Marijuana, cannabis and hemp are all names that refer to this unique plant.
The marijuana symbol is seen everywhere these days — on clothing, jewelry, keychains and stickers. It’s no surprise that cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in the U.S. and worldwide.
The growing popularity of marijuana is evident, but many people lack a standard knowledge about the plant. Here are 10 facts about cannabis that you should know:
1. Marijuana is derived from the Cannabis plant
The cannabis plant (also known as hemp) usually grows about 8 to 12 feet high and can be grown outdoors or indoors.
The main active ingredient in cannabis — the part that gives the “high” feeling — is called THC, which stands for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC acts on specific molecules in the body known as cannabinoid receptors, which are mostly found in the brain. Different cannabis products have different levels of THC.
The term “cannabis” can also refer to any drug that is derived from the plant, including the three major types: Marijuana, hashish and hash oil.
Marijuana is made from a mixture of dried and shredded flowers of the plant and is greenish-gray in appearance. Hashish is made from the resins of the plant and hash oil is a sticky, black liquid.
2. Marijuana has different strains
Marijuana strains can be pure or hybrid varieties, usually derived from the two major species of cannabis: indica and sativa. Different strains have been bred to intensify certain characteristics of cannabis.
One of the most popular strains is OG Kush. It has the highest THC content of all Kush strains and is recognized as one of the strongest cannabis strains.
Sour Diesel is another well-known strain, which has a strong odor and mood-enhancing effects.
3. Marijuana can be consumed in a number of ways
Marijuana can be rolled into a joint using rolling paper. When tobacco is mixed in — to add flavor and to make it burn slower — it’s called a spliff. Marijuana can also be smoked in a cigar shell, which is referred to as a blunt.
Another common method of smoking marijuana is with a pipe. A bong is a special type of pipe that passes smoke through water and is regarded by some as an effective way to reduce exposure to carcinogens in smoke.
Out of all these methods, researchers and doctors agree that using a vaporizer is the safest way to consume marijuana. Vaporizers heat the cannabis to a point that vaporizes the active ingredients without burning it, thus eliminating the harmful effects of smoking.
4. Marijuana has physical and psychological effects
The marijuana high can affect a user physically in a number of ways, including an increased heart rate, dry mouth, bloodshot/glazed eyes and an increase in appetite (often referred to as the “munchies”).
When a user is high, they most commonly feel euphoria and a sedative tranquility. Effects may also include lowered inhibitions, drowsiness, and silliness/giddiness. Some users also report anxiety and paranoia.
People who smoke marijuana may experience long-term effects, similar to that of a cigarette smoker, such as a cough, frequent chest colds and chronic bronchitis. Using a vaporizer has been shown to prevent these effects.
5. Marijuana has many street names
Street names for cannabis vary by region and demographic. Older slang terms for cannabis include pot, herb, Mary Jane, grass, reefer, dope and weed. Ganja, bud, chronic and skunk are also commonly used.
Other slang terms related to marijuana include pothead, which refers to a heavy user; headshop, which is a store that sells paraphernalia; and 420, which can refer to the time for smoking marijuana (4:20) or the unofficial holiday (April 20th).
6. The legality of marijuana varies by country
Countries around the world have different laws about the use of cannabis recreationally and medicinally. There are also different regulations for possession and sale of the drug.
Possession of cannabis is legal in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Spain, Netherlands, North Korea, Uruguay and a number of states in the U.S.
Cannabis is decriminalized in many countries, meaning it’s prohibited but is not considered a criminal offence and would merit minor penalties.
Although cannabis is widely used in Canada, it’s illegal in all provinces and territories without a doctor’s prescription. However, a newly elected government is currently drafting legislation that would legalize and regulate marijuana for all adults nationwide.
7. Marijuana is commonly used
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.2 million Americans used marijuana in the past year — a significant jump from previous years.
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 44% of Americans have tried marijuana in their lifetime.
The percentage of Canadians who have tried the drug is also 44%, according to data from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. A 2012 survey found that 12.2% of Canadians used marijuana in the past year.
8. Marijuana is one of the world’s oldest crops
The cannabis plant is believed to be one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans. Records of its use date back over 6000 years. Early civilizations relied on hemp crops as a source of food, fibre, oil and paper.
A Chinese medical reference as old as 2700 BC is usually cited as the first mention of medical use of marijuana. The Ancient Chinese used cannabis to treat constipation, malaria, rheumatic pain and female disorders.
Consumption then spread to India and the Middle East, where Muslims used hashish. It eventually reached Europe around 500 BC.
9. Marijuana is safer than alcohol
According to a 2014 survey, seven out of ten Americans believe alcohol is more harmful than marijuana — and they’re right.
The most commonly cited reason for this belief is that cannabis has never directly caused a death, while alcohol claims many lives each year. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, there were 3.3 million deaths attributed to alcohol in 2012.
Of course, alcohol poisoning is responsible for some of these deaths. On the other hand, no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.
But the long-term effects of alcohol, such as chronic illnesses, cause the most deaths. Another argument is that marijuana has a number of proven medical uses, whereas no doctor would ever recommend alcohol to a sick patient.
10. Marijuana can be prescribed for many conditions
The use of medical marijuana has become more and more common in the U.S. and around the world. Patients that are approved to use medical marijuana usually buy the drug from a licensed supplier.
Medical marijuana can be smoked, vaporized, eaten or taken as a liquid.
Cannabis is most commonly prescribed for pain. This could include anything from migraine headaches to spinal injury. It can also be helpful for patients experiencing nausea and appetite loss, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.
Some doctors also prescribe marijuana for Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, anxiety, PTSD, depression and a variety of other conditions.