What Is Marijuana?: Cannabis 101

So What Is Marijuana?

What is Marijuana exactly?—also known as Cannabis, bud, pot, weed, grass, reefer, Mary Jane, the ganja and many more—is a plant with psychoactive and therapeutic properties, with virtually zero toxicity and a low potential for addiction, which makes it a popular choice for medicine and recreation.

The psychoactive effects of weed depend on the marijuana strain, which vary in THC content and other amounts of cannabinoids (chemical compounds) in the marijuana plant. An individual’s tolerance to THC and the method by which the marijuana is ingested will affect the onset (rapid or delayed) of the high and the marijuana’s overall effect. Smoking weed, for example, is one of the fastest ways to ingest marijuana, and does not last as long as, say, weed edibles, which can take effect over a period of 1 to 1.5 hours and last for 4 to 6 hours, or longer for larger doses.

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Some lesser-known marijuana facts—and effects of weed

The marijuana plant actually has legitimate (and legal!) uses apart from getting people high. 10,000 years ago in Western Asia, hemp seeds from the marijuana plant were used as a valuable source of nutrition, which continues today. Hemp fibres from the marijuana plant are also used for making clothe fabric and rope.

Although plenty of studies have found that marijuana is actually less harmful than alcohol, that doesn’t prevent the two substances from being related. Some may even consider the two “cousins,” since the marijuana plant and marijuana leaf used for smoking weed are in fact a part of the same family as the hops grown and produced for making beer.

Effects of weed vary and can be widely therapeutic. For recreational purposes, marajuana can bring on mild to more intense body sensations, feelings of calm, and euphoria. But where medicinal value is concerned, the weed leaf contains over 500 compounds—80 of these have medicinal and therapeutic value. THC, a psychoactive compound, helps relieve patients of chronic pain and encourages sleep. CBD is anti-emetic (reduces nausea) and relieves convulsions, anxiety and inflammation. Some chemical compounds in the marijuana plant are even thought to inhibit cancer cell growth.

In what states is marijuana legal?

In Canada, so far only medicinal marijuana has been legalized. The marijuana must be in the form of cannabis bud, or the dried flowers of the marijuana plant and marijuana leaf. Health Canada’s Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) specifies under which circumstances and how patients are prescribed medical marijuana.

In the United States, however, the legality of marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses varies by state. Currently, medicinal marijuana is available for patients in 23 U.S. states as well as Washington, D.C. Patients must be prescribed cannabis as a treatment by their doctor. Most states require that patients be issued a “green card,” or medical marijuana identification card, in order to purchase medicinal cannabis from an approved grower or marijuana dispensary.

Recreational marijuana, meanwhile, is legal for purchase by adults who are at least 21 years of age. Currently, it is legal in the State of Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, Alaska and Washington, D.C.



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