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What is Marijuana?

Every year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 2.1 million people start using marijuana. Most of these new users are in the age group of 18-25 year olds. And, because it is viewed as a "safe" drug, it is also the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States.

But what is marijuana?

Marijuana comes from a plant. The plant is hemp plant called Cannabis sativa. It is important to note that the hemp plant can also be used to produce fibers that are used in rope and even in clothing and other consumer products. Contrary to popular belief, such hemp is not something that you can really smoke to get high.

Marijuana, though, is also produced from the hemp plant. It consists of a mixture of leaves, stems, flowers and seeds that have been dried and shredded. These can be further processed to increase potency. In fact, growing and breeding methods, as well as processing methods, have been developed so that today's marijuana is actually more potent than it was two decades ago.

The chemical that makes marijuana into a mind altering drug is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. THC is a chemical that flows through the blood to the brain. There are certain receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors. These are designed to bind to THC. This binding is what sets off the chemical reaction in the brain that leads to the feeling of a "high."


Marijuana has a distinct smell. It is described as a "sweet-sour" smell. It clings to clothing and hair, and can be easily identified.

Other mind-altering products that can be made from the cannabis plant include hashish (a very concentrated form), sinsemilla and hash oil (which appears sticky and black). These are different versions of marijuana.

How marijuana is used

Most commonly, marijuana is smoked. The leaves, stems, flowers and seeds are rolled in special papers and then smoked as cigarettes. Sometimes, tobacco cigarettes are used. They can be sliced open and the tobacco inside mixed with the marijuana. Marijuana is also sometimes mixed with cocaine or heroin and smoked. Marijuana can also be smoked in a pipe (sometimes called a bong). A bong can be homemade or purchased.

Marijuana can also be used in as a tea. There are some who brew the leaves and drink the resulting tea. Additionally, it is possible to bake the marijuana in goods, like cookies or brownies, for ingestion.

Street names for marijuana

There are many different street names for marijuana. The most common are pot, dope, grass, weed, herb and hash. However, sometimes it is referred to as bud, ganja or widow. There are different qualities of marijuana as well. High quality marijuana from Canada is sometimes called BC bud (for British Columbia).

Marijuana, interestingly enough, also has trademarked varieties. You can find names for these varieties of cannabis:

You can also be on the alert for terms associated with marijuana, such as mowing the grass and 420.

Effects of marijuana

Marijuana has a variety of effects on the body. It affects coordination, as well as sensory perception. Additionally, marijuana affects the memory. This means that you might not be able to remember what you did while under the influence. And its affects on the brain can impair judgment and slow learning ability.

On the body, marijuana affects the heart and the respiratory system. Marijuana increases the chances of heart attack, and can lead to lung diseases and cancer. It is important to realize that there are long term effects associated with marijuana use.

Signs of marijuana use

There are different signs of marijuana use:

It is important to realize that marijuana use can affect a person's social life and relationships, in addition to having long term health effects.