• Classification: Cannabis
  • CSA Schedule: Schedule I
  • Trade or Other Names: Pot, Acapulco Gold, grass, reefer, sinsemilla, Thai sticks
  • Medical Uses: None
  • Physical Dependence: Unknown
  • Psychological Dependence: Moderate
  • Duration (hours): 2–4
  • Usual Method: Smoked, oral
  • Possible Effects: Euphoria, relaxed inhibitions, increased appetite, disorientation
  • Effects of Overdose: Fatigue, paranoia, possible psychosis
  • Withdrawal Syndrome: Occasional reports of insomnia, hyperactivity, decreased appetite

About Marijuana (a.k.a Cannabis)

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, is a plant that grows freely throughout the world. The cannabis plant is known most commonly today as a potent psychoactive substance ( a substance having a profound or significant effect on mental processes[1]), but for many years, it was harvested primarily for its fiber. The strong cannabis fibers were used to produce clothes, rope, and ship sails. Although cannabis was cultivated for several centuries in other parts of the world for its mind-altering properties, its psychoactive properties commonly associated with the plant did not become widely known in the United States until the early 1900’s.

The term “marijuana” is based on the Portuguese word mariguango, which can be translated as “intoxicant.” Marijuana is different than hashish. Although both are derived from the Cannabis plant. Marijuana is the leafy top portion of the plant, whereas hashish is made from the dust of the resin that the cannabis plant produces for protection from the sun and heat and for maintaining hydration. Plants that grow in warmer climates produce greater amounts of the resin, which has stronger psychoactive effects.

Its scientific name, Cannabis, Latin for “cultivated hemp,” was given by the Swedish scientist Linnaeus. The plant grows wild throughout most of the tropical and temperate regions of the world, including parts of the United States. Cultivation of cannabis hemp was popular in the production of durable fiber made from its stem; cannabis seeds have been used in livestock feed mixtures, and its oil residues has been used to make paint.

The psychoactive mind-altering part of the plant is an isomer of tetrahydrocannabinol, delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is mostly concentrated in the leaves and resinous flowering tops.

[1] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/psychoactive

Origins of Marijuana use

According to Ernest Abel in his book Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years (1980), the earliest known evidence of the use of cannabis occurred more than 10,000 years ago during the Stone Age. Archeologists discovered pots made of fibers presumed to be from the cannabis plant in Taiwan. The earliest known use of cannabis for its pharmacological properties are attributed to Shen Nung in about 2800 B.C. Shen Nung was a mythical Chinese emperor and pharmacist who shared the knowledge of the medicinal uses of cannabis with his subjects. It has been speculated that cannabis was used in this period in China for sedation, treating pain and illness, countering the influences of evil spirits, and gaining its general psychoactive effects. Cannabis use gradually spread from China to surrounding Asian countries. In India, the plant was intended to serve religious purposes. The Atharva Veda, one of the oldest books of Hinduism, includes it as one of the five sacred plants. Later cannabis use spread to the Middle East and then on to North Africa. During this cannabis expansion, hashish was first identified.

The presence of cannabis in the New World dates to XVI century when the Spaniards brought it to Chile. In the North American colonies, the Jamestown settlers in Virginia cultivated the cannabis plant for its fibers. Not long after, hemp production was firmly entrenched as an essential staple crop and was widely cultivated. Cannabis remained a core U.S. crop until after the Civil War. The center of hemp production was Kentucky, where it was a major cash crop. Despite its widespread presence, the marijuana plant was relatively unknown as a mind-altering substance. However, there was some recognition of its uses beyond the fiber component. Following the lead of European doctors, American physicians used cannabis in the 1800s, as a general, all-purpose medication. The most commonly used preparation was Tilden’s Extract of Cannabis Indica, an Indian hemp plant produced in East Bengal. By the 1850s, marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia, a listing of legitimate therapeutics; it remained there until 1942. The cannabis extract also was listed in the less select National Formulary. Cannabis was consumed for recreational purposes only to a limited extent during this period, and descriptions of its psychoactive effects were not common.

The 1920s brought a wider use of cannabis. Edward M. Brecher, in The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs (1972), attributes this increase to alcohol prohibition. He writes, “Not until the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act of 1920 raised the price of alcoholic beverages and made them less convenient to secure and inferior in quality did substantial commercial trade in marijuana for recreational use spring up”.

Currently, marijuana is probably the most used and abused drug all around the globe peaking its popularity mostly among the teenagers.

How marijuana is consumed

Marijuana and hashish have been administered in a number of ways in their use as psychoactive agents. For example, they were ingested in India centuries ago in liquid and food form. People can also experience the psychoactive effects of marijuana by chewing marijuana leaves. However, the most common procedure for ingesting cannabis in this country has been and remains smoking, typically in cigarette (joint – a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette) form. Inhalation through cigarettes is also the most efficient method for absorption of cannabis. Other methods of smoking marijuana include water pipes (often called bongs) or blunts (a cigar that is emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana). The smoking of blunts has increased in popularity among American urban youth and may present some unique health risks, given the combined intake of the marijuana and tobacco (as the cigar wrapper is a tobacco leaf). For example, smoking marijuana in a tobacco leaf appears to increase the risks of marijuana by enhancing carbon monoxide exposure and increasing heart rate relative to smoking marijuana in joint form.

Effects of Marijuana Use

Short Term Use Effects:

  • Short-term memory problems
  • Severe anxiety, including fear that one is being watched or followed (paranoia)
  • Very strange behavior, seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren’t there, not being able to tell imagination from reality (psychosis)
  • Panic
  • Hallucinations
  • Lowered reaction time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Problems with coordination
  • Sexual problems

Chronic Use Effects:

  • Decline in IQ
  • Poor performance
  • Impaired thinking and ability to learn and perform complex tasks
  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Addiction
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Financial difficulties