Background:

Common Facts About Marijuana


What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a natural herb derived from the dried flowers, leaves and stems of the Cannabis plant. It has been used by mankind, mostly in edible form, for over 5000 years. Starting around the 1800's it was also administered through inhalation of smoked flower. The main active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrhydrocannabinol).

Marijuana Plant

Marijuana flower concentrations vary depending on the preparation and the breeding of the plant. Concentrations of THC can range from 1% THC to 8%. Hashish can be 7% to 14% THC and hash oil is up to 50% THC. THC is a fat soluble substance so it can remain in the lungs and brain tissue for up to 3-4 weeks. There are over 200 nicknames for marijuana, including pot, herb, cannabis, mary jane and chronic.

How is marijuana used?
Marijuana Cigarette|Joint

Today most marijuana is usually smoked, using a pipe, a rolled up cigarette called a joint, or a water pipe called a bong. Blunts are cigars that are emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana, sometimes in combination with other drugs or tobacco. All forms of smoking marijuana carries the same risks as smoking tobacco.


Marijuana Water Pipe|Bong

A safer way to "smoke" marijuana is to use a vaporizer. A vaporizer can either be a large machine for home use or a small electronic vaporizer simialr to e-cigarettes except used with dried marijuana flower. Marijuana can also be consumed in food; such marijuana foods are often called "edibles". Since marijuana's active ingredient THC is only fat soluble the marijuana must be preapred first before used to create edibles. Ingesting marijuana changes the pathway for the formation of metabolites, the active ingredients. With edibles the onset of effects is delayed and the effects will last longer (approximately twice as long)



Why do people use marijuana?

Marijuana use can relax a person and elevate their mood. This can be followed by drowsiness and sedation. Other effects include heightened sensory awareness, euphoria, altered perceptions and feeling hungry ("the munchies"). These effects have both recreational and medicinal attributes. Although you can not overdose on Marijuana, high concentrations of THC can produce a hallucinogenic state and lead to anxiety or even panic attacks.

What Are the Short Term Side Effects of Marijuana?

Use of Marijuana has been associated with some nuisance side effects such as dry mouth, dry eyes, increased heart rate and visible signs of intoxication such as bloodshot eyes and puffy eyelids. Other unwanted side effects include:

  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Difficulty thinking and problem solving
  • Anxiety attacks or feelings of paranoia
  • Impaired muscle coordination and judgment
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Dangerous impairment of motor skills. So no driving or operating heavy machinery
  • Possible cardiac problems for people with heart disease or high blood pressure

There have actually been NO reported deaths from the use of Marijuana by itself. It is virtually impossible to overdose from Marijuana, which sets it apart from most drugs.

What Are Long-Term Side Effects of Using Marijuana?

Appropriate long term double blind prospective studies are lacking because of the US government's tight control on Marijuana use even for research purposes. However, there is evidence that memory and learningability may be reduced with long term Marijuana use; this has been shown to be in young developing minds such as teenagers as opposed to mature grown brains for adults.

Research indicates that regular Marijuana use can compromise user's ability to learn and to remember information by impairing the ability to focus, sustain, and shift attention. This can also affect motivation to accomplish tasks.

Marijuana Affects Focusing

It is unclear as to whether Marijuana use triggers the onset of certain mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and psychosis in vulnerable people or whether it can cause them de facto in people who are otherwise healthy. Most doctors agree that Marijuana can be used to treat depression and anxiety, but caution should be used for a patient with underlying schizophrenia.


Long-term marijuana use suppresses the production of reproductive hormones that help regulate fertility. In men this can cause decreased sperm counts and sperm motility and even erectile dysfunction. In Women menstrual irregularity can occur from heavy marijuana use. These problems could lead to a decreased ability to conceive but not necessarily lead to complete infertility.

Is marijuana Addictive?

No one would argue that marijuana is not as addictive as alcohol or cocaine. However, contrary to common belief, marijuana can be addictive. More and more studies are finding that marijuana has addictive properties. Research suggests that about 9 percent of users become addicted to marijuana; this number increases with younger users and with more frequent use. Both animal and human studies show physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms including irritability, restlessness, insomnia, nausea and intense dreams. Tolerance to Marijuana is also well documented.

Some warning signs are:

  • More frequent use
  • Missing class or failing to finish work on time because of Marijuana
  • Needing more Marijuana to get the same effect(s)
  • Spending more money than you have to buy Marijuana
  • Spending time thinking about using marijuana
  • Only hanging out with friends who also use Marijuana and neglecting friends who don't
  • Needing it to stay "happy"

Because THC remains in the body for up to 3 weeks, withdrawal symptoms may not be evident right away.

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