Why does pot produce cannabinoids?

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The little hairs that cover a cannabis plant are the source of the chemicals that get you high, writes Anna Tiley at Science Says. And the plant produces those chemicals as a self-defense mechanism. The sticky cannabinoids trap small insects that try to eat the plants and prevent the spread of disease.

Image: Some rights reserved by Melanie Tata.

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  1. Makes me wonder: all of those high thc varieties
    - Are they any better at resisting insects/disease
    -Is the high level of production a burden that they cannot manage outside of a certain amount of human cultivation
    -Other than getting you arrested, possibly poisoned would slathering yourself in these substances help with insects?

  2. Well, you would probably stop feeling bothered by insects. Real ones, anyway...

  3. They've known about trichomes for a while while now and yup, that's where it seems the majority of THC resides. I'd like the other cannabinoids residing within the CBD range to be studied a lot more. I have a medical condition that requires me to inhale cannabis, and it isn't the THC part that it responses best to (confirmed by also ingesting prescribed synthetic THC pills). I'd much rather not smoke plant for medical treatment... I don't gnaw on willow bark either for headaches. Gotta love phrases like "medically refractory to treatment". Woo... dystonia.

  4. As far as protection from disease goes, the horrid grey mould that occasionally attacks my, er, friend's plants would like to have a word with you. Horrid stuff.

  5. Makes me wonder: all of those high thc varieties

    The amount of THC or other cannabinoids (and terpenes, see below) in these glands also depends on how old the plant is when it is harvested.

    • Are they any better at resisting insects/disease

    Not necessarily, no. Though some choice genetics might be put to work on this problem.

    -Is the high level of production a burden that they cannot manage outside of a certain amount of human cultivation

    The females grow the flowers that grow the trichomes, for the most part, so yes, humans need to kill all the males. Plant misandry, oh no!

    -Other than getting you arrested, possibly poisoned would slathering yourself in these substances help with insects?

    No poisoning, nothing in the plant is actually toxic (hence why there have never been overdoses of cannabis). But I think you're on to something: extraction from these trichomes by, for instance, distilling the plant into an oil, may very well be an insect repellent. You jsut have to convince someone with an abundance of the plant to help you test that theory! But I don't see why not.

    The terpenes produced by the plant are a big deal too, and not mentioned in the article. These are essential oils that give the plant its scent. For instance, some strains of cannabis produce many pinenes, making the plant smell piney. Those are also there to keep off insects.

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