Marijuana, or Cannabis, is a flowering plant cultivated and used by humans for several purposes. The most well-known of which is as a psychoactive drug. Also referred to as ganja, pot, weed or herb, it has persisted as one of the most popular drugs ever discovered for much of human history. In fact, it is now almost certain that even prehistoric humans used the Cannabis plant. The recent era, however, has seen a sharp rise in its use for recreational, medicinal and spiritual uses. Because of this, it has in the past one hundred years been a hot button issue of debate, and is currently outlawed in the United States.
The plant itself is grown in warm and temperate climates. Most all of its parts have some sort of psychoactive effect when consumed, but the most popular parts used are the flowering body structure of the female plant, and to a lesser extent the male flowering buds. When harvested, most marijuana comes in clumps called nuggets, or “nugs” as they are often referred to.
The harvested form can be ingested in a few different ways. The most common forms are oral ingestion and inhaling the smoke from a combusting plant. For oral ingestion, it is often popular to bake the marijuana within other foods, such as “pot brownies”. But the most popular form of ingestion by far is igniting the plant and inhaling the smoke. There are many devices made for this process, some of which include bongs, chillums, and pipes. Other methods include the rolling of a marijuana cigarette, or joint.
When ingested, the psychoactive chemical compound THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol is released into the system. This chemical greatly affects the flow of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, creating an altered state of mind. Although the feeling of “getting high” is described as pleasant, there is no intense feeling of euphoria, as with other more addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine. Therefore, marijuana is classified as a mildly hallucinogenic drug.
The health effects of marijuana are really not that well known. It is understood that there is no way to overdose on THC, which automatically makes it less dangerous than other hard drugs. However, by some, it is considered a “gateway drug”, which means that the use of it increases the risk of using other drugs. It is also more or less accepted that smoking marijuana, or any organic material for that matter, has a negative effect on the lungs.
This article is by no means a suggestion to try marijuana, but rather simply an educational tool to learn about the historical importance and chemical science of the drug.