An educational introduction for patients and the general public about cannabis-related concepts, uses, frequently asked questions and myths.

Cannabis 101

What’s the difference between medical versus recreational?


Medical cannabis refers to cannabis plant derivatives or dried herb that are approved by Health Canada. Medical cannabis needs a medical prescription from a healthcare providers and patients purchase their cannabis directly from a Licensed Producers. Medical cannabis is used to help treat a wide range of Medical Uses.


Recreational cannabis after October 2018, refers to the cannabis  derivatives and dried herb authorized by the government under federal and provincial legislation (Cannabis Act, 2018).  This type of user can purchase from dispensaries or through an online dispensary.

Recreational cannabis is often used to achieve a particular body experience such as getting a “mental high” or “mellow relaxation for the body.” Some recreational users self-medicate for therapeutic purposes but safe dosage requirements are individually based so it is important see your doctor for a consultation.

What’s the difference between industrial hemp versus medical cannabis?

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. There are over 106 cannabinoids but the most studied ones are D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Other studied cannabinoids include; CBC, CBG, CBN, CBGV, THCV, D8-THC and their respective acid forms.

Hemp is a variety of C. sativa L. It is defined by Health Canada as a cannabis strains that contain less than 0.3% THC. Both hemp and cannabis come from the cannabis species but hemp is easier to grow and is prized in industry for a variety of uses. It is not classified as a “drug” because of its low THC content – not enough to get anyone “high” (Health Canada, 2017). Comparatively, cannabis comprises higher levels of cannabinoids and their ratios vary throughout strains.

What are the different types of varieties/subspecies of cannabis?

The cannabis plant is complex, as other plants it is hierarchically organized (family, genus, species, subspecies and variety). It is part of the Cannabaceae family, from the Cannabis genus, sativa species, and it can be either indica, sativa subspecies and finally it can also be one of four varieties (sativa, indica, spontanea and kafiristanica/ruderalis) (McPartland & Guy, 2017).

It is important to note that “Indica” and “Sativa” are different from C. sativa and C. indica. In addition, it is incorrect to associate “Indica” or “Sativa” strains with specific psychoactive effects (McPartland, 2018).

Click the Icons below to learn more.

C. indica classically contains more THC than in C. sativa varieties.
Refers to mixture (breeding) between C. indica and C. sativa varieties, can be predominantly one or the other.
C. sativa classically contains more CBD than in C. indica varieties.

What is the cannabis plant made of?

Aside from cannabinoids, the cannabis has other components but two relevant ones, terpenoids and flavonoids. The firsts, are . These molecules  interact with cannabinoids to enhance or diminish their effects which is called as the entourage effect.

Click the Icons below to learn more.

Is a set of components exclusive of the cannabis plant. The most commonly known ones are:

  • Most studied cannabinoids: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
  • There are 106 others: Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabivarin (CBDV), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), amongst others.
A large group of molecules present in all plant species, they give the aroma and the taste.There are over 200 terpenoids in the cannabis plant, though they are present in different proportions.

A few examples are:

  • Myrcene
  • Terpenolene
  • Humulene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Linalool
Is another set of components that are present in other plants. They give the pigment to plants, and have some therapeutic effects.

A few examples are:

  • Flavonol
  • Isoflavone
  • Flavanone
  • Anthocyanin
  • Flavone

How does cannabis affect the human body?

The way cannabis interacts with the human body is through the Endocannabinoid System, which is a complex system that encompasses two main receptors (CB1 and CB2) and two main endogenous ligands (Anandamide and 2-Arachinodoylglycerol). CB1 is mostly located in the nervous system (cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, neuromuscular junction and muscles) and CB2 is primarily found in the immune system. Inherently, we have endocannabinoids (AEA, 2-AG) that act similarly as the phytocannabinoid THC which regulate tissues’s metabolism and other cellular responses. (Learn more – hyperlink to blog). These interactions may have medical therapeutic value (Learn more about Medical Uses).


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Consuming Cannabis

There are many different ways to consume cannabis, although some are medically-associated and others recreationally-associated, this is due to the cannabinoid extraction method. The recreationally-associated methods might cause detrimental health effects.

The next sections will divide the forms of cannabis in different groups and will explain the terminology you need to understand as a medical cannabis patient.

Forms of Cannabis and Consumption Methods

Forms of Cannabis 

Cannabis is derived from the different varieties and strains of the plant, and can be consumed in many different forms. We classified the different forms of cannabis based on the method used to extract cannabinoids and other metabolites. For mixtures using mixed extraction methods, we classified the form based on the predominantly used extraction method. Click the different extraction types below to see which forms are produced by each method.

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  • Dried Herb: Dried flowers from the female cannabis plant, contains up to 30% THC. Done from cured cannabis flower. Can be smoked, vaporized or rolled. Only vaporized cannabis has been medically-associated. 
  • Dabs: Concentrated doses of cannabis that are smoked on a hot surface such as a nail and then inhaled through a dab ring. This gives you access to a higher concentration of THC.
  • Distillate: Initially same as BHO but predominantly  it is distilled to get rid of the solvent or plant matter. Usually it is smoked.
  • Resin: Same process as BHO but live resin uses frozen plants.

Health Technology Assessment Unit, University of Calgary, 2017

  • Hashish: Made from kief/resin. Ethanol or other solvents might be used. This is then pressed into blocks and referred to as Hash.
  • Hash oil: Made from dried herb and it is mechanically broken down and then heated. A solvent is used to extract the cannabinoids. 

Health Technology Assessment Unit, University of Calgary, 2017

  • Gel capsules: are capsules that contain oil with cannabinoids and other components. It is medically-associated.
  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO): oils and cannabinoids from trichomes on dried cannabis that contains solvent. Cannabis plant is pressurized with butane and then heated.
  • Concentrates: Any oil that concentrates the chemical compounds of the cannabis plant, THC and CBD. Different extraction processes and solvents are used with butane being the most common.
  • ShatterA type of concentrate varying in levels of transparency and colour. When warm, it resembles the texture of honey but when cold, it is brittle like glass. Made from BHO.
  • Tincture: Decarboxylated cannabis is mixed with a solvent. Cannabis extracts are mixed with either alcohol or glycerin. Can be orally used or smoked.
  • Oromucosal spray: contains different percentages of cannabinoids, for oral use and it is made with decarboxylated cannabis plant. Process same as above. It is medically-associated.
  • Wax/Budder: Dabbable concentrate, made using a closed-loop extraction system and a solvent and hand whipped to create a solid, crumbly wax. Budder is oilier and malleable, it has a higher moisture content because it is whipped less.

Health Technology Assessment Unit, University of Calgary, 2017

  • Rosin: Rosin is created by using pressure and heat on the plant to squeeze sap (Resin) out of it to without using any chemical solvents.
  • Kief: Rich in trichomes, sifted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.
  • Moonrock: Most potent product. It’s made by using dry herb dipped in concentrates such as oil and then rolled in kief.

Health Technology Assessment Unit, University of Calgary, 2017

Methods of Consumption

Some methods of use have been strongly associated with medicinal benefits, whilst other are more linked with recreational cannabis use.

Medical and/or Recreational Association of different methods of consumption

Copyrights of KannaVolve 2018.

Medical Cannabis Terminology

Currently, Health Canada has only approved a few forms of cannabis. Other forms have not been properly studied, and their safety can be questionable. Learn more below of the approved Health Canada strains, and cannabis nomenclature.

How to read and understand medical cannabis products

This is a step-like process we have developed to help patients understand their medical cannabis products.

Step 1

Identify what form of cannabis was prescribed.

i.e. dried herb, extracts/oils, capsules, spray.

Step 2

Identify the THC concentration.

i.e. %, mg/mL, mg/capsule or mg/spray.

Step 3

Identify the CBD concentration.

i.e. %, mg/mL, mg/capsule or mg/spray.

Step 4

Identify the ratio THC:CBD.

i.e. less than 1 mg/mL THC and 20 mg/mL CBD = 1:20, etc.

Step 5

Identify the variety you were prescribed.

i.e. Indica, Hybrid, Sativa.

Step 6*

Optional step.

Identify the different terpene concentration.

i.e. B-caryophyllene, Myrcene, Linalool, Limonene, etc.

What to be aware of while using cannabis?

There are two large groups of side effects, ones associated with higher THC content and others with higher CBD content. THC-related side effects comprise; milder effects (“high” feeling, dry mouth, dry eyes, euphoria, hunger) and worrisome effects (palpitations, psychosis, paranoia and panic attacks). Even though, these have been associated with higher content of THC, predominantly CBD strains can cause them too.

CBD-related side effects target the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and upset stomach). Though, it has been identified more with predominantly CBD strains, it can be present with THC strains.

Medical Uses

Frequently Asked Questions