The Facts About Marijuana
Marijuana or cannabis is derived from the plant Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica which is a relation to the nettle and hop plants. Originating from the mountain regions of India, the cannabis plant can grow to a height of 5 metres and flowers naturally from summer to mid autumn. It now grows wildly all around the world and has been cultivated for use for thousands of years for medical, recreational and religious purposes. The earliest written account of cannabis use is in Chinese and dates back to 2800 BC.
Some little known facts about marijuana include it containing over 400 chemicals, with the chief ‘psychoactive’ ingredient being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. This agent imitates the actions of neurotransmitters in the brain and disturbs the normal functions of the body. It also contains cannabidiolic acid, an antibiotic with properties similar to penicillin.
There is more tar in marijuana than tobacco and it has a higher intensity of cancer causing agents than cigarettes too. As a result of this and its hallucinogenic side effects, cannabis became a controlled substance in Great Britain in 1928.
Marijuana is commonly smoked with a mixture of tobacco in a hand rolled cannabis cigarette, also known as a joint or spliff. It can be eaten raw or added to food, for example in cake mixtures. When eaten, the effects can be stronger as the size of the dose is less controllable.
The favourable effects experienced by users include cheerfulness and relaxation, with a feeling of light-headedness. This is known as being stoned or ‘high’.
Not all the effects of marijuana are good though. Users may experience mild hallucinations and sensory alterations leading to panic and paranoia. When used at the same time as alcohol people may feel nauseous and start vomiting, this is known as ‘white’ or ‘spinout’.
Short term memory loss can occur, as can a reduction of coordination due to the temporary confusion of areas of the brain that control a person’s normal functions. Long term use can lead to more serious memory loss and problems with attention span and learning ability.
As marijuana users inhale more smoke for longer periods of time than cigarette smokers, they may absorb up to four times as much tar, which can put them at a higher risk of lung cancer, especially as cannabis smoke contains the cancer causing agent polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Studies have shown that just three ‘joints’ of marijuana a day can cause the same amount of damage to health as twenty cigarettes.