Scientific classification
Order: Urticales
Binomial name
Cannabis sativa

Cannabis is a genus (see scientific classification) of dioecious, annual herbs belonging to the family Cannabaceae of the nettle order Urticales. Its varieties grow in most climates. There is phylogenetic controversy as to whether the cultivated varieties of the plant are of a single species (Cannabis sativa) or represent distinct species (such as those called Cannabis indica and Cannabis americana). The tough fiber of the plant is known as hemp and has various uses, including the manufacture of cloth, rope, and paper. Its seeds, used in bird feed, are a valuable source of protein, energy, and long-chain fatty acids. Containing mildly hallucinogenic and other psychoactive and physiologically active chemicals known as cannabinoids, the buds and leaves of the plant are used recreationally and medicinally; such a preparation is often referred to as marijuana (archaic: marihuana; see street names below) and, today, is usually consumed orally or by inhalation in smoking or vaporization. Concentrated preparations derived from THC-laden resin secreted from the plant are known as hashish. Historically, tinctures, teas, and ointments were also common preparations, especially medicinally.

Table of contents
1 THC Content
2 Effects
3 Medical use
4 Recreational use
5 Street Names
6 History
7 Death penalty for cannabis usage or trafficking
8 Canadian Law Relating to Cannabis
9 Related articles
10 External links

THC Content

The main psychoactive substance in cannabis is Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as D-9-THC or THC), but the plant contains about 60 cannabinoids in total, including two others of particularly high concentration, cannabinol and cannabidiol. Differences in the chemical composition of cannabis varieties can produce highly different human reactions, and the complexity of the composition of the plant is one reason why its effects can differ from that of the synthetic version of THC, dronabinol.

Although the potency of most cannabis varieties is uncertain, "normal" herbal cannabis usually contains between 0.5% to 8% THC. With varieties below 2-3% THC, such as those specifically cultivated for usage as hemp, smoking usually only produces headaches and lightheadedness. Selective breeding and cultivation techniques (such as hydroponics) have produced varieties which may have up to 25% THC content. The THC content is also affected by the sex of the plant, with female plants generating more resin than their male counterparts. Seedless varieties derived from unpollinated female plants, with high THC content, are sometimes described as sinsemilla (Spanish: "without seed").


Acute effects of marijuana consumption vary greatly by individual and by the qualities of particular varieties, but generally include some or all of the following:

Possibly positive or desirable

Possibly neutral

Possibly negative or undesirable

Many of these are highly dependant on the mood of the individual or his environment, the variety of plant, and the method of use. For instance, a safe environment among friendly companions leads one to pleasance and relaxation whereas an unpleasant environment among unfamilar acquaintances or with the threat of encountering legal authorities or others disapproving of the practice leads one to agitation, paranoia, and confusion. The qualities of certain plant varieties may also lead one to a "head-high" of alacrity, creativity, and perception or instead a "body-high" of physical pleasure, relaxation, and pain relief, or a more narcotic "stonedness" of lethargy and listlessness. Additionally, oral consumption leads more to a body-high or stonedness than smoking, whereas the use of a vaporizor leads much more to a "head-high".

Some research suggests that THC has an effect on the modulation of the immune system which, among other things possibly helps to prevent or promote cancer, depending on the study. There are some indications of mild allergies to cannabis in some members of the population.

Lethal dose

It is impossible for anyone in the normal population to overdose by normal means of cannabis consumption, that is without 50+% THC concentrations in plants or intravenous injection. No fatal overdose due to cannabis use has ever been recorded. According to the Merck Index, 12th edition, in rats the LD50 of THC, that is the dose at which 50% of the sample of rats died, was 42 milligrams per each kilogram of body weight, when inhaled. Were a human to try to reach these doses, he or she would die of respiratory failure due to smoke inhalation, or simply fall asleep, long before actually overdosing on THC. As for oral consumption, the LD50 for rats was 1270 mg/kg and 730 mg/kg for males and females, respectively, a far greater amount. In humans, it would be impossible for THC levels in blood plasma to reach a such a toxic level, as one would die of respiratory failure due to smoke inhalation, would vomit that orally consumed, and would simply fall asleep midway, long before dangerous levels. As humans are different creatures, some evidence suggests that the toxic level is far higher, proportionally, in humans than in rats. Some evidence suggests that, in humans, a toxic dose of THC may be 4,000 to 40,000 times the threshhold dose of the drug. Again, such a dose would need to be administered in a very short period of time, in tens of minutes, and represents many hundreds or thousands of grams, pounds or dozens of pounds, or thousands of American dollars.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

The use of cannabis is not medically addictive. Although a mild tolerance of the psychological effects of the drug can build, it is generally scientifically accepted that it is not physically addictive. Such tolerance dissipates rapidly, and such tolerances tend to vanish within as little as a few days of abstinence. As with any substance however, some can build up a psychological dependence. There is some evidence linking long-term use to depression as well as aggravation of pre-existing mental conditions, although the cause and effect relationship between depression and substance abuse is not fully understood, and there is a possibility that drug use could be a result of depression and not the root cause.

The long-term effects of cannabis still need more study. One of the most important and widely shared concerns regarding cannabis is that its high tar content (especially when it is combined with tobacco, as is common in Europe) could lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. Pipes using water filtration, called bongs, are often believed to reduce lung damage by filtering out a portion of the smoke's tar, and lowering the temperature of the smoke.A recent report [1] indicated that marijuana's effects on the lungs are at least as serious as those of tobacco; it may be noted that most marijuana users use far lesser quantities, and that it is not necessarily smoked.

Medical use

Cannabis is infequently prescribed by doctors due to its legal status in most nations, but is most often prescribed as an appetite stimulant and pain reliever for terminal illnesses including cancer and AIDS. The medical use of cannabis is highly controversial and is dealt with in its own article. See medical marijuana.

Marijuana products.

Recreational use

Cannabis comes in several forms.

It is most commonly smoked, usually in a "joint" or "spliff". Other names include jacob, blunt (cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana to replace the tobacco), hooter, doobie, grifo, and binge: the dried buds or leaves (sometimes mixed with tobacco) are rolled in paper or cigar wrapping and smoked much like a cigarette.

Other methods include using pipes or "bongs" (water pipes) and buckets to smoke the cannabis whilst cooling the smoke down and, in the case of bongs, removing some of the unwanted impurities/tar. Smoke escapes through a hole called a "carb". In addition, a drink called bhang can be prepared. See also hashish and hashish oil.

Cannabis is also cooked to make things such as Alice B. Toklas brownies, "space cake", "pot pie," and "hash brownies". However, the effects of ingested cannabis usually do not take effect for over 30 minutes (many times much longer), making it harder for users to regulate their consumption.

The seeds of the hemp plant are also eaten and roasted, as well as being used to make hemp seed oil. A few restaurants that specialize in food with hemp seeds in it have opened, and appeal mostly to a countercultural clientele base. These places are legal, but is precisely because roasted hemp seeds contain too little THC to get the diner high that they are legal.

Another method of ingestion is vaporization. Vaporization allows the Cannabis resins (THC and other cannabinoids) to be extracted into a vapor by heating without actually burning the plant material. This is advantageous because most of the toxic chemicals found in cannabis and tobacco smoke are byproducts of the combustion process. By heating the cannabis to about 190C, the Cannabis resins are released into a vapor but the plant material is not actually burned. This vapor can then be inhaled and the effects of the drug will be felt as quickly as if it were smoked. Vaporization is an option for people concerned about the dangers associated with smoking.

Cannabis can also be taken by dissolving it in non-skimmed milk, which is in turn added to preparations of flavoring herbs (such as cloves, cinnamon, etc. They vary by region). THC is not water-soluble, so the cannabis must be steeped in a fatty substance such as melted butter, oil, cream, or whole milk. Such a preparation is referred to as "bhang" and is a traditional method of consumption in India and related countries.

See also: Recreational drug use

Street Names

General names

For Cannabis: bomb, bud, buddha, chillsprout, chimichangas, chronic, crunkler, dagga, dank, dee, dope, frodis, ganja, grass, green,
hashish, herb, indo, instaga, KB (kind bud/killer bud), kind, kipp, Mary Jane, mellow fellow, moss, nugget, pot, rope, scrazzlerb, shwag (low-quality marijuana), skunk, smoke, sticky-icky-icky (a Snoop Doggy Dogg coinage), tampiko, tea, weed, whacko-tobacco and many other names. Definitions of all these terms vary by region, and may vary in meaning according to context.

For getting high: stoned, toking (up), zonked, baked, tore-up, buzzed, ripped, smashed, lit-up, lifted, faded, (solid) gone, toasted, blazed, blasted, wasted, basted, gonzo, or simply fucked up

Reefer has most often been used to refer to a marijuana cigarette, but sometimes to the substance itself. "Reefer" was common in the early 20th century, but is now usually only used humorously, often in reference to the then-serious now-comical 1930s film Reefer Madness, extremely exaggerating marijuana's effects, depicting a scenario of evil gangsters attempting to corrupt the youth of a small town with the evil weed.

Early 20th century terms

Mez, Muggles, gage, viper jive.

Names for potent or otherwise good marijuana (or cannabis strains)

(Cross)breeds of plants White widow (light green-white in appearance), C99, AK-47 (Sativa/Indica cross), Bubblegum (very sticky), JuicyFruit, Orange Bud and Blueberry (product smells or tastes somewhat like its name); G-13 (developed at the University of Washington); BC Bud (from British Columbia, Canada); Thunderfuck, Northern-lights (these two natives of Alaska), purple haze, kush, Thai or Thai stick (the legitimate product is indica from Thailand or US Grown of Thai seed, the buds being long and treelike in appearance, often with string wrapped in a spiral pattern for the purpose of holding the bud together). The term Thai stick is also used for imitation marijuana.

It should be noted that (in part due to the illegal status of cannabis) many lies about origin and THC content are perpetuated by dishonest sellers to boost sales or justify high prices; for example common marijuana with buds appearing somewhat treelike will often be labeled "thai stick" by a dealer, at which point the price may increase from 50% to 200% or more.


The use of cannabis is thought to go back at least 5000 years. Neolithic archaeology grounds in China include cannabis seeds and plants. The first known mention of cannabis was in a Chinese medical text of 2737 BC. It was used as medicine throughout Asia and the Middle East to treat a variety of conditions. In India particularly, cannabis was associated with Shiva.

Cannabis was well known to the Scythians. Germans have grown hemp for its fibers--used to make nautical ropes and material for clothes--since ancient times. In the Elbing Prussian vocabulary from around 1350, hemp is recorded as knapis (derived from cannabis). Large fields of hemp along the banks of the Rhine are featured in 19th century copper etchings.

The hemp plant has to be soaked to harvest the fiber. This liquid was used as a drink. In today's Germany there are bars that serve hemp beer and hemp wine (edit: while this may be true those drinks will not contain any THC because as a drug cannabis is still outlawed in Germany and only so-called "industrial hemp" that doesn't contain any THC may be grown for production of fibers and said drinks).

Cannabis was used medicinally in the western world (usually as a tincture) around the middle of the 19th century. It was famously used to treat Queen Victoria's menstrual pains, and was available from shops in the US. By the end of the 19th century its medicinal use began to fall as other drugs such as aspirin took over.

Until 1937, consumption and sale of marijuana was legal in most American states. In some areas it could be openly purchased in bulk from grocers or in cigarette form at newstands, though more and more of them had begun to outlaw it. In that year Federal law made possession or transfer of marijuana illegal without the purchase of a by-then incriminating tax stamp throughout the United States (contrary to the advice of the American Medical Association at the time); legal opinions of time held that the federal government could not outlaw it entirely.

Congress' decision was based in part on testimony derived from articles in the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who was heavily interested in DuPont Inc. Some analysts theorize DuPont wanted to boost declining post-war nylon sales, and wished to eliminate hemp fiber as competition. Many argue that this seems unlikely given DuPont's lack of concern with the legal status of cotton, wool, and linen; although it should be noted that hemp's textile potential had not yet been largely exploited, while textile factories already had made large investments in equipment to handle cotton, wool, and linen. Even more inflammatory and biased were the accusations by that period's US 'drug czar' Henry Anslinger. Anslinger felt that the drug provoked murderous rampages in previously-solid citizens, charges not borne out under closer scrutiny. Anslinger went on to say that "it makes darkies feel equal to white men," a plaint typical of much of the anti-drug rhetoric of the time, which for example emphasised opium's role in promoting Anglo-Chinese miscegenation. He told the married men in the audience: "Gentlemen, it will make your wives want to have sex with a Black man!" Anslinger also popularized the word marihuana for the plant, using a Mexican derived word (believed to be derived from a Brazilian Portuguese term for inebriation) in order to associate the plant with increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, creating a negative stereotype which many Americans still believe to this day.

Cannabis has a prominent religious role in the Rastafarian religion.

Although it has probably been used as a recreational drug thoughout its history, it first came to prominence in the jazz scene during the late 1920s and 30s (Louis Armstrong being its most prominent [and life-long] devotee), its use taking off in the 1960s.

It is now the most widely used illicit drug in the world.

Federal Bureau of Narcotics poster used in the late 1930s and 1940s

Death penalty for cannabis usage or trafficking

As of 2003, only a minority of countries still include the death penalty in their legal system. Several of those which still have the death penalty have either carried it out or legislated it for cannabis usage or trafficking.

In Malaysia, Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 yrs old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 yrs old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.18 kilograms of cannabis. [1] Under Malaysia's anti-drug laws, the death penalty is mandatory for trafficking certain drugs. Anyone found in possession of at least 15 grams of heroin, 1,000 grams of opium or 200 grams of cannabis is presumed to be guilty (until proven innocent) of trafficking in the drug. This reverses the usual presumption of innocence of internationally recognised norms of law.

The Philippines introduced stronger anti-drug law (including the death penalty) in 2002 [1]

In 1996 in the USA, Newt Gingrich planned to introduce a mandatory death penalty for a second offense of smuggling 50 grams of marijuana into the USA, in the proposed law H.R. 4170. It seems that proposed law failed, so that, under the 1994 crime act, the threshold for sentencing a death penalty in relation to marijuana is the involvement with the cultivation or distribution of 60,000 marijuana plants (or seedlings) or 60,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Canadian Law Relating to Cannabis

On December 23, 2003, The Supreme Court of Canada announced (in a 6-3 decision) that the criminalization of Marijuana was not unconstitutional.

Related articles

External links

Drug Information




For the 1990s rapper, see Canibus.