Use and Effects

Marijuana is a mixture of dried shredded flowers and leaves from the hemp plant. Its scientific name is Cannabis Sativa. There are more than 200 slang names for marijuana. It can be referred to as pot, herb, weed, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, chronic, reefer, sense and bud, to name a few. Stronger versions of marijuana include sinsemilla, hashish and hash oil.*(NIH: FActs for Teens).

Marijuana is mind-altering. It contains TCH (short for some unpronouncable word) which is the main active ingredient. But it is not the only ingredient as there are also 400 other chemicals in marijuana.

Marijuana is usually smoked. The THC is absorbed by fatty tissues in some organs of the body. It has not been known to cause physical addiction and withdrawal symptoms, but it has been known to cause people to become psychologically addicted: to feel like they need marijuana in order to cope with everyday life.

According to the National Institute of Health, some of the effects of smoking marijuana are:

  • problems with memory and learning
  • distorted perception (sights, sounds, time, touch)
  • trouble with thinking and problem-solving
  • loss of coordination
  • increased heart rate, anxiety, panic attacks

    It also states that the effects of marijuana are different for different people; some people experience no effects, some feel relaxed or high, others get very thirsty and/or hungry (the "munchies"), and others experience paranoia and anxiety.

    The long-term affects of marijuana use according to the National Institute of Health are:

  • cancer,
  • lung problems,
  • immune system malfunctions and
  • problems with the reproductive system.

    Cancer is related to marijuana smoking because the smoke contains some of the same and sometimes even more of the cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke. Research has shown that a person who smokes five joints per week may be inhaling as much cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a pack-a-day of cigarettes. But it is difficult to pinpoint the exact effects marijuana use has on cancer because there is no direct evidence that regular marijuana users get cancer.

    Breathing problems such as coughing, phlegm production and wheezing have also been associated with chronic marijuana smokers. According to the National Institute of Health, marijuana smokers tend to have more chest colds than non-smokers. The immune system may also be affected by marijuana use as studies have shown that THC (the active chemical in marijuana) can damage cells and tissues that help protect people from catching diseases. Heavy marijuana use can affect male and female hormones. Women may experience a delay in the menstrual cycle and teenage men could experience a delay in puberty. These diseases can be associetd with marijuana use. There is little evidence that marijuana actually causes any disease and according to the National Institute of Health, "Researchers are still learning about the many ways that marijuana affects the brain."

    A 1942 study undertaken by two psychiatrists, Allentuck and Bowman, echo some of the findings reported by the National Institute of Health.*(Psychiatric Aspects of Marijuana Intoxication). They found that marijuana produces effects unique to each person and that it does not produce psychosis in normal, stable people, but tends to amplify instabilities in unstable peopl. Unstable poeple were more likely to experience psychosis. They found that unlike alcoholics, marijuana users "do not continue their indulgence beyond the point of euphoria."

    There seems to be a strong contradiction between the evidence of health benefits from marijuana and health dangers. This may be linked to the way it is used (ex: eaten, smoked). Studies have not really addressed this issue.

    Marijuana: History, Effects and Controversies

    History in the United States

    Hemp Production

    Health Use

    Religious Use


    The Case for Maintaining Prohibition v. The Case for Legalization