What is cannabis ?


Cannabis is the most durable of the hemp plants, and it produces the toughest cloth, called `canvass.’ (Canvass was widely used as sails in the early shipping industry, as it was the only cloth which would not rot on contact with sea spray.) The cannabis plant also produces three other very important products which the other hemp plants do not (in usable form, that is): seed, pulp, and medicine.

The pulp is used as fuel, and to make paper. The seed is suitable for both human and animal foods. The oil from the seed can be used in as a base for paints and varnishes. The medicine is a tincture or admixture of the sticky resin in the blossoms and leaves of the hemp plant, and is used for a variety of purposes.

How much weed should a joint contain ?

The amount of weed in a joint can differ greatly. There are people who smoke joints containing only pure weed or hash. The disadvantage of this is that the joint doesn’t burn straight, and you have to light it a few times. The regular joint contains 0.5 to 0.75 grams, depending on the quality of your weed or hash.

When did marijuana become illegal ?

Marijuana was grown by many early colonists but was outlawed in the 1920s by Congress after an intense lobbying effort by John D. Anslinger. It is currently classified as a Schedule 1 drug, despite many potential benefits.

What are marijuana’s effects ?

Once ingested, THC enters the bloodstream and is carried to different parts of the body, including the brain, where it binds to cannabinoid receptors on specific nerve cells and triggers the release of dopamine, the brain’s “pleasure chemical.” This is what creates the drug’s intoxicating effect. Smoking marijuana can bring about an altered mental state within seconds; when consumed as food, it may take up to an hour. Marijuana’s hallmark sign is its dreamy euphoria. The “stoned” user is typically relaxed, or “laid back,” and may become giggly or experience heightened auditory and visual sensations. (Popular culture has certified entire genres of films and music as “stoner movies” and “stoner bands” for their appeal to people using marijuana.) Other effects can include short-term memory problems (“What was I saying again?”) and an inability to concentrate.  Physically, the drug hinders your reaction time, hampers your coordination, and distorts your perception, all of which make driving a very bad idea. Marijuana often induces serious hunger cravings (popularly known as “the munchies”). It dries out your mouth (“cotton mouth”), accelerates your heart rate, and expands the blood vessels in your eyes (producing the telltale bloodshot look). The strength and concentration of the drug and whether it’s mixed with another substance can intensify some or all of these effects.

How can marijuana be used as medicine ?

Marijuana has thousands of possible uses in medicine. Marijuana (actually cannabis extract) was available as a medicine legally in this country until 1937, and was sold as a nerve tonic — but mankind has been using cannabis medicines much longer than that. Marijuana appears in almost every known book of medicine written by ancient scholars and wise men. It is usually ranked among the top
medicines, called `panaceas’, a word which means `cure-all’. The list of diseases which cannabis can be used for includes: multiple sclerosis, cancer treatment, AIDS (and AIDS treatment), glaucoma, depression, epilepsy, migraine headaches, asthma, pruritis, sclerodoma, severe pain, and dystonia. This list does not even consider the other medicines which can be made out of marijuana — these are
just some of the illnesses for which people smoke or eat whole marijuana today.

There are over 60 chemicals in marijuana which may have medical uses. It is relatively easy to extract these into food or beverage, or into some sort of lotion, using butter, fat, oil, or alcohol. One chemical, cannabinol, may be useful to help people who cannot sleep. Another is taken from premature buds and is called cannabidiolic acid. It is a powerful disinfectant. Marijuana dissolved in rubbing alcohol helps people with the skin disease herpes control their sores, and a salve like this was one of the earliest
medical uses for cannabis. The leaves were once used in bandages and a relaxing non-psychoactive herbal tea can be made from small cannabis stems.

The most well known use of marijuana today is to control nausea and vomiting. One of the most important things when treating cancer with chemotherapy or when treating AIDS with AZT or Foscavir, being able to eat well, makes the difference between life or death. Patients have found
marijuana to be extremely effective in fighting nausea; in fact so many patients use it for this purpose even though it is illegal that they have formed `buyers clubs’ to help them find a steady supply. In California, some city governments have decided to look the other way and allow these clubs to
operate openly.

Marijuana is also useful for fighting two other very serious and wide-spread disabilities. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, caused by uncontrollable eye pressure. Marijuana can control the eye pressure and keep glaucoma from causing blindness. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks nerve cells. Spasms and many other problems result from this. Marijuana not only helps stop these spasms, but it may also keep multiple sclerosis from getting worse.

Doesn’t marijuana stay in your fat cells and keep you high for months ?

No. The part of marijuana that gets you high is called `Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.’ Most people just call this THC, but this is confusing: your body will change Delta-9-THC into more inert molecules known as `metabolites,’ which don’t get you high. Unfortunately, these chemicals also have the word `tetrahydrocannabinol’ in them and they are also called THC — so many people think that the metabolites get you high. Anti-drug pamphlets say that THC gets stored in your fat cells and then leaks out later like one of those `time release capsules’ advertised on television. They say it can keep you high all day or even longer. This is not true, marijuana only keeps you high for a few hours, and it is not right to think that a person who fails a drug test is always high on drugs, either.  Two of these metabolites are called `11-hydroxy-tetrahydrocannabinol’ and `11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’ but we will call them 11-OH-THC and 11-nor instead. These are the chemicals which stay in your fatty cells. There is almost no Delta-9-THC left over a few hours after smoking marijuana, and scientific studies which measure the effects of marijuana agree with this fact.

Where did the word `marijuana’ come from?
The word `marijuana’ is a Mexican slang term which became popular in the late 1930’s in America, during a series of media and government programs which we now refer to as the `Reefer Madness Movement.’ It refers specifically to the medicine part of cannabis, which Mexican soldiers used to smoke.
Today in the U.S., hemp (meaning the roots, stalk, and stems of the cannabis plant) is legal to possess. No one can arrest you for wearing a hemp shirt, or using hemp paper. Marijuana (The flowers, buds, or leaves of the cannabis plant) is not legal to possess, and there are stiff fines and possible jail terms for having any marijuana in your possession. The seeds are legal to possess and eat, but only if they are sterilized (will not grow to maturity.)
Since it is not possible to grow the hemp plant without being in possession of marijuana, the United States does not produce any industrial hemp products, and must import them or, more often, substitute others. (There is a way to grow hemp legally, but it involves filing an application with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the DEA very rarely ever gives its permission.) This does not seem to have stopped people from producing and using marijuana, though. In many of the United States, marijuana is the number one cash crop, mostly because it fetches a very high price on the black market.
But … isn’t today’s marijuana much more potent than it was in the Sixties?
GOOD! Actually, this is not true, but if it were, it would mean that marijuana is safer to smoke today than it was in the Sixties. (More potent cannabis means less smoking means less lung damage.) People who use this statistic just plain do not know what they are talking about. Sometimes they will even claim that marijuana is now twenty to thirty times stronger, which is physically impossible because it would have to be *over* 100% Delta-9-THC. The truth is, marijuana has not really changed potency all that much, if at all, in the last several hundred years. Growing potent cannabis is an ancient art which has not improved in centuries, despite all our modern technology. Before marijuana was even made illegal, drug stores sold tinctures of cannabis which were over 40% THC.

Even so, the point is moot because marijuana smokers engage in something called `auto-titration.’ This basically means smoking until they are satisfied and then stopping, so it does not really matter if the marijuana is more potent because they will smoke less of it. Marijuana is not like pre-moistened towelettes or snow-cones. There is nothing forcing marijuana smokers to smoke an entire joint.

Experienced marijuana users are accustomed to smoking marijuana from many different suppliers, and they know that if they smoke a whole joint of very potent bud they will get `TOO STONED’. Since being `too stoned’ is a rather unpleasant experience, smokers quickly learn to take their time and `test the waters’ when they do not know how strong their marijuana is.

Doesn’t Marijuana cause brain damage?
The short answer: No.
The long answer: The reason why you ask this is because you probably heard or read somewhere that marijuana damages brain cells, or makes you stupid. These claims are untrue.
The first one — marijuana kills brain cells — is based on research done during the second Reefer Madness Movement. A study attempted to show that marijuana smoking damaged brain structures in monkeys. However, the study was poorly performed and it was severely criticized by a medical review board. Studies done afterwards failed to show any brain damage, in fact a very recent study on Rhesus monkeys used technology so sensitive that scientists could actually see the effect of learning on brain cells, and it found no damage.

But this was Reefer Madness II, and the prohibitionists were looking around for anything they could find to keep the marijuana legalization movement in check, so this study was widely used in anti-marijuana propaganda. It was recanted later.

(To this day, the radical anti-drug groups, like P.R.I.D.E. and Dr. Gabriel Nahas, still use it — In fact, America’s most popular drug education program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, claims that marijuana “can impair memory perception & judgement by destroying brain cells.” When police and teachers read this and believe it, our job gets really tough, since it takes a long time to explain to children how Ms. Jones and Officer Bob were wrong.)

The truth is, no study has ever demonstrated cellular damage, stupidity, mental impairment, or insanity brought on specifically by marijuana use — even heavy marijuana use. This is not to say that it cannot be abused, however.

If it doesn’t kill brain cells, how does it get you `high’?
Killing brain cells is not a pre-requisite for getting `high.’ Marijuana contains a chemical which substitutes for a natural brain chemical, with a few differences. This chemical touches special `buttons’ on brain cells called `receptors.’ Essentially, marijuana `tickles’ brain cells. The legal drug alcohol also tickles brain cells, but it will damage and kill them by producing toxins (poisons) and sometimes mini-seizures. Also, some drugs will wear out the buttons which they push, but marijuana does not.
Don’t people die from smoking pot?
Nobody has ever overdosed. For any given substance, there are bound to be some people who have allergic reactions. With marijuana this is extremely rare, but it could happen with anything from apples to pop-tarts. Not one death has ever been directly linked to marijuana itself. In contrast, many legal drugs cause hundreds to hundreds of thousands of deaths per year, foremost among them are alcohol, nicotine, valium, aspirin, and caffiene. The biggest danger with marijuana is that it is illegal, and someone may mix it with another drug like PCP.

Marijuana is so safe that it would be almost impossible to overdose on it. Doctors determine how safe a drug is by measuring how much it takes to kill a person (they call this the LD50) and comparing it to the amount of the drug which is usually taken (ED50). This makes marijuana hundreds of times safer than alcohol, tobacco, or caffiene. According to a DEA Judge “marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance known to mankind.”

Is marijuana going to make my boyfriend go psycho?
Marijuana does not `cause’ psychosis. Psychotic people can smoke marijuana and have an episode, but there is nothing in marijuana that actually initiates or increases these episodes. Of course, if any mentally ill person is given marijuana for the first time or without their knowledge, they might get scared and `freak.’ Persons who suffer from severe psychological disorders often use marijuana as a way of coping. Because of this, some researchers have assumed that marijuana is the cause of these problems, when it is actually a symptom. If you have heard that marijuana makes people go crazy, this is probably why.
Don’t users of marijuana withdraw from society?
To some extent, yes. That’s probably just because they are afraid of being arrested, though. The same situation exists with socially maladjusted persons as does with the mentally ill. Emotionally troubled individuals find marijuana to be soothing, and so they tend to use it more than your average person. Treatment specialists see this, and assume that the marijuana is causing the problem. This is a mistake which hurts the patient, because their doctors will pay less attention to their actual needs, and concentrate on ending their drug habit. Sometimes the cannabis is even helping them to recover. Cannabis can be abused, and it can make these situations worse, but psychologists should approach marijuana use with an open mind or they risk hurting their patient.

Marijuana itself does not make normal people anti-social. In fact, a large psychological study of teenagers found that casual marijuana users are more well adjusted than `drug free’ people. This would be very amusing, but it is a serious problem. There are children who have emotional problems which keep them from participating in healthy, explorative behavior. They need psychological help but instead they are skipped over. Marijuana users who do not need help are having treatment forced on them, and in the mean-time marijuana takes the blame for the personality characteristics and problems of the people who like to use it improperly.

Is it true that marijuana makes you lazy and unmotivated?
Not if you are a responsible adult, it doesn’t. Ask the U.S. Army. They did a study and showed no effect. If this were true, why would many Eastern cultures, and Jamaicans, use marijuana to help them work harder? `Amotivational syndrome’ started as a media myth based on the racial stereotype of a lazy Mexican borracho. The prohibitionists claimed that marijuana made people worthless and sluggish. Since then, however, it has been scientifically researched, and a symptom resembling amotivational syndrome has actually been found. However, it only occurs in adolescent teenagers — adults are not affected.When a person reaches adolescence, their willingness to work usually increases, but this does not happen for teenagers using marijuana regularly — even just on the weekends. The actual studies involved monkeys, not humans, and the results are not verified, but older studies which tried to show `amotivational syndrome’ usually only suceeded when they studied adolescents. Adults are not effected.

The symptoms are not permanent, and motivation returns to normal levels several months after marijuana smoking stops. However, a small number of people may be unusually sensitive to this effect. One of the monkeys in the experiment was severely amotivated and did not recover. Doctors will need to study this more before they know why.

Isn’t smoking marijuana worse for you than smoking cigarettes?
There are many reasons why it is not. You may have heard that “one joint is equal to ten cigarrettes” but this is exagerrated and misleading. Marijuana does contain more tar than tobacco — but low tar cigarettes cause just as much cancer, so what is that supposed to mean? Scientists have shown that smoking any plant is bad for your lungs, because it increases the number of `lesions’ in your small airways. This usually does not threaten your life, but there is a chance it will lead to infections. Marijuana users who are worried about this can find less harmful ways of taking marijuana like eating or vaporizing. (Be careful — marijuana is safe to eat — but tobacco is not, you might overdose!) Marijuana does not seem to cause cancer the way tobacco does, though.


Here is a list of interesting facts about marijuana smoking and tobacco smoking:

  • Marijuana smokers generally don’t chain smoke, and so they smoke less. (Marijuana is not physically addictive like tobacco.) The more potent marijuana is, the less a smoker will use at a time.
  • Tobacco contains nicotine, and marijuana doesn’t. Nicotine may harden the arteries and may be responsible for much of the heart disease caused by tobacco. New research has found that it may also cause a lot of the cancer in tobacco smokers and people who live or work where tobacco is smoked. This is because it breaks down into a cancer causing chemical called `N Nitrosamine’ when it is burned (and maybe even while it is inside the body as well.)
  • Marijuana contains THC. THC is a bronchial dilator, which means it works like a cough drop and opens up your lungs, which aids clearance of smoke and dirt. Nicotine does just the opposite; it makes your lungs bunch up and makes it harder to cough anything up.
  • There are benefits from marijuana (besides bronchial dilation) that you don’t get from tobacco. Mainly, marijuana makes you relax, which improves your health and well-being.
  • Scientists do not really know what it is that causes malignant lung cancer in tobacco. Many think it may be a substance known as Lead 210. Of course, there are many other theories as to what does cause cancer, but if this is true, it is easy to see why NO CASE OF LUNG CANCER RESULTING FROM MARIJUANA USE ALONE HAS EVER BEEN DOCUMENTED, because tobacco contains much more of this substance than marijuana.
  • Marijuana laws make it harder to use marijuana without damaging your body. Water-pipes are illegal in many states. Filtered cigarettes, vaporizers, and inhalers have to be mass produced, which is hard to arrange `underground.’ People don’t eat marijuana often because you need more to get as high that way, and it isn’t cheap or easy to get (which is the reason why some people will stoop to smoking leaves.) This may sound funny to you — but the more legal marijuana gets, the safer it is.

It is pretty obvious to users that marijuana prohibition laws are not “for their own good.” In addition to the above, legal marijuana would be clean and free from adulturants. Some people add other drugs to marijuana before they sell it. Some people spray room freshener on it or soak in in chemicals like formaldehyde! A lot of the marijuana is grown outdoors, where it may be sprayed with pesticides or contaminated with dangerous fungi. If the government really cared about our health, they would form an agency which would make sure only quality marijuana was sold. This would be cheaper than keeping it illegal, and it would keep people from getting hurt and going to the emergency room.