All plants of the genus Cannabis produce a complex chemical called
delta- 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Three varieties of the plant produce THC in significant amounts:
Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis.
Of these, C. sativa produces THC in the highest concentrations and therefore is the preferred source of the drug. C. sativa occurs wild in subtropical countries and is cultivated extensively in many of those countries for export to the rest of theworld. It is grown in the UK, but it does not flourish here unless it is provided artificially with the high light levels, extended daylight hours and warm temperatures that it is used to. C. indica and C. ruderalis produce lower levels of THC but are more tolerant of the climatic conditions of northern Europe and are grown both under artificial conditions and in the open. In recent years, all three varieties have been hybridised to produce varieties that will provide high THC levels and grow well in the UK. The plant has two distinct forms, a male and a female; both produce THC, but the female produces higher levels.
Form and Appeareance
Herbal, or vegetable, cannabis has in the past fewyears slipped in popularity in comparison with the resinous varieties. Herbal cannabis now accounts for perhaps 45 per cent of the UK market. It is produced by drying and chopping the leaves of the cannabis plant into a coarse-cut tobacco-like mixture. The finest-quality herbal cannabis is produced by drying and chopping the flower, known as the bud, of the female cannabis plant. This preparation, known on the streets as sinsemilla and sinsy, contains the highest levels ofTHCin herbal form, but it is rare and relatively expensive.
Drug producers are more interested in the quantity of drugs that they can produce rather than the quality, and so the vast majority of herbal cannabis that finds its way on to the streets of theUKgenerally is of poor quality. It consists of a mixture of chopped leaves of all sizes from both female and male plants, thin stems, small quantities of flower buds and some seeds. Most samples of herbal cannabis are greenish brown in colour, although rarely, pale green and golden samples are seen.
Herbal cannabis can easily be mistaken for various forms of tobacco due to their similar appearances, and many parents and teachers have accused young people of illegal possession of cannabis only to find out later that itwas nothing of the sort. Close examination of the sample should prevent this mistake. Most samples of tobacco have been produced by chopping dried plugs of tobacco leaves that have been formed from several leaves of different tobacco varieties layered together and cured. This layering can be seen in the form of strata of differing colours in the small shreds of tobacco. Cannabis has no such layering. Round seeds about 5mm in diameter are often found in herbal cannabis; tobacco contains no such seeds. Tobacco often has a strong aromatic smell, whereas herbal cannabis simply smells a little musty.