“A 26-year-old man has been arrested after a cannabis cultivation worth £3000 was found in a house in Falkirk.”
That brief report appeared in The Falkirk Herald some weeks ago, although something very similar appears on a pretty regular basis in the local newspaper for this area and in the columns of many other local newspapers. Everyone is familiar with the name ‘cannabis.’ I suspect, however, that many people may be as unfamiliar as I was with what cannabis actually is, as distinct from its effects on people.
My copy of The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopaedia of Herbs tells me that “Cannabis has been grown in Asia and the Middle East for over 4 000 years, both as a fibre plant and as a drug. … The various common names for cannabis refer to specific preparations: hasheesh – resin from the female plant, usually smoked in water pipes: bhang – dried plant mixed into water, fruits or candy: charas – resin smoked or eaten with spices: and ganja – dried tops of the female plant.” I can add a list of names commonly used for cannabis, such as marijuana, weed, grass, herb, pot, Mary Jane, skunk and dope … and there are quite a few other widely-used terms.
In botanical terms, the Cannabis genus is a group of flowering, annual shrubs; and the genus is a member of the hemp family. There are about seventy species within the genus, of which three are of particular significance - Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. Cannabis sativa can grow to a height of between five and six-and-a-half metres, say fifteen to twenty feet in old money, although it is more often less than half that height. This still-substantial bush, which came originally from equatorial areas, is the most widespread variety, while Cannabis indica is a shorter, bushier plant found on hillsides in cooler areas of the world, seldom growing to any more than half the size of Cannabis sativa. Cannabis ruderalis is native to Europe and central Asia, is significantly less leafy than the others and is not widely cultivated. The leaves of all cannabis plants resemble human hands with the fingers extended … a very distinctive shape … and the plants are either male or female as a rule, the female plants being less tall and more bushy than the male plants … not unlike the traditional depiction of women as smaller and more rounded than men!
The female plants are those that are grown for their medicinal and psychotropic effects, altering the user’s mood to induce feelings of well-being, stimulating the user’s energy level and increasing the user’s creativity. Medicinally, these effects can be beneficial in certain circumstances: but recreationally, while the use of marijuana … a rather less-acceptable term for the drug … masks the depression, the listlessness and the mental dullness which tempted the consumer to use the drug in the first place, the problems are, of course, still there when the ‘high’ wears off. Indeed, the return of the problems after the temporary relief provided by the use of the drug can make the problems seem more serious than before, leading to further use of the drug; and this presents a risk of progression to more addictive drugs … a progression which drug dealers will, of course, be very willing to encourage.
So the 26-year-old man who was arrested after a cannabis cultivation was, probably, growing the plants for financial gain, intending to profit from the problems … or the naivety … of others. There are weeds … unwanted plants … in my recreational garden: but there is no room for weed … another unwanted plant … in either my recreational garden or my recreational life.