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Cannabis, also known (in one drug form) as marijuana (archaic: marihuana; see street names below), is any of several different species of mildly hallucinogenic dioecious plants whose main active ingredient is delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Cannabis is a member of the family Cannabaceae, in the order Rosales. It grows in most climates. The tough fiber of the cannabis plant is known as hemp and has various uses, including the manufacture of cloth, rope, and paper.

Although the main psychoactive substance in cannabis is δ-9-THC, the plant contains about 60 cannabinoids in total. The complexity of this mixture has led to speculation as to why the effects of the plant can differ from the synthetically manufactured dronabinol.

"Normal" herbal cannabis usually contains between 0.5-7% THC, although selective breeding and cultivation techniques (such as hydroponics) have produced varieties speculated being up to 25% THC content. The THC content is also affected by the sex of the plant, with female plants generating more THC-laden resin than their male counterparts. Sinsemilla (from the Spanish for "without seed") is derived from unpollinated female plants and has an even higher THC content.

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Cannabis is psychoactive, meaning it affects the mind and/or behaviour. Acute effects of marijuana consumption vary by individual, but generally include a subset of the following: mild euphoria, acute awareness of one's surroundings, temporarily impaired motor and cognitive function, hunger (called the munchies), sleepiness, increased interest in music and art, relaxation. Also common is a tendency to find humor in many more situations and events than one normally would. Users who are typically lazy or are already sleepy will often become drowsy and lethargic when high.

Other effects include paranoia and short-term memory loss.

No overdose due to cannabis use has ever been recorded in two millennia of medical history. One study found an LD50 of pure delta-9-THC in milligrams/kilogram for mice and rats respectively as 481.9/666 orally; 454.9/372.9 intraperitoneally; and 28.6/42.47 intravenously. Assuming 100% efficiency in extracting THC from marijuana (in reality, extraction efficiency is nowhere near 100%), and high grade marijuana that was 6% THC by weight, a 68 kg (150 lb.) human would have to rapidly ingest almost 20 pounds of marijuana to achieve this dose, in which case a person would experience respitory failure due to smoke inhalation long before actually overdosing on THC.

Although a mild tolerance of the drug can be built up, it is generally understood not to be physically addictive. As with any substance however, some can build up a psychological dependence. There is some evidence linking long-term use to depression as well as aggravation of pre-existing mental conditions, although the cause and effect relationship between depression and substance abuse is not fully understood.

The long-term effects of cannabis still need more study. One of the most important and widely shared concerns regarding cannabis is that its high tar content (especially when it is combined with tobacco, as is common in Europe) could lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. Pipes using water filtration, called bongs are often believed to reduce lung damage by filtering out a portion of the smoke's tar, and lowering the temperature of the smoke.

Medical use

Cannabis is infequently prescribed by doctors due to its legal status in most nations, but is most often prescribed as an appetite stimulant and pain reliever for illnesses including cancer and aids. The medical use of cannabis is highly controversial and is dealt with in its own article. See medical marijuana.

Recreational use

Cannabis comes in several forms.

  • Leaves, dried. ("shake")
  • Flowering tops (buds) of female plants, dried ("bud," "marijuana"). Buds are more potent than leaves.
  • Resin ("hashish," "hash") which is the secretion of the plant, usually dried and processed into blocks.
  • Oil ("honey oil," "hash oil") which is a concentrate usually involving a solvent based extraction.

It is most commonly smoked, usually in a "joint" or "spliff"other names include jacob, blunt and binge: the dried buds or leaves (sometimes mixed with tobacco) are rolled in paper and smoked much like a cigarette.

Other methods include using pipes or "bongs" (water pipes) and buckets to smoke the cannabis whilst cooling the smoke down and, in the case of bongs, removing some of the unwanted impurities/tar. In addition, a drink called bhang[?] can be prepared. See also hashish and hashish oil.

Cannabis is also cooked to make things such as Alice B. Toklas brownies, "space cake ;0)", "pot pie", and "hash brownies". However, the effects of ingested cannabis usually do not take effect for over 30 minutes, making it harder for users to regulate their consumption.

Another method of ingestion is vaporization. Vaporization allows the Cannabis resins (THC and other Cannabinoids) to be extracted into a vapor by heating without actually burning the plant material. This is advantageous because most of the toxic chemicals found in Cannabis and Tobacco smoke are byproducts of the combustion process. By heating the Cannabis to about 190 degrees Celsius, the Cannabis resins are released into a vapor but the plant material is not actually burned. This vapor can then be inhaled and the effects of the drug will be felt as quickly as if it were smoked. Vaporization is the perfect option for people who do not like the dangers associated with smoking.

Cannabis can also be taken by dissolving it in milk, which is in turn added to preparations of flavoring herbs (such as cloves, cinnamon, etc. They vary by region). THC is not water-soluble, so the cannabis must be steeped in a fatty substance such as melted butter, oil, cream, or milk. Such a preparation is referred to as "bhang" and is a traditional method of consumption in India and related countries.

Street Names

General names

For Cannabis: haschisch, chronic, dank, dope, weed, bud ('lil green buddies), grass, herb, indo, kind, ganja (traditional in Rastafarian religion), the Good Herb, green, Mary Jane, KB (Kind bud, killer bud), pot, skunk, smoke, sticky-icky-icky (a Snoop Doggy Dogg coinage), whacky-tabaccy, and many other names. Definitions of all these terms vary by region, and may vary in meaning according to context.

For getting high: stoned, baked, tore-up, buzzed, ripped, lit-up, lifted, faded, gone (or solid gone), toasted, blazed, blasted, or simply fucked up

Reefer has most often been used to refer to a marijuana cigarette, but sometimes to the substance itself. "Reefer" was common in the early 20th century, but is now usually only used humorously, often in reference to then-serious now-comical 1930s film Reefer Madness, extremely exaggerating marijuana's effects.

Early 20th century terms

Mez, Muggles, gage, viper jive.

Names for potent or otherwise good marijuana

(Cross)breeds of plants White widow (light green-white in appearance), Bubblegum (very sticky), JuicyFruit, Orange Bud and Blueberry (product smells or tastes somewhat like its name)\; G-13 (developed at the University of Eashington[?]; Thunderfuck, Northern-lights (these two natives of Alaska), purple haze, kush, Thai or Thai stick (the legitimate product is indica[?] from Thailand or US Grown of Thai seed, the buds being long and treelike in appearance, often with string wrapped in a spiral pattern for the purpose of holding the bud together).

It should be noted that due to the illegal status of cannabis, many lies about its origin and THC content are perpetuated by dishonest sellers often to justify high prices; for example common marijuana with buds appearing somewhat treelike will often be labeled "thai stick" by a dealer, at which point the price may increase from 50% to 200% or more.


The use of cannabis is thought to go back at least 5000 years. Neolithic archaeology grounds in China include cannabis seeds and plants. The first known mention of cannabis was in a Chinese medical text of 2737 BC. It was used as medicine throughout Asia and the Middle East to treat a variety of conditions. In India particularly, cannabis was associated with Shiva.

Cannabis was well known to the Scythians. Germans have grown hemp for its fibers--used to make nautical ropes and material for clothes--since ancient times. In the Elbing Prussian vocabulary from around 1350, hemp is recorded as knapis (derived from cannabis). Large fields of hemp along the banks of the Rhine are featured in 19th-century copper etchings. The hemp plant has to be soaked to harvest the fiber. This liquid was used as a drink. In today's Germany there are bars that serve hemp beer and hemp wine (edit: while this may be true those drinks will not contain any THC because as a drug cannabis is still outlawed in Germany and only so-called "industrial hemp" that doesn't contain any THC may be grown for production of fibers and said drinks).

The drug is one of the sacraments in the Rasta religion.

Cannabis was used medicinally in the western world (usually as a tincture) around the middle of the 19th century. It was famously used to treat Queen Victoria's menstrual pains, and was available from shops in the US. By the end of the 19th century its medicinal use began to fall as other drugs such as aspirin took over.

During the 1930s consumption and sale of marijuana was legal in most American states. In some areas it could be openly purchased in bulk from grocers or in cigarette form at newstands. In 1933 Federal law made marijuana illegal throughout the United States (contrary to the advice of the American Medical Association[?] at the time). Congress' decision was based in part on testimony from DuPont Inc. Many analysts theorize DuPont feared a post-war decline in nylon sales, and wished to eliminate hemp fiber as competition. It should be noted that among the reasons offered to Congress by then-drug czar Henry Anslinger was that "it makes darkies feel equal to white men." Anslinger also popularized the word marihuana for the plant, using a Mexican derived word in order to associate the plant with increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants.

Cannabis has a prominent religious role in the Rastafarian religion.

Although it has probably been used as a recreational drug thoughout its history, it came to prominence in the jazz scene during the fifties, its use taking off in the 1960s.

It is now one of the most widely used illicit drugs in the world.

Related issues

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Drug Information




Federal Bureau of Narcotics[?] poster used in the late 1930s and 1940s

For the 1990s rapper, see Canibus.

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