Brain Strain, Be Gone!
We’ve made it super simple to understand why cannabis is good for you, how to choose your perfect strain and where to legally get it from. You’re welcome!
Words: Justine Stafford
Let’s face it: a lot of women don’t like weed. Whether it’s the pungent smell, the fear of getting super stoned or becoming addicted to a so-called ‘gateway’ drug, many of us grew up believing that ‘pot’ was bad for our health and that we must avoid it at all costs; which we did.
“It always seemed so risky, says Liane, 36, an account manager at a Cape Town advertising firm, who admits to smoking joints as a teenager but never liking it because “you had to buy it from dodgy dealers and never knew if you were going to have the night of your life, or get the greenies and vomit into your shoes.”
That was a decade ago, when getting caught with dagga – criminalised in South Africa as a habit-forming drug since the early 20th century – could mean jail time, a hefty fine, and a skanky reputation as a zol-kop druggie.
Since it was also illegal the world over to grow this ‘noxious weed’, it was impossible to research the plant – and the potential benefits it may offer - in any credible way. And so, despite a legacy of South Africa’s indigenous Bantu, Basotho and Koi San people using cannabis for centuries as a powerful muti, prohibition laws drove it underground, where it grew roots in the black market.
Is it any wonder, then, that Liane and her buddies were stuck smoking jut (low-grade street weed); with no idea of what they were actually inhaling, where it had been grown, or by whom, and what effect it was likely to have on their bodies or brains?
‘That’s the legacy of prohibition,’ says Neil Liddell, founder of The Haze Club (THC) a premium cannabis growing service based in Cape Town. He describes how, as the cannabis community retreated into an underworld of illicit trade, growers were forced to innovate new methods of making their product easy to discreetly move around while also offering their customers more ‘bang for their buck’.
Intro a new wave of potent hybrid strains that were specifically cross-bred from the more balanced and mellow originals to contain up to 10 times as much THC (the psycho-active component that gets you high) as before. This meant that as long as you had a dealer’s phone number and were willing to do a shady, street-corner transaction, you could spend very little on a small bankie of weed that would get you very high, very quickly.
Thanks to cannabis slowly becoming decriminalised around the world for private and personal use; and an avalanche of new scientific evidence proving that ‘the devil’s lettuce’ is actually a non-addictive, non-life-threatening god-send, capable of treating ailments as far-ranging as seizures and arthritis to depression and nausea, many people – women included – are having to re-think their preconceived notions of this power plant.
In fact, in Canada and parts of the United States, it’s now legal to buy it over the counter. Yup, you just visit your friendly neighbourhood dispensary and a bud-tender (cool word for sales assistant slash stoner who knows a lot more than you do about the good leaf) can advise you on exactly what strain to buy, where that cannabis comes from, how it was grown and how best to consume it. Exactly like going to Clicks, but with better, friendlier service...
Unfortunately, until the laws change locally, it’s still illegal to sell, or buy, any part of the cannabis plant, including the seeds, as well as products containing THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis that can get you high). So while local seed banks and dispensaries do exist, they’re on the down low (as in, you need to know someone who knows someone to gain access) and even then, you could find yourself behind bars if you’re bust.
While many new consumers to the cannabis market have opted to use oils, tinctures, salves and edibles that only contain CBD (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound that won’t get you high and has proven useful in providing relief from ailments including inflammation, anxiety and arthritis, to name a few), some experts have criticised the often high price point of these products, and hypothesise that THC actually facilitates CBD's therapeutic action, so leaving it out could prove to be an expensive mistake.
All of this begs the fairly obvious question: how exactly can you consume cannabis in your own home if getting hold of the real deal is still outlawed? And surely these counter-productive laws will only force more people to resort back to the illegal market we’re all supposed to be avoiding?
Luckily for us, Neil’s team at The Haze Club has come up with a no-mess, no fuss solution that’s also 100% legal. ‘It’s very simple’, Neil explains. ‘You sign up via the website, pick your payment package, then send us your seeds and we do the rest: from planting your canna-babies in your own private mini-plot at our indoor grow facility to the harvest and curing of your mature plant.’ Since they’re not selling actual seeds or weed, they tick all the legalese boxes.
No seeds? No problem: you can now choose a clone from the Mother plants of existing members who are happy to share, and your life as a remote canna-grower can begin. You can even share a grow with up to two friends, for a third of the price.
‘We’re seeing a lot more women sign up,’ says Neil. ‘They like the fact that our service is above board but still discreet, easy-to-navigate and suits their busy, professional lifestyles.’
What’s more, you’re guaranteed a premium-grade product, as all growing is done at a state-of-the-art hydroponic grow facility under the watchful gaze of THC’s master growers who ensure that THC’s high standards and tight controls remain firmly in place, with reduced risk of natural elements like wind, rain, sunlight or pests getting the better of your plants. The result? A sexy little black-and-gold package of high-quality cannabis, hand-delivered to your front door every 2-3 months.
With all the hard work taken care of, your biggest challenge will be what strain of cannabis to grow. This may sound simple enough, says Neil, ‘but it’s important to understand the complex make-up of the plant, and how it works with our bodies, before making any decisions.’
Complicating the matter even further is the fact that even scientific researchers are only getting up to speed. While many old-schoolers will insist it’s essential to know your Indica (a shorter, bushier cannabis varietal originating from Pakistan and India that’s thought to be more physically sedative) from your Sativa (a tall, sparse European varietal that’s said to provide a euphoric and invigorating effect), the new-schoolers believe otherwise.
‘The clinical effects of the cannabis chemovar have nothing to do with whether the plant is tall and sparse vs short and bushy…,’ Ethan Russo, Director of Research and Development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI) told leafly.com recently.
He points to evidence proving the importance of the ‘entourage effect’, which is how the various cannabis compounds work together to create unique effects and benefits; and how your body – which has its own cannabinoid system intact – reacts to these.
Considering there are 113 different cannabinoids (THC and CBD being the most well-known and researched but you can’t ignore the other 111); and that Terpenes - the aromatic compounds that give different cannabis strains their very particular scents – are now being touted as equally important as cannabinoids, it can feel like you need a university degree just to get a little high!
Don’t get too bogged down by all the theory, advises Neil. Here are his top tips on how to get started on strain selection:
- Do some research: ask friends for recommendations suited to the result you’re looking for (recreational or medicinal). There is also lots of information online and, since the strains are the same here as abroad, sites like Leafly are great to reference.
- Smell it: ‘the nose knows best’, says Neil. Get a good whiff of the weed you want to try and if it smells good to you, then chances are it’ll have a positive effect on you and your body.
- Consider how you will consume it: smoking and vaping have instantaneous effects so you can control your dosage; while eating it takes longer to kick in but lasts much longer. Oils and tinctures are more discreet while cooking with cannabis is a great way to save money on edibles. ‘The options are endless’, says Neil, who says he personally likes to smoke a joint with a friend. ‘I enjoy the process of rolling and sharing a spliff.’
- Start low, go slow: Use cannabis in a conscious and responsible way: start with a low-THC, high-CBD strain (see our recommendations below) and consume micro-doses to start. ‘Have just one or two drags and wait to see how you feel. You can always step it up from there,’ advises Neil.
- Notice how your body reacts: Remember, cannabis works in a unique way on every person’s endocannabinoid system. It may take some trial and error before you find a strain that matches you and your individual make-up but keep listening to your body, and you’ll quickly know what works.
Ready to select your strain? Here are our top low-THC, high-CBD strains to start with: