What is Marijuana or Hashish and how is it used?

Hashish is a potent form of cannabis (marijuana) produced by collecting and compressing trichomes, the most potent material from cannabis plants.

Trichomes are the fine growths on cannabis plants that produce a sticky resin.

Marijuana is a green, brown or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa.

There are over 200 street names for marijuana including pot, herb, dope, reefer, grass, weed, ganja, Mary Jane, boom, gangster and chronic.

Sinsemilla, hashish and hash oil are stronger forms of marijuana.

It is usually smoked as a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or in a pipe or bong. In recent years, marijuana has appeared in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana, often in combination with another drug, such as crack. Some users also mix marijuana into foods or use it to brew tea.

The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Marijuana's effects on the user depend on the strength or potency of the THC it contains. Hashish contains the same active ingredients as marijuana, like THC and other cannabinoids, but with higher concentrations.

THC has been used to treat wasting syndrome in AIDS patients.

What are the short-term effects of Marijuana or Hashish use?

The short-term effects of marijuana or hashish use include problems with memory and learning; distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch); difficulty in thinking and problem solving; loss of coordination; and increased heart rate, anxiety, and panic attacks.

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THC in marijuana is strongly absorbed by fatty tissues in various organs. Generally, traces of THC can be detected by standard urine testing methods several days after a smoking session. In heavy chronic users, traces can sometimes be detected for weeks after they have stopped using marijuana.

What are the long-term effects of Marijuana or Hashish use?

People who smoke marijuana often have the same respiratory problems as cigarette smokers. These individuals may have daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. They are also at greater risk of getting lung infections like pneumonia. Marijuana contains some of the same, and sometimes even more, of the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarette smoke.

Effects of Heavy Marijuana or Hashish Use on Learning and Social Behavior

Marijuana or hashish affects memory, judgment and perception. Learning and attention skills are impaired among people who use marijuana or hashish heavily. Longitudinal research on marijuana use among young people below college age indicates those who use marijuana have lower achievement than the non-users, more acceptance of deviant behavior, more delinquent behavior and aggression, greater rebelliousness, poorer relationships with parents, and more associations with delinquent and drug-using friends.

Effects on Pregnancy

Any drug of abuse can affect a mother's health during pregnancy. Some studies have found that babies born to mothers who used marijuana during pregnancy were smaller than those born to mothers who did not use the drug. In general, smaller babies are more likely to develop health problems.

A nursing mother who uses marijuana passes some of the THC to the baby in her breast milk. Research indicates that the use of marijuana by a mother during the first month of breast-feeding can impair the infant's motor development.

Addictive Potential

A drug is addicting if it causes compulsive, uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences.

While not everyone who uses marijuana becomes addicted, when a user begins to seek out and take the drug compulsively, that person is said to be dependent or addicted to the drug.

Some frequent, heavy users of marijuana develop a tolerance for it. Tolerance means that the user needs larger doses of the drug to get the same desired results that he or she used to get from smaller amounts.

Recreational Use of Cannabis (Marijuana)

In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington state passed initiatives legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older under state law. It is important to note that the federal government still considers cannabis a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime. Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 drug http://www.drugs.com/article/csa-schedule-1.html. Cultivation and distribution of marijuana are felonies; possession for personal use is a misdemeanor; possession of “paraphernalia” is also illegal. Cultivating 100 plants or more carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years according to federal statutes.

That being said, it is unlikely that the federal government is interested in pursuing individuals complying with state-mandated regulations surrounding legalized cannabis for recreational use, although the CSA law still gives them authority to do so.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has attempted to clarify this issue. On August 29, 2013, the DOJ issued guidance to Federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the CSA. The DOJ is focused on priorities, such as:

  • Preventing the distribution to minors
  • Preventing revenues from sale of marijuana towards criminal activity
  • Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is not legal
  • Preventing state-legalized marijuana from being a cover for other illegal drugs or activity
  • Prevent violence and guns in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • Prevent drugged driving and other public health issues
  • Prevent the use of public land for marijuana cultivation
  • Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property

Additional states may undertake or pursue citizen petitions in the future to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Reportedly there may be initiatives for full commercial legalization on the ballot in Alaska in 2014 and in California, Maine, and Oregon in 2016. According to the Brookings Institute, Presidential years bring out an electorate more favorable to cannabis legalization than the off-year electorate. Other states pursuing legalization may include Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Maine and Michigan citizen voters have also passed legalization of cannabis for recreational use, but state law will likely override these voter referendums; only medical marijuana is currently legal according to state law in these states.

A majority of Americans support legalization of marijuana -- 52 percent pro versus 45 percent con -- according to findings from a Pew Research Center survey in March 2013. Support for marijuana legalization has increased dramatically since 2010, by 11 percentage points.

Specific city and county laws have been enacted to regulate how citizens and tourists may possess and consume marijuana. Penalties exist for driving while under the influence of marijuana. Someone driving under the influence of marijuana is considered impaired in both Colorado and Washington when five nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood or more of active THC is detected.

For more information see: Marijuana
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