The cannabis plant's flowers contain a chemical or drug known as THC (short for tetra-hydro-cannabinol). Smoking or eating the flower can make a person feel good (euphoria) or sleepy or have creative ideas. The plant is also used to produce hemp fibre, and for its seeds and seed oil.
In its natural environment, the chemical no doubt served as to protect itself against being eaten. There are many varieties, and those low on THC production are selected for producing hemp and seeds.
Marijuana is an illegal drug in many countries. Some countries allow it to be used as medicine when people have certain medical conditions. On December 11, 2013, Uruguay was the first country in the world to legalize the cultivation, sale, and use of cannabis. On January 1 2014 the states of Washington and Colorado made it legal for people aged 21 or older to buy cannabis.
Ancient history[change | change source]
Scientists believe that marijuana first grew somewhere in the Himalayas. Evidence of smoking of marijuana goes as far back as prehistory, where burnt hemp seeds were found at a burial site in present day Romania. The most famous users of cannabis were the ancient Hindus, who called it ganjika in Sanskrit (ganja in modern Indian languages). According to legend, the Indian god, Shiva, told his followers to worship the plant. The ancient drug soma was sometimes associated with marijuana. People in the Persian Empire (what is now Iran) would light giant campfires made of marijuana, exposing themselves and their neighbors to the smoke. The ceremony was known as the booz-rooz.
Marijuana was also known in ancient Greece, where magicians would burn its flowers in order to cause strange thoughts in the minds of the audience members. The cult of Dionysus, which is believed to have begun in ancient Greece, is also believed to have involved inhaling marijuana smoke.
Effects[change | change source]
When a person breathes in the marijuana smoke or eats it, he or she may get a feeling called "getting high" or "getting stoned". The most common effects of the drug include feeling happy, relaxed, tired, silly or scared, having many ideas what to do or not being able to think clearly (or remember some things at all), and getting hungry (otherwise known as getting 'the munchies'.) Smoking marijuana changes how people think and feel, making it either harder or easier to solve some problems. Some people who take marijuana feel strange or paranoid (worried that something bad is going to happen).
When people smoke or eat cannabis, they often get hungry because cannabis increases a person's appetite for food. The slang term for this effect is "the munchies." Since hashish (dried resin) is much more concentrated than marijuana (includes leaves and flowers), people who take large amounts of hashish may feel even stronger effects. They may also hear strange sounds, or have visions or thoughts called hallucinations. Some hashish users like the feeling of these visions and thoughts, while others may find them scary; however, hallucinations after smoking or eating cannabis are rare.
Hazards of cannabis[change | change source]
Marijuana is one of the least dangerous of the illegal drugs that are commonly used. It is almost impossible to overdose on cannabis; you have to smoke your entire body weight in five minutes time for an overdose to occur (which can never happen in real life).
A person who is intoxicated ("high" or "stoned") from marijuana could get hurt or killed in an accident when they drive a car. While the responsible choice is not to drive under the influence of any intoxicant, the chances of getting into an accident while "stoned" are much lower than while "drunk".
"Hard drugs", such as heroin, meth and cocaine are chemically addictive. This means that if a person starts taking heroin, crack, or cocaine, that persons body will physically need to keep taking the drug. To stop use may cause them to become sick. Marijuana and hashish is not chemically addictive, but as with any thing else, it can be psychologically or habitually addictive, meaning that people can get so used to the pleasure that they feel as if they need it. Unlike with alcohol, tobacco, and hard drugs, most people who use marijuana can stop taking it when they want, while experiencing only minor withdrawal symptoms. However, while marijuana may not be as addictive as hard drugs, alcohol, and tobacco, people can still become very much addicted to the pleasure of marijuana.
It is a common belief that people who use marijuana are less interested in life and may not want to go to school or work ("amotivational syndrome"). However, many reports show that people who use marijuana do just as well as or even better than people who do not.
References[change | change source]
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