The Hard Truth Behind
What is Marijuana?
This means that it is not more important than ever for individuals to become informed about this prevalent drug. What really is marijuana? Is marijuana a harmless pastime? Is marijuana addictive? Is medical marijuana addictive? Is there a difference between marijuana and medical marijuana? Is it true that marijuana use leads to psychotic episodes? Looking at the history of the drug and current medical research can answer many of these questions.
Marijuana comes in multiple forms, from dried leaves to extractions. The primary psychoactive chemical in marijuana is THC, though marijuana contains many other psychoactive compounds as well. The drug is most frequently smoked, though it can also be orally ingested, vaporized, and even absorbed topically. When users consume marijuana, they experience a variety of psychological and physical effects, which are referred to as a “high.” Most people report feelings of relaxation and euphoria, a distorted perception of time and space, and an increased sensitivity to bodily sensations. However, the drug can also have adverse effects, causing anxiety, dissociated mental states, and memory problems. Unlike many other well-known recreational drugs, withdrawal from marijuana is rarely severe and it is not possible to overdose on the drug. However, it is possible to abuse the drug. Regular marijuana abuse and marijuana addiction can lead to a decreased quality of life.
During the 20th century, marijuana developed a thriving culture around its use. The drug had an important role in the counterculture of the 1960s, being widely associated with hippies. Years later, marijuana is still widely associated with musicians, artists, and other creative fields. Genres of art have also developed around the drug, including “stoner films,” reggae, and jazz. Marijuana is in fact such an important part of youth culture that much of the United States celebrates a holiday in its honor on April 20, known as 420. The stigma surrounding marijuana use, its status as an illegal drug, and concerns around possible dangers of the drug existed in tandem with a cultural celebration of the substance, which for much of this time was the most used illegal drug in the United States.
In the 20th century, the United States intensified its prosecution of marijuana-related offenses during the War on Drugs. While some countries followed suit, a few outliers allowed for recreational use, including Uruguay and the Netherlands. In October 2018, Canada passed legislation to make recreational use legal. The movement to recognize marijuana abuse as a public health problem rather than a criminal offense has been getting stronger, with a number of other countries beginning to decriminalize marijuana use, including Mexico, South Africa, and the Czech Republic. In the United States, medical marijuana is legal in some states, a few others, including California, have recently passed legislation to decriminalize it.
Marijuana Street Names
Given its ubiquity, it should come as no surprise that marijuana is known by many names. While licensed dispensaries that sell medical marijuana often use specific strain names to refer to their products, illegal dealers are prone to using slang terms. Distributors on the black market use a wide variety of code names for marijuana to avoid being detected by law enforcement personnel. Marijuana is also highly popular among young people, and the terms used in youthful drug culture are constantly evolving. While there is enormous regional variation across cultures, below is a list of some of the more common terms for marijuana:
Different Forms of Marijuana
The most traditional and stereotypical type of marijuana consumption occurs when people get high using the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the cannabis plant. The most common route of administration is smoking. Users place the dried flower in a pipe or roll it into a cigarette, which in marijuana culture is referred to as a joint. Sometimes drug users roll cigarettes containing mixtures of marijuana and other drugs, such as tobacco, to form “spliffs.” This combination can set off a drug interaction that increases the likelihood that someone will become addicted to marijuana. While smoking dried cannabis flower is a quick-acting and effective way to get high, it also releases a strong odor into the air. Marijuana users who want to avoid detection often resort to other methods.
Shatter is a form of marijuana that is produced through an extraction method. Shatter manufacturers create the product by running a solvent, such as propane or butane, through the dried plant. The substance that remains is spread out and left to dry. After some time, it is broken up into pieces that resemble glass shards. Shatter has extremely high concentrations of THC, the strongest psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana, so it can lead to more intense effects. However, it cannot be smoked without a specialized bong and a butane torch that vaporizes the glass. Shatter is often used by individuals who have developed a tolerance to less powerful forms of marijuana. If anyone asks, “Is marijuana physically addictive?” you can point out the high demand for shatter among regular marijuana users.
Wax is another form of marijuana extraction. Unlike the glass-like substance shatter, wax is so-named because of its waxy consistency. It is significantly more potent than cannabis flower. Wax is also dangerous because the solvents used to create it leave byproducts. When users consume marijuana wax, they also consume these dangerous byproducts. The effects of these solvents, which include butane, can lead to health complications such as brain damage.
Marijuana oil is yet another extraction product. It can be derived from traditional flowers, though sometimes manufacturers use hashish as well. The most common solvents used for extraction are butane and ethanol. Marijuana oil can be consumed via smoking, vaporizing, and even eating. This product is increasingly popular. In California, 40% of marijuana retailers’ profits are from marijuana oil sales.
Marijuana tincture, like marijuana oil, is meant to be consumed orally. However, the crucial difference is that tincture is generally used on its own rather than as an ingredient in cooking. The substance is often a mixture of glycerin oil and THC. Users take one to two droplets and wait for the effects to kick in. Tincture is most often consumed by those using marijuana medicinally, though it is sometimes used by recreational users as well.
Edibles are formed by dissolving the active cannabinoids of the plant in a fatty substance, such as butter or oil. The butter or oil, then infused with THC and other psychoactive components of cannabis, can be added to just about any recipe. It is not uncommon for marijuana oil to be used in cookies, brownies, soft drinks, and even hot sauce. Consuming marijuana orally is a slow-acting route of administration. However, the effects can last much longer than when users smoke marijuana. The potency of an edible marijuana product can also be unpredictable, given that dosage is harder to measure. These products can be dangerous and using them carelessly can be one of the signs of marijuana addiction.
Marijuana remains the number one most abused illegal drug in the United States. Its popularity among young people is particularly notable. More United States high schoolers smoke marijuana (approximately 21%) than smoke cigarettes (19%). In a survey conducted to determine at what age people begin smoking marijuana, it was discovered that among users, 53% began between the ages of 12 and 17. Unfortunately, this use is anything but harmless. Youthful marijuana consumption can lead to a number of dangerous consequences, including:
- 19% of adolescent drivers claim to have driven under the influence of marijuana.
- People who started using marijuana before the age of 12 double their risk of suffering from a severe mental illness down the line.
- 17% of admissions to addiction treatment facilities are for marijuana addiction.
- According to the ACLU, marijuana arrests make up more than half of all arrests that occur in the United States.