commonly used to treat problems of insomnia, acute pain or other types of pathologies.
In Italy the cultivation of hemp is strictly regulated, and the few plants that are grown are used almost exclusively for the use of cannabis for medical therapeutic purposes.
Originally the genus cannabis was considered as the union of three different species: Cannabis indica, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis ruderalis.
The three species have similar characteristics: the leaves are palmate, divided into pointed leaflets, present in numbers from 6 to 13 in each large leaf; the stem is erect, poorly branched; in exact it produces long spike or panicle inflorescences. On the inflorescences and leaf axils a particular resin is thickened, which contains most of the psychoactive substances present in the plants. Cannabis is a dioecious plant, so female and male flowers are found on different plants; the flowers are followed by flowers on the female specimens: the achenes that contain a single fertile seed.
Cannabis sativa is a plant that can reach 2-3 meters in height, and is the species that was cultivated in Europe for industrial purposes; its resin contains very low amounts of THC, the active ingredient that is exploited in marijuana or hashish.
Cannabis indica is a more compact plant, which does not exceed one meter and a half in height, very thick with leaves; It is the plant that contains more amounts of THC, and its cultivation takes place only for illicit purposes, to produce drugs.
Cannabis ruderalis is a small annual plant, which grows even in unfavorable conditions, in areas characterized by intense cold or low insolation. This species is the one that contains the least amount of THC.
Over the years the study of taxonomy at the cellular level has questioned whether these are three different species; in fact some scholars believe that these are three different varieties of cannabis sativa; others believe instead that they are different phenotypes of the same genotype, or the same identical species, cannabis sativa, if cultivated in different climatic conditions, has a different development.
This plant has been widely cultivated for centuries, and all varieties of cannabis have been shown to be easily hybridized, hybridized naturally even if grown nearby.
So it is not easy to have a 100% cannabis sativa or 100% cannabis indica plant available. Also because the different characteristics of the three plant varieties have largely favored the hybridizations, above all in the case in which they maintained in the hybrid plants more interesting characteristics. So nowadays we can find cannabis seeds that give rise to a plant up to three meters high, with a high THC content, and with early flowering. Among other things, despite the fact that in Italy the cultivation of cannabis, whether any subspecies, variety or hybrid is, is subject to strict regulation, there is no type of legislation that prohibits the trade and spread of seeds; therefore all over the world it is possible to find and buy hybrid cannabis seeds of any kind, even for cultivation in apartments.
How to grow cannabis
The industrial use of cannabis was also favored by the fact that these plants grow even in unfavorable conditions, in uncultivated fields where any other production would be impossible; in fact they grow without problems even in sandy or stony areas, as well as in marshy fields, with poor drainage.
In Italy, cannabis sativa var. Was mainly cultivated. sativa, an annual plant in spring sowing, directly in the field, in a very sunny area. Germination takes place in a few weeks and in general it is not necessary to thin out the seedlings, as the seeds are quite large: it is very easy to sow the plants in small postarelle, already correctly spaced.
These are plants that in a couple of months reach two meters in height, with a fairly sparse foliage, and a thick and rigid central stem.
To obtain a healthy and well-developed plant it is advisable to water regularly, avoiding to leave the soil dry for a long time; fertilization takes place about a couple of weeks after germination, spreading at the base of the stems of slow release granular fertilizer, specific for green plants.
Plants bloom in late spring or summer, and produce fruit in late summer. As the cold approaches, the plants dry up completely.
Cannabis: Today's use of cannabis
In recent years the cultivation of cannabis is slightly returning "in fashion"; apart from the illegal cultivation of drug producers, there are also controlled but legal cultivations of cannabis varieties with low THC content, used in industry and medicine.
In fact, cannabis contains several active ingredients; THC, Tetrahydricannabinol, is the most known and exploited psychoactive principle as a hallucinogenic drug, still widespread throughout the world, it is the most famous cannabinol, also used in medicine. However, cannabis contains about sixty different cannabinols, and not all of them have the strong hallucinogenic effect of THC. Furthermore, the concentration of THC, and the different concentrations of other cannabinols, have different effects on the different types of existing cannabis.
Considering that it is a plant with easy hybridization, it goes without saying that there are cannabis varieties with a very high hallucinogenic effect, and varieties of decidedly more poor quality.
Various scientific studies have upgraded cannabis and its effects, also because this type of drug has a low addictive effect, and creates little dependence, so it is possible to use it in pathological cases that last for a long time; it is often used instead of morphine in the treatment of chronic pain or pain due to diseases such as tumors or degenerative diseases of the nervous system, as cannabis is better tolerated than morphine.
It is also used in the treatment of people undergoing chemotherapy treatments, to alleviate symptoms of nausea, vomiting, dizziness, due to the use of chemotherapy drugs.
Cannabis is also used in the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis.
Some recent research seems to support the hypothesis that cannabinoids are also useful to combat some types of cancer, which would seem to stop development.
In Europe, the spread of hemp oil products is also starting again as the basis of some fair and equitable development projects: in some areas of Africa and Latin America the land is poorly suited to other types of cultivation. In these areas cannabis sativa is grown to produce raw materials for the production of soaps, paints, cosmetics, emollients, fabrics, biofuels, and animal fodder.