Marijuana is a commonly used name for Cannabis. Cannabis is the preparation of the Cannabis plant that is intended to be used as medicine or a psychoactive drug. The primary compound of cannabis that gives it its psychoactive properties is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Marijuana is generally used by vaporization, within edible products, smoking, or as a more potent extract. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in both the United States and the world.
Marijuana can be consumed in a variety of ways. When vaporizing, the vaporizer heats the cannabis to the point where the active ingredients evaporate into a vapor form, which is then inhaled by the user, without actually burning the plant material. Smoking Marijuana generally involves burning and inhaling smoke produced by the vaporized cannabinoids using devices, or paraphernalia, such as tobacco blunts, paper joints, pipes, and water bongs. Edibles and teas can be prepared using cannabis as an ingredient. Edibles can be created with just about any food if prepared properly, but common edibles include baked goods such as cookies and brownies, candy, gummies, butter, and more.
Marijuana can be used medicinally, or for spiritual or religious reasons. It is mostly used recreationally, but it is becoming more prevalent in the medical field as an asset in a wide variety of medical treatments. Cannabis is commonly used recreationally because of its physiological and psychoactive effects when it is consumed. Those desired effects usually consist of a change in perception, an increase in appetite, a heightened mood, and a “stoned” or “high” feeling.
Medical Marijuana is used to treat chronic pain, to help people with HIV/AIDS improve their appetite, to help with muscle spasms, and to reduce vomiting and nausea as a result of chemotherapy. There are still not sufficient conclusions about the safety and effectiveness of using Cannabis for other medical applications. While short-term use does not appear to increase any major adverse effects, it does increase the minor adverse effects. There are no solid conclusions about the long-term effects of Cannabis, but there are concerns of risks such as addiction, the risk of children consuming it by mistake, the risk of schizophrenia among young people, and cognition and memory problems.
The medicinal value of Marijuana is largely disputed since research so far has been inconclusive when it comes to the long term effects. The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) states that major aspects of Cannabis, such as production, content and supply, are not regulated, and that it contributes to many harmful health effects. However, the FDA does approve the prescriptions of two products that have a small, controlled dose of pure THC as the active substance, and which is not for smoking. The American Society of Addiction Medicine dismisses the medical use of Marijuana due to health concerns and risk of addiction.
Cannabis has been used as an entheogen in several religions for centuries, and has held a sacred status in many. It has been a chemical substance used in spiritual, religious, or shamanic context in Nepal and India dating back to 1500 BCE, possibly even as far back as 2000 BCE. It has also been referenced in Greek mythology as far back as the 5th to 2nd century BCE. In more modern days, it has been the major part of the Rastafari movement, which promoted the use of Marijuana as an aid to meditation and as a sacrament.
The immediate desired effects of consuming Marijuana include the “stoned” or “high” feeling, which is described as a feeling of relaxation and euphoria, an increased awareness of sensations, distortions in the perception of space and time, an increased libido, and a general alteration of conscious perception. In higher doses, there are reports of pseudo hallucinations and ataxia, visual and auditory illusions, and altered body image that is contributed to an impairment of polysynaptic reflexes. There have even been extreme cases of Marijuana consumption resulting in dissociative states like derealization and depersonalization. Onset of the effects happens almost instantly or within minutes when it is smoked or vaporized, and usually takes about 30 to 90 minutes to kick in when it is consumed as an edible. The effects can last anywhere from one to eight hours, depending on the potency, method of consumption, and the person’s metabolism.
Long term effects of Marijuana consumption can include behavioral problems in children whose mothers consumed Marijuana while they were pregnant, a decrease of mental ability in users who started in their teens or at a young age, and possibly even addiction. However, studies of those long term side effects are not entirely conclusive, and they are still disputed.