The effects of marijuana vary with its strength and dosage and with the state of mind of the user. Typically, small doses result in a feeling of well-being. The intoxication lasts two to three hours but accompanying effects on motor control last much longer.
High doses can cause tachycardia, paranoia, and delusions. Although it produces some of the same effects as hallucinogens like LSD and mescaline (heightened sensitivity to colors, shapes, music, and other stimuli and distortion of the sense of time), marijuana differs chemically and pharmacologically.
The primary active component of marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), although other cannabinol derivatives are also thought to be intoxicating. In 1988 scientists discovered receptors that bind THC on the membranes of nerve cells.
They reasoned that the body must make its own THC-like substance. The substance, named anandamide, was isolated from pig brains in 1992 by an American pharmacologist, William A. Devane.
Marijuana lowers testosterone levels and sperm counts in men and raises testosterone levels in women. In pregnant women it affects the fetus and results in developmental difficulties in the child.
There is evidence that marijuana affects normal maturation of preadolescent and adolescent users and that it affects short-term memory and comprehension. Heavy smokers often sustain lung damage from the smoke and contaminants. Regular use can result in dependence.
History of Marijuana
Marijuana has been used as an agent for achieving euphoria since ancient times; it was described in a Chinese medical compendium traditionally considered to date from 2737 BC Its use spread from China to India and then to N Africa and reached Europe at least as early as AD 500.
A major crop in colonial North America, marijuana (hemp) was grown as a source of fiber (Marijuana Growing Index). It was extensively cultivated during World War II, when Asian sources of hemp were cut off.
Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s.
A campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction.
It is still considered a “gateway” drug by some authorities. In the 1950s it was an accessory of the beat generation ; in the 1960s it was used by college students and “hippies” and became a symbol of rebellion against authority.
With the increase in the number of middle-class users in the 1960s and 1970s, there came a somewhat greater acceptance of the view that marijuana should not be considered in the same class as narcotics and that U.S. marijuana laws should be relaxed.
The Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 1970 eased federal penalties somewhat, and 11 states decriminalized possession. However, in the late 1980s most states rewrote their drug laws and imposed stricter penalties.
Opponents of easing marijuana laws have asserted that it is an intoxicant less controllable than alcohol, that our drug-using society does not need another widely used intoxicant, and that the United States should not act to weaken UN policies, which are opposed to the use of marijuana for other than possible medical purposes.
The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classified marijuana along with heroin and LSD as a Schedule I drug, i.e., having the relatively highest abuse potential and no accepted medical use.
Most marijuana at that time came from Mexico, but in 1975 the Mexican government agreed to eradicate the crop by spraying it with the herbicide paraquat, raising fears of toxic side effects. Colombia then became the main supplier.
The “zero tolerance” climate of the Reagan and Bush administrations (1981-93) resulted in passage of strict laws and mandatory sentences for possession of marijuana and in heightened vigilance against smuggling at the southern borders.
The “war on drugs” thus brought with it a shift from reliance on imported supplies to domestic cultivation (particularly in Hawaii and California). Beginning in 1982 the Drug Enforcement Administration turned increased attention to marijuana farms in the United States, and there was a shift to the indoor growing of plants specially developed for small size and high yield.
After over a decade of decreasing use, marijuana smoking began an upward trend once more in the early 1990s, especially among teenagers, but by the end of the decade this upswing had leveled off well below former peaks of use
Medicinal Marijuana History
Controversy surrounds the medical use of marijuana, with proponents saying it is useful for treating pain and the nausea and vomiting that are side effects of cancer chemotherapy and for restoring the appetite in people with AIDS.
Although its active ingredient, THC (synthesized in 1966 and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1985) is available by prescription in pill form, proponents say it is not as effective as the herb and is more expensive.
A 1999 U.S.-government-sponsored study found that marijuana appeared beneficial for certain medical conditions. Because of the toxicity of marijuana smoke, however, it was hoped that further research might lead to development of new delivery systems, such as bronchial inhalers.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy has opposed legalization of the medical use of marijuana, citing law enforcement issues and the possibility that some would use it as a pretext to sell marijuana for nonmedical use.
Proponents, disregarding the law, have set up networks for the distribution of the drug to people who they judge will be helped by it and continue to lobby for its legalization for medical use. Voters in several U.S. states have approved initiatives intended to legalize marijuana for medical uses, but whether such initiatives protect medical users with a prescription from federal prosecution is not clear.
In 2003, however, a federal appeals court ruled that, with certain restrictions, such users are protected from prosecution. Another court ruling permits doctors to discuss medical use of marijuana with their patients but forbids them to help patients obtain the drug. A
A number of countries, including Canada, permit the medicinal use of the drug.
Marijuana Positive & Negative Health Properties
The effects of smoking Cannabis are usually lighter than those of many other recreational psychoactive substances. People are generally capable of carrying out normal actions and activities while high.
- mood lift
- relaxation, stress reduction
- creative, philosophical or deep thinking … ideas flow more easily
- increased appreciation of music. More aware of, deeper connection to music.
- increased awareness of senses. (eating, drinking, smell)
- change in experience of muscle fatigue. Pleasant body feel. Increase in body/mind connection.
- pain relief (headaches, cramps)
- reduced nausea (used medically for this)
- general change in consciousness (as with many psychoactives)
- increased appetite, snacky-ness
- slowness (slow driving, talking)
- blood shot eyes (more common with certain varieties of cannabis and inexperienced users)
- mouth dryness
- interrupts linear memory. Difficulty following a train of thought.
- cheek, jaw, facial tension (less commonly reported)
- coughing, asthma, upper respiratory problems
- difficulty with short term memory during effects and during periods of frequent use
- racing heart, agitation, tenseness
- mild to severe anxiety
- panic attacks at very high doses (usually oral) or in sensitive users
- dizziness, confusion
- paranoid & anxious thoughts more frequent
- possible psychological dependence on cannabis
‘Mild’ withdrawal symptoms occur after daily use in some users. These may last for 1-6 weeks after cessation of use and can include anxiety, anhedonia (reduced experience of pleasure), headaches, general unease/discomfort, difficulty sleeping, and a desire to smoke pot.
Cannabis has been proven to cure/aid the following medical illnesses:
- AIDS Wasting Syndrome
- Brain Injury/Stroke
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy
- Phantom Limb Pain
- Spinal cord injury
- Anti-Tumor Effects
- Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative
- Depression and Mental Illness
- Eating Disorders
- High Blood Pressure Hypertension
- Nail Patella Syndrome
- Tourette’s Syndrome