Cannabis: A Complete Guide, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover


A Complete Guide, 1st Edition

By Ernest Small

CRC Press

567 pages | 286 Color Illus.

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Cannabis sativa is best known as the source of marijuana, the world’s most widely consumed illicit recreational drug. However, the plant is also extremely useful as a source of stem fiber, edible seed oil, and medicinal compounds, all of which are undergoing extremely promising research, technological applications, and business investment. Indeed, despite its capacity for harm as a recreational drug, cannabis has phenomenal potential for providing new products to benefit society and for generating extensive employment and huge profits. Misguided policies, until recently, have prevented legitimate research on the beneficial properties of cannabis, but there is now an explosion of societal, scientific, and political support to reappraise and remove some of the barriers to usage. Unfortunately, there is also a corresponding dearth of objective analysis. Towards redressing the limitation of information, Cannabis: A Complete Guide is a comprehensive reference summarizing botanical, business, chemical, ecological, genetic, historical, horticultural, legal, and medical considerations that are critical for the wise advancement and management of cannabis in its various forms.

This book documents both the risks and benefits of what is indisputably one of the world’s most important species. The conflicting claims for medicinal virtues and toxicological vices are examined, based mainly on the most recent authoritative scientific reviews. The attempt is made consistently to reflect majority scientific opinion, although many aspects of cannabis are controversial. Aside from the relevance to specialists, the general public should find the presentation attractive because of the huge interest today in marijuana. Unfortunately, society has become so specialized and compartmentalized that most people have limited appreciation of the importance of science to their lives, except when a topic like marijuana becomes sensationalized. This review of cannabis can serve as a vehicle for public education in the realm of science and technology. Indeed, towards the goal of disseminating the important information in this book to a wide audience, the presentation is user-friendly, concise, and well-illustrated in the hope that non-specialists will find the topics both informative and entertaining.


If one is looking for a recent and comprehensive volume on cannabis, this is it! From general knowledge to the arcane, this near-exhaustive CRC Press volume covers the natural and anthropological history, biochemistry, taxonomy, biology, and uses of cannabis. The chapter entitled "The Commercial Marijuana Revolution" provides a brief and informative history and analysis of legalized/commercial marijuana in the US. This well-annotated, science-based volume considers both hemp and marijuana, as well as their near relatives. The volume is documented and illustrated well; it contains color photos, high quality illustrations, and diagrams. A touch of humor is added to the subject, with references to the "hemp car" and depictions of pot growers from the 1970s through the present era. The chapters "Medical Marijuana: Theory and Practice" and "Medical Marijuana: Production" are useful and informative for those interested in the actual science of this topic, as well as discussions pertaining to the history of cannabis use and the potential for treating multiple medical and psychological conditions.

--S. T. Meiers, Western Illinois University

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above; faculty and professionals.

Source: October 2017 issue of CHOICE

In addition to the potential interest of scientific, scholarly and administrative specialists, the general public ought to find Small’s new book worthy of detailed reference because of the vast and still growing concern today in Cannabis. In sum and without reservation, I would recommend that readers with an inquisitive and intellectual passion for having a vast amount of information about one of the world’s most useful and yet most notorious groups of plants obtain Ernest Small’s latest and by far his most comprehensive Cannabis publication.

- Mark Merlin, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, USA

Source: Economic Botany, Winter 2017

Table of Contents


The cannabis plant

"Cannabis" – a comprehensive term

The widespread misunderstanding that marijuana is "flowers" of Cannabis sativa

Why cannabis is controversial

Sexual reproduction in Cannabis

How the four kinds of horses are similar to the four kinds of Cannabis sativa

Wild plants

Fiber plants

Other so-called "hemps"

"Indian hemp"

Oilseed plants

Intoxicating drug plants

Genetic relationships of different kinds of cannabis plants

The criminalization and suppression of cannabis

The re-legitimization of cannabis

The decriminalization and resurrection of industrial (non-intoxicating) cannabis

"Hemp" vs. "marijuana"

The decriminalization and resurrection of medical cannabis

The decriminalization and resurrection of recreational cannabis

Benefit/harm analysis of the many ways that cannabis is used

The interface of cannabis science and public policy

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Prehuman and early history of Cannabis sativa

The family tree and prehuman antiquity of Cannabis sativa

The incredibly parallel histories of Cannabis and its closest relative, Humulus (hop)

Uncertainty regarding early historical association of Cannabis and people

Location of the pre-human distribution range

The habitat of ancient wild Cannabis sativa

The "camp-follower" model of early domestication of Cannabis sativa

How adaptation to streamside soils led to water-based fiber extraction

Earliest geographical centers of the four kinds of domesticated Cannabis sativa

Early old world geography of fiber and marijuana classes of Cannabis sativa

Early migrations of fiber and marijuana kinds of domesticated Cannabis sativa

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

The ecology of wild Cannabis sativa

The nature of "wildness"

Evaluating wildness in Cannabis sativa populations

Geography of wild Cannabis sativa

Habitats & plant communities occupied

Climate limitations



Light intensity


Edaphic (soil) limitations

Seed ecology



Seed shedding

Protective thick shell


Germination behavior



Environmental factors controlling germination

Seedling development

Seed distribution agents


Bird feed





Root ecology

Stem ecology

Phenotypic plasticity: a key to success

Biotic competitors

Human eradication efforts

Pests & diseases

Curiosities of science, technology and human behaviour

Sex expression

What is "sex" in flowering plants?

Maleness and femaleness in Cannabis in comparison to other flowering plants

Differences between male and female cannabis plants

Male plants and their flowers

Pollen dispersal

Female plants and the pollination of their flowers

Remarkable development of unpollinated female flowersMonoecious ("hermaphroditic") kinds of Cannabis sativa

Cross-fertilization and self-fertilization

Genetic determination of sex

Sex-associated DNA markers

Environmental determination of sex

Modification of sex by hormonal treatment

Reduction and elimination of males for human purposes

Culling of most male plants when seeds are produced for industrial hemp

Culling of all male plants for purpose of producing marijuana

Selection of female-predominant monoecious strains

Generation of seeds producing "all-female" plants

Use of environment and/or hormones by marijuana growers to increase females

Cloning of female plants

Summary of the demise of male cannabis under domestication

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior


Introduction to reproductive photoperiodism in Cannabis sativa

Autoflowering (day-neutral) plants

Latitudinal photoperiodic adaptation

The interaction of photoperiodism, killing frosts and seed production

Photoperiodic problems for plant of northern origin grown close to the equator

Photoperiodic problems for plant of semi-tropical origin grown in northern latitudes

Photoperiodic problems for semi-equatorial drug strains in northern climates

Unsuitable photoperiod may not be the only cause of poor performance

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Shoot and foliage architecture

Anatomy and morphology

Basic leaf botany of Cannabis

Shoot architecture of wild plants

Shoot architecture of plants grown in different field configurations

Shoot architecture of fiber crops

Reducing height of marijuana plants

"Sea of green" and "screen of green" cultivation methods

Reducing height of fiber plants

Resistance to catastrophic stem damage

Foliage architecture

Protective unicellular hairs

Cystolithic trichomes

Simple trichomes

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior


Introduction to fiber


Ancient hemp history

The golden age of hemp in the western world

The labor-intensive pre-twentieth century period

The twentieth century great demise of hemp in the western world

The recent renaissance

The two basic classes of stem fiber: phloem (bast) and xylem (wood)

Anatomy of the stem

The economically important stem tissues

Ambiguities regarding stem tissue anatomical terms

How the three kinds of fiber contribute to stem strength

Xylem fiber

Primary phloem fiber

Secondary phloem fiber


Fiber qualities

Fiber extraction technologies

How domestication has altered Cannabis sativa for fiber production

Economic products

Textiles, fabrics and clothing

Substrates for plant growth

Horticultural planting media

Biodegradable mulch

Cordage products

Pressed and molded fiber products

Paper & specialty pulp products

Building construction products

Construction wood products (pressboard, moldings)

Concretized and masonry construction products (stucco, building blocks, tiles)

Animal bedding based on hurds

Plastic biocomposites

Compressed cellulose plastics


Security requirements

General growth requirements

Root growth

Soil and fertilization

Water relations


Seed germination

Maintaining seed viability in storage

Planting requirements


Wind, rain and hail damage



Higher plant parasites

Mammalian pests



Other invertebrates









Economic status

Market development and future needs

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior


Introduction to edible fixed oil

Introduction to hempseed and hemp oil


Oil extraction and processing technology

Pressure extraction

Solvent extraction

Nutritional qualities of hemp seed and oil

Fatty acids

Essential fatty acids

Minor fatty acids






Other significant dietary constituents

Environmental control of the development of fatty acids

How domestication has altered the plant for oilseed production

Review of key information presented in previous chapters

The traditional use of tall, highly branched plants to produce hempseed

The use of short, compact plants to produce hempseed

Selection for seed characteristics

Seed whiteness

Seed size vs. seed quantity

Fatty acid quality

Hull thickness

Hemp seed and oil culinary limitations

Processed food products for humans

Raw hempseed sprouts for humans

Recipe sources

Animal feed

Beneficial aspects

Harmful aspects

Nutraceutical extracts (dietary supplements), functional foods and fortified foods

Cosmeceutical products (nutritional cosmetics)

Industrial (non-edible) products


THC contamination of oilseed products


Soil and fertilization









The potential use of oilseed cultivars to produce CBD and "highless marijuana"

Economic status

Market development and future needs

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Essential oil

Introduction to essential oil

The nature of cannabis essential oil

Possible plant-protective functions of the essential oil of Cannabis

Value of cannabis terpenoids as commercial repellents

Medical significance of terpenes in cannabis

Why eliminating terpenes by irradiating medical marijuana may be harmful

Evolution of essential oil in domesticated cannabis

Odor and other organoleptic qualities of marijuana

Odor has become a key selling criterion for marijuana

The importance of terpene odor for oilseed cannabis

Odor detection and law enforcement

Agronomic production

Commercial products

Regulatory restrictions

Economic prospects

Market potential for cannabis essential oil

Breeding cultivars for essential oil harvest

Breeding marijuana strains for attractive terpene profile

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Minor uses


Merits of Cannabis sativa as a source of biomassBiogas

Hemp solid fuel

Non-seed use of hemp as livestock feed

Ornamental use

Hemp as a protective companion plant

Natural pesticides

Hemp jewelry

Hempseed as fish bait

Hempseed as a growth medium for fungi and other microorganisms

Hemp as an agricultural pollen barrier

Edible shoots (stems & foliage)

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Cannabis chemistry: cannabinoids in cannabis, humans and other species

Glandular trichomes of cannabis: the plant’s drug factories

Cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa

Clarification of the term "psychoactive"

Clarification of the term "drug"

Basic chemistry of the cannabinoids

Decrease of intoxicant ability by transformation of THC to CBN

Variation of cannabinoids among different kinds of cannabis plants

Conversion of non-intoxicant CBD to intoxicant THC in the lab and in humans

Biosynthesis and genetics of the cannabinoids of Cannabis

Quantitative variation of cannabinoids in different plant parts

Quantitative variation of cannabinoids in relation to environmental factors

Quantitative variation of cannabinoids in relation to stress

Quantitative variation of cannabinoids in relation to chromosome doubling

Qualitative variation of cannabinoids in relation to environmental factors

Nature vs. nurture in the determination of cannabinoids of Cannabis sativa

Environmental factors influencing qualitative development of cannabinoids

Breeding for high and low levels of cannabinoids

High-THC strains

Low-THC cultivars

THC test protocols for industrial hemp

Informative online websites regarding THC sampling procedures for hemp

Adaptive purpose of the cannabinoids

Expanded definitions of cannabinoids

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Non-medical drug usage

Reliability of counterculture information

The cannabis experience

Biphasic effects

Sequence of psychological impacts

Pleasant psychological effects

Unpleasant psychological symptoms


Physiological effects

Health risks

Concern for mental status

Cannabis dependence

Cannabis withdrawal syndrome

Marijuana as a "gateway drug"

Concern for lung function

Societal vs. individual health

Driving risks

Risk of contamination and adulteration of street marijuana

Risk of exposure to indoor grow-op environments

Risk to dogs

The great debate: is cannabis relatively harmful or benign?

Representative viewpoints that cannabis is relatively harmful

Representative viewpoints that cannabis is relatively benign

Global usage of marijuana

A brief history of non-medical psychotropic usage of cannabis drugs

Modern spiritual usage of cannabis

Cannabiphobia and the cultural war on marijuana

Growing public acceptance of marijuana

The genetic "improvement" of marijuana due to law enforcement

Formal botanical nomenclature and "strains" of Cannabis sativa

The evolution of high-THC strains

"Sativa-type" and "indica-type," the two domesticated kinds of marijuana plants

Selection for color in marijuana strains

Plant production

Distortion of botanical and horticultural terms by the marijuana trade

Technologies for preparing cannabis drugs


Traditional hashish

Solvent extracts

Advanced non-solvent technologies for preparing concentrates of gland heads

Water extracts ("teas")

Technologies for smoking and vaping cannabis drugs

Joints & blunts

Simple (non-filtering) pipes

Water pipes



Edible cannabis

Preferred modes of marijuana consumption

Fake marijuana

Ethical perspectives of decriminalization and legalization of recreational marijuana

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Medical marijuana

Introduction to the controversy

How medical does marijuana have to be to qualify as "medical marijuana?"

Medical marijuana as a pretext for non-medical use

A brief history of medical usage of cannabis

Non-cannabinoid medicinal components

Bias in research on medical marijuana

Bias against euphoric medicines

The issue of addiction

The issue of incapacitation (reduction in abilities) while intoxicated

Transfer of bias against THC to non-intoxicating cannabinoids

The importance of experimental design in evaluating medical marijuana

The precautionary principle in relation to medical marijuana

Recent authorized medical marijuana production and usage

Pharmacological terminology for marijuana

Comparative therapeutic value of pure chemicals and herbal mixtures

The medicinal importance of combining THC and CBD

The accidental medicinal value of "indica-type" strains

Overview of medical marijuana preparations

Medical marijuana drug delivery systems

Safer respiratory systems

Conventional smoking

Valsalva maneuver and prolonged breath-holding

Water pipes


Oral consumption

Synthetic oral cannabis drugs

Dermal and mucosal drug absorption

THC dosages, absorption rates & time course of effects




Blood concentrations of THC in relation to safe driving

The endocannabinoid system as a basis for much of the medical value of marijuana

Overview of the endocannabinoid system

Introduction to cell receptors and G protein-coupled receptors


Endocannabinoid receptors

Inter-cellular communication involving endocannabinoids

The broad range of compounds affecting the endocannabinoid system

Effects of cannabinoids on non-endocannabinoid physiological systems

Medical importance of the endocannabinoid system

Extensive activity of the endocannabinoid system limits targeted therapy

Evolution of the endocannabinoid system & potential for non-human patients

The endocannabinoid system in relation to the lack of overdose marijuana mortality

LD50 (median lethal dose)

Therapeutic index

Comparative overdose lethality of cannabis and other drugs

Cannabinoids as a possible basis for eliminating the need for herbal medical marijuana

Medical conditions for which cannabis has or may have value

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease)

Anorexia & appetite loss

Arthritis & rheumatism

Brain injury


Cardiovascular diseases







Gastrointestinal diseases




Human immunodeficiency virus & acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

Huntington’s disease


Liver disease

Morning sickness

Multiple sclerosis and spasticity

Neurodegenerative diseases





Parkinson’s disease

Psychiatric disorders



Autism spectrum disorder

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Bipolar disorder


Posttraumatic stress disorder


Skin conditions

Acne & seborrhea







Tourette’s syndrome

Medical applications of specific cannabinoids







Inflammatory bowel diseases

Nausea and vomiting

Neurodegenerative diseases


Psychiatric disorders


Other natural cannabinoids




Cautions regarding medical marijuana

Limitations of expert medical guidance in the use of medical marijuana

Allergies due to Cannabis sativa

Is marijuana a bona fide medicine? Tentative conclusions

Medical-ethical perspectives of legalization of medical marijuana

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Medical marijuana: production

The need for high standards of professionalism

Fundamentals of marijuana plant production

Overview of production

Planting density & yields

Indoor yields

Outdoor yields

Governmental production quotas

Growth media

Vegetative propagation


Light intensity

Light quality

Fluorescent lighting

High pressure sodium lighting

Metal halide lighting

LED lighting

Recommended lighting


Atmospheric growth conditions


Air-borne contaminants in relation to stickiness

Carbon dioxide concentration

Insect control

Harvest & drying



Quality control

Microbiological safety and sterilization

Monitoring and controlling the production of standardized herbal marijuana

Informative online documents and websites regarding production of medical marijuana

Security considerations

Biotechnological approaches of potential importance to medicinal marijuana

In vitro production

Genetic engineering

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

The commercial marijuana revolution

A sea change for better or worse

Commercial obscuration of the distinction between medical and recreational marijuana

Prescription drugs vs over-the-counter herbals

Physician gatekeepers for hire to provide legal access to pseudopatients

Prescription drugs vs. over-the-counter herbals

The evolution of physician acceptance of medical cannabis

Softening of medical opposition

Medicine by popular vote

Profit-driven vs. health-driven medical marijuana

Patient financial reimbursement

Medical vs. recreational marijuana markets

The role of "Big Tobacco"

Professional niches in the developing marijuana business sector

Opposition to commercialization of recreational marijuana

Medical opposition to recreational marijuana

Political opposition to recreational marijuana

Badmouthing the competition

Growing societal acceptance of recreational marijuana

The need for caution in legitimizing marijuana

Chronic consumption

Effects of increased availability of authorized cannabis

Effects on prevalence of usage

Effects on health

Effects on crime rate

Financial guestimates of the potential monetary value of recreational marijuana

Economic effects of legitimizing marijuana on the illegitimate marijuana industry

Costs of production of marijuana

Elementary business hazards: will the "pot boom" become a "pot bubble?"

Possible scenarios of success or collapse of sectors of the marijuana market



Why not harvest CBD from hemp?


Genetically engineered Cannabis sativa

Marketplace constraints related to "cheap highs"

Comparative costs of pot and booze

Co-existence of black and white markets

Absence of foreign competition for authorized marijuana

Consumer trends

Market production models: big vs. small-scale businesses

Market outlet formats

State monopoly vs. private sector

"Weed bars"

Pot restaurants

Home delivery ("weed on wheels")

Patient financial reimbursement


Potency as a determinant of sales restriction

The age of majority – a problematical determinant of sales and consumption restrictions

Legal considerations


International treaties

Legal models

The Netherlands

United States


Other countries


Opium poppy as a business model for marijuana production

Laughing gas as a business model for marijuana production

The great irony: from counterculture narcotic to mass-marked commodity

The cannabis roads to heaven and hell

The precautionary principle in relation to commercial development of cannabis

Reasonable regulatory risk management

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior


The reputation of the cannabis plant for sustainability

How major crops harm the world and why Cannabis sativa can be beneficial

Comparative environmental friendliness of Cannabis sativa and other crops

Biocide reduction

Using up surplus manure

Miscellaneous environmental advantages

Environmental disadvantages

Saving trees


Wildlife support

Environmentally-friendly commercial products

Hemp vs. cotton


Carbon sequestering

Thermal insulation products

Erosion control blankets

State subsidization of industrial hemp – good or bad?

Environmental cost of indoor production of marijuana

Ecological damage from irresponsible illegal cultivation of marijuana

The dangerous concept of employing bioweapons to eliminate marijuana plants

Sustainability depends on using sustainable methods

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Germplasm resources

Definition of germplasm

In situ vs. ex situ conservation of wild germplasm

Private ownership of germplasm vs. long-term conservation in public collections

World genebank situation

Seed storage in genebanks

Clonal storage in genebanks

Cell and tissue storage in genebanks

Core collections

The importance of N.I. Vavilov

Seed storage conditions for Cannabis sativa

The challenge of preventing pollen contamination of Cannabis sativa germplasm

The shamefully inadequate state of germplasm preservation of Cannabis sativa

The germplasm importance of wild-growing Cannabis sativa

The germplasm importance of landraces of Cannabis sativa

Chinese germplasm of Cannabis sativa

World genebank collections of Cannabis sativa

European "national collections" of Cannabis sativa

The Vavilov Institute collection

The Gatersleben collection

North american public germplasm collections of Cannabis sativa

Germplasm collections and the future of industrial hemp

Germplasm resources for fiber

Germplasm resources for oilseed

Germplasm resources for essential oil

Germplasm collections and the future of medicinal & recreational marijuana


Industrial hemp

Medicinal & recreational cannabis

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

Botanical classification and nomenclatural issues

Theoretical classification issues

Scientific classifications often differ

Scientific names are often ambiguous

Geographical uncertainties complicate interpretation of groups

Possible relationships among wild ancestors, domesticates and escapes

Classification difficulties due to hybridization

Stereotypical thinking – a roadblock to biological classificatio

Classification difficulties due to obliteration of populations by humansTaxonomic splitting and rank inflation

The semantic "legal species" issue (or dressing up a wolf in sheep’s clothing)

Domestication complicates classification

A comparison of competing classification systems for Cannabis

Semantic difficulties concerning "sativa-type" and "indica-type" Cannabis sativa

Homogenization due to gene flow

Alternative taxonomic and nomenclatural treatments

Cannabis assemblages as conventional taxa

Cannabis cultivar assemblages as "groups" under the cultivated plant code

Crop-wild assemblages as non-formal groups

Occam’s razor in relation to the evolution and classification of Cannabis

How many species of Cannabis merit recognition?

A rationale for emphasizing the principal selected character complexes in classification

A practical and natural taxonomy for Cannabis

Identification key to subspecies and varieties of Cannabis sativa L.

Curiosities of science, technology and human behavior

About the Author

Dr. Ernest Small received a doctorate in plant evolution from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969, and has since been employed with the Research Branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, where he presently holds the status of Principal Research Scientist. He is the author of 14 previous books, six of which received or were nominated for major awards. He has also authored over 350 scientific publications on plants. Dr. Small’s career has included dozens of appearances as an expert botanical witness in court cases, acting as an adviser to national governments, presenting numerous invited university and professional association lectures, supervising post-graduate students at various universities, participating in international societies and committees, journal editing and media interviews. He has been an adjunct professor at several universities, and currently has this status at Ryerson University in Toronto. Dr. Small is widely known for his work on hemp and marijuana, which has included development of a standard strain that has been the basis of all licensed medicinal marijuana in Canada for more than a decade, supplying over 100,000 patients. Dr. Small published two previous books and more than 40 research papers on Cannabis. He has received several professional honors, including: election as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London; the G.M. Cooley Prize of the American Association of Plant Taxonomists for work on the marijuana plant; the Agcellence Award for distinguished contributions to agriculture; the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for contributions to science; the George Lawson Medal, the most prestigious award of the Canadian Botanical Association, for lifetime contributions to botany; and the Lane Anderson Award, a $10,000.00 prize for science popularization, received for "Top 100 Food Plants." His most recent books, "Top 100 Exotic Food Plants," and "North American Cornucopia: top 100 indigenous food plants," were finalists for the Botanical and Horticultural Libraries’ award.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Botany
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General