Marijuana: A Brief Summary & Botany

Cannabis sativa commonly known as marijuana is a native hemp plant of Central and South Asia. It was cultivated throughout history in Asia, Europe and China; and is one of the oldest known plants used for food, fiber and medicine.It can grow almost anywhere within 35° of the equator provided long hours of daylight and well drained fertile soil.

Cannabis is an annual herb, that is wind-pollinated, generally dioecious (separate male and female plants) and rarely monoecious. The sexes of the flowers can only be distinguished once the plants start flowering. Nonetheless, both sexes produce the amounts of flowers differently. Females plants produce more with clusters of flowers with one at the top and remaining on lower branches of the plant. For both scientific and recreational use female flowers are the most significant part of the plant also called flos in Latin. For this particular reason, the females plants are mostly cultivated throughout the world.


life cycle of cannabis

Figure 1: Life cycle of cannabis (Cannabis Botany by R.C. Clark)

Cannabis: Classification

For forensic and legislative purposes Cannabis classification is widely divided into two types: the fiber type often referred to as Hemp (Type 1) and the drug-type (Type 2). The main difference between each is the presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabidoinl or THC a psychotropically active compound. A low presence of THC classifies the plant as Type 1 while a high presence of THC along with its precursor component named tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) is found in Type 2. All cultivates used in scientific and medical purposes are drug-type.


Classification of Cannabis

Classification of Cannabis


While there appear to be innumerable varieties of ‘strains’ available in the legal and medical marijuana sectors, each claiming to provide a different spectrum of the active chemical constituents – however almost all of them are derived from one of two family species: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa.


While Cannabis is one of the best-studied plants with over 500 known constituents found to date, many have not been characterized for their specific biological activity. Of these constituents there are a group of chemical compounds unique to the cannabis plant called cannabinoids. Read more about the Pharmacology of Cannabis.