Cannabis Overview

By: KW Now - Online Community Hub | Published 12/29/2019


  Cannabis And Its Components   

Cannabis refers to the plant Cannabis sativa. The cannabis plant originally comes from Asia. It is now grown around the world, including in Canada.

Chemical substances in cannabis

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances. Over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are made and stored in the plant's trichomes. Trichomes are tiny, clear hairs that stick out from the flowers and leaves of the plant. Cannabinoids have effects on cell receptors in the brain and body. They can change how those cells behave and communicate with each other.


The most researched cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for the way your brain and body respond to cannabis, including the high and intoxication. THC has some therapeutic effects but it also has harmful effects. Harmful effects may be greater when the strength of THC is higher.

The potency (concentration or strength) of THC in cannabis is often shown as a percentage of THC by weight (or by volume of an oil). THC potency in dried cannabis has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980s to around 15% today. Some strains can have an average as high as 30% THC.

Cannabis that contains very low amounts of THC in its flowers and leaves (less than 0.3%) is classified as hemp.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is another cannabinoid. Unlike THC, CBD does not produce a high or intoxication. There is some evidence that CBD may block or lower some of the effects of THC on the mind. This may occur when the amount of CBD in the cannabis is the same or higher than the amount of THC. CBD is also being studied for its possible therapeutic uses.

More About CBD

Where CBD comes from

The cannabis plant contains hundreds of chemical substances. Over 100 of these are known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids derived from cannabis plants are sometimes called phytocannabinoids.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of these cannabinoids. CBD is not intoxicating and may reduce some of the effects of tetrahydracannabinol (THC); however, it does have an effect on the brain.

CBD can be found in different varieties of the cannabis plant, including hemp.

All phytocannabinoids are regulated under the new Cannabis Act. The Act came into force on October 17, 2018.

How we regulate CBD in Canada

CBD is a controlled substance under United Nations drug control conventions. Consistent with the controlled status of CBD internationally, CBD is a controlled substance in Canada and other jurisdictions.

As a result, CBD and products containing CBD are subject to all of the rules and requirements that apply to cannabis under the Cannabis Act and its regulations. This includes CBD derived from industrial hemp plants, as well as CBD derived from other varieties of cannabis.

Under the Cannabis Act activities with phytocannabinoids (including CBD) remain illegal, unless authorized.

Before the Cannabis Act came into force, CBD was:

  • regulated under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
  • strictly controlled

It was not legal to produce, sell, import or export CBD unless authorized for medical or scientific purposes.

Under the Cannabis Act, CBD products remain strictly regulated and are only legal when sold in compliance with the Act and its regulations.

The Act and accompanying regulations place strict controls on cannabis:

  • possession
  • production
  • distribution
  • sale

Health Canada oversees the production of cannabis products. Health Canada is also responsible for overseeing the distribution and sale of:

  • cannabis, including any CBD-containing cannabis products for medical purposes

CBD in human food or pet food

Edible cannabis will not be permitted for sale until the Regulations Amending the Cannabis Regulations (New Classes of Cannabis) come into force on October 17, 2019.
These regulations set out strict controls to reduce the:

  • appeal of such products to youth;
  • risk of accidental consumption, especially of edible cannabis, including by youth;
  • risk of overconsumption associated with edible cannabis because of the delay in experiencing the effects of cannabis when it is ingested rather than inhaled; and
  • risk of foodborne illness associated with the production and consumption of edible cannabis.

Edible cannabis will only be available for human consumption.

The provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions.

They set rules around:

  • how cannabis products can be sold
  • where stores may be located
  • how stores must be operated


Terpenes are chemicals made and stored in the trichomes of the cannabis plant, with the cannabinoids. Terpenes give cannabis its distinctive smell.

How cannabis is used

The cannabis plant is used for its effects on the mind. It is also used for medical, social or religious purposes. Marijuana is a slang term for the dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds of the cannabis plant.

Cannabis can be taken in different ways, by:

  • smoking:
    • joints or spliffs (cannabis rolled in cigarette paper)
      • which may be mixed with tobacco
    • pipes and bongs (a type of pipe)
    • blunts (partially or entirely hollowed out cigar wrappers filled with cannabis)
  • drinking or eating:
    • teas
    • sodas
    • cannabis oil
    • baked goods
  • vaporizing and vaping (breathing in dried cannabis or liquid cannabis vapours through a vaporizer or vaping device)
  • dabbing (breathing in very hot vapours from heating cannabis concentrates)

Results of the 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey provide a snapshot of how much cannabis Canadians use, how often they use it, and in what form.

The different forms of cannabis

Most cannabis products come from or can be made using the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant. Depending on how they are made, these products can have a range of potencies of THC (and CBD).

Table 1 lists the main forms of cannabis and typical potencies of THC.




THC Potency

fresh or dried herbal material

Flowers and leaves from the cannabis plant

up to 30%

cannabis oil

Cannabis extract dissolved in oil. Can be used to make other forms (for example, edibles).

up to 3%

chemically concentrated extracts (for example, hash oil/shatter/budder/wax)

Highly concentrated cannabis extract dissolved in petroleum-based solvent (for example, butane). Shatter, budder and wax most highly concentrated.

up to 90%

physically concentrated extracts (for example, hash/kief)

Loose trichomes or pressed resin from the cannabis plant.

up to 60%


Foods and drinks containing extracts of cannabis

Depends on the amount of extract added


Cannabis extract dissolved in a solvent, often alcohol. Can be used to make other products (for example, edibles).



Cannabis extract preparation prepared with alcohol, oil or wax and applied to the skin.


Note: Not all forms of cannabis are yet available for legal sale under The Cannabis Act that came into force on October 17, 2018. The Cannabis Act currently permits the sale of:

  • cannabis oil
  • fresh cannabis
  • dried cannabis
  • cannabis plant seeds
  • cannabis plants

Edible cannabis, cannabis extracts and cannabis topicals will be available for legal sale no later than October 17, 2019.

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