Marijuana is a mixture of leaves, stems, and buds from the Indian hemp plant Cannabis sativa. It can be smoked or eaten for its hallucinogenic and pleasure-giving effects. The main ingredient of marijuana is THC, which is concentrated in the flowering tops of the plant. Hashish, a drug prepared from the plant resin, has about eight times more THC than marijuana. Marijuana grows throughout temperate regions, with the most potent varieties produced in dry, hot upland climates. Cultivating marijuana is illegal in all but a few countries, except for limited medical purposes.
In the U.S., possession and use of marijuana was legal only in the state of Alaska from 1975 to 1990 when voters approved a ballot measure that again made it illegal. Known in central Asia and China as early as 3000 BC, marijuana was used as a medicine. From about 1900, it was used for its pleasure-inducing effects, and by the 1960s and 70s, its use became widespread. It became, after alcohol, the second most popular drug. Although marijuana was not proven to be addictive and no physical withdrawal symptoms occur when it’s discontinued, psychological dependence can develop with consistent long-term use.
Many users describe two phases of marijuana high: the first is initial stimulation, which includes giddiness and euphoria, followed by sedation and pleasant tranquility. Mood changes are often accompanied by altered perceptions of time, space, and one’s bodily dimensions. Thinking processes become disrupted by fragmentary ideas and memories. Many users report increased appetite, heightened sensory awareness, and feelings of pleasure. Medical research has indicated that marijuana has potential medicinal value.
In the most recent report, a controversial 1999 study by the federal government found that marijuana is effective in relieving pain, nausea, and the severe weight loss associated with the acquired AIDS virus. Moreover, this study confirmed that marijuana is not physically addictive, nor does it naturally lead to the use of other illegal dangerous drugs. Other studies have found that marijuana lessens some symptoms of glaucoma and discomfort due to cancer, particularly chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Many people who suffer from these and other chronic diseases report that marijuana provides symptom relief when all else fails. Such findings have provoked a national debate regarding the legislation of marijuana for medicinal use. In 1996, voters in both states, California and Arizona, approved ballot measures exempting doctors and patients from criminal prosecution when it’s prescribed for medicinal purposes in the relief of pain or other symptoms caused by cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, arthritis, and other illnesses and chronic conditions.
The Arizona legislature subsequently overturned a ballot initiative – a legislative proposal placed on the ballot by means of public petition. Four other states – Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Nevada – have passed bills in support of medicinal marijuana. Additionally, legislatures in 37 states have passed bills in support of medical marijuana. However, the U.S. Supreme Court still declares it illegal.