Psychology Wiki

Assessment | Biopsychology | Comparative | Cognitive | Developmental | Language | Individual differences | Personality | Philosophy | Social |
Methods | Statistics | Clinical | Educational | Industrial | Professional items | World psychology |

Biological: Behavioural genetics · Evolutionary psychology · Neuroanatomy · Neurochemistry · Neuroendocrinology · Neuroscience · Psychoneuroimmunology · Physiological Psychology · Psychopharmacology (Index, Outline)


A cannabis sativa plant

A Cannabis sativa plant


chemical name:

Chemical formula C21H30O2
Molecular weight 314.47 amu
Boiling Point 200°C (392°F)
LD50 1270 mg/kg (male rats), 730 mg/kg (female rats) oral in sesame oil 42 mg/kg (rats) inhalation
This article is about the drug. For the biology of the genus see Cannabis

The cannabis plant can be dried or otherwise processed to yield products containing large concentrations of compounds that have psychoactive and medicinal effects when consumed, usually by smoking or eating. Cannabis (also called marijuana) has been used for medical and psychoactive effects for thousands of years. Throughout the 20th century there was a massive upswing in the use of cannabis as a psychoactive substance, mostly for recreational purposes but to some extent for religious purposes. The possession, use, or sale of psychoactive cannabis products became illegal in many parts of the world during the early 20th century, and remains that way today.


Seed close up

A close up picture of a cannabis seed

Cannabis has been known as a medicinal and psychoactive compound from very early in history, and has been used continuously throughout the world, typically without stigma until the mid-20th century, when, mainly under the leadership of newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst and the United States, prohibition became increasingly global.

Ancient history[]

Cannabis was also known to the Scythians, as well as to the Thracians/Dacians (ancestors of present day Eastern-Europeans), whose shamans (the kapnobatai - "those who walk on smoke/clouds") used to burn cannabis flowers in order to induce trances. The cult of Dionysus, which is believed to have originated in Thrace, has also been linked to the effects of cannabis smoke.

The most famous users of cannabis though were the ancient Hindus. It was called 'ganjika' in Sanskrit ('ganja' in modern Indian languages). According to legend, Shiva, the destructive aspect of the Hindu trinity, told his disciples to use the hemp plant in all ways possible. The ancient drug soma, mentioned in the Vedas as a sacred intoxicating hallucinogen, was sometimes identified with cannabis. However it has also been identified with a number of plants and a mushroom Amanita muscaria.

Recent history[]

Under the name cannabis 19th century medical practitioners helped to introduce the herb's drug potential (usually as a tincture) to modern English-speaking consciousness. 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.

The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the herb’s drug potential. The term marijuana is now well known in English as a name for drug material due largely to the efforts of US drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s, who deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the populace against the idea that it should be legal.

Although cannabis has been used for its psychoactive effects since ancient times, it first became well known in the United States during the jazz music scene of the late 1920s and 1930s. Louis Armstrong became one of its most prominent and life-long devotees. It was popular in the blues scene as well, and cannabis became a prominent part of 1960s counterculture.

Today in America, there are 11 states that provide some legal protection for patients who use marijuana with the consent or recommendation of a doctor. Most recently, Rhode Island became the 11th state to pass medical marijuana legislation. Tolerance for the drug appears to be growing in non-medical respects as well. For example, currently in the state of Oregon, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana for personal use by an adult is considered a violation, not a crime; it is punishable by a simple fine. Various individual cities through the United States have similar legislation. None of these protections, however, will protect a user from federal prosecution.


Main article: Marijuana Decriminalization

On November 1, 2005, the city of Denver, Colorado passed in a 53%-46% vote to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults over 21[1].

On December 2, 2005, a broad coalition of political parties in Amsterdam, Netherlands, unveiled a pilot program to allow farmers to legally grow marijuana. As it stands currently, designated coffee shops can sell cannabis, but must be supplied by underground grow operations[2].

On February 16, 2006, the Herald News Online reported that the Joint Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee of the Massachusetts General Court voted 6-1 in favor of a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Rather than face criminal charges, offenders would face a civil fine of $250[3].

Wild cannabis[]

Cannabis still grows wild in many places around the world, the most prominent species being Cannabis sativa which has been found growing wild in places such as Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, parts of China, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, India, and Nepal. Wild Cannabis indica is mainly confined to hash producing areas such as Afghanistan, parts of the USVI, and in Morocco The wild C. sativa has a lot of genetic variation from place to place. For example the wild C. sativa in warm places can reach heights up to 20 ft (6 meters) tall, but in colder climates it can be as short as 1 ft (30 centimeters) in height. Almost every single flower bract bears a seed. The wild C. sativa has long, thin and airy buds and mostly, a Christmas tree shape structure. Wild C. indica for the most part remains compact and bushy with thick buds, and is sometimes used by the locals for hashish production. Generally, there are far fewer seeds in wild C. indica.

In many areas the wild population of cannabis is threatened due to government eradication and urbanization.

New breeding and cultivation techniques[]

Main article: Cannabis (drug) cultivation

Advances in breeding and cultivation techniques have increased the diversity and potency of cannabis strains over the last 20 years, and these strains are now widely smoked all over the world. These advances—the sensimilla techniques of production - sensimilla is the dried, seedless female flowers of the cannabis plant which has been grown in the absence of males to ensure no pollination takes place. Because THC potency and production drops off once pollination takes place, seed banks, hydroponics, cloning, lighting techniques, sea of green—have been in part a response to prohibition enforcement efforts which have made outdoor cultivation more risky, and so efficient indoor cultivation more common. These same advances have also resulted in the cannabis being smoked currently no longer having seeds in them as was the case 20 years ago.

The increases in potency—and ramifications thereof—have been exaggerated by many opponents of cannabis use both in and out of government. In the United States, government advertisements encourage parents to disregard their own experience with cannabis when speaking to their children, on the premise that pot today is significantly stronger and thus more dangerous than that which they themselves might have smoked in the past. In a general pattern of proposing reverses in cannabis rescheduling, the UK government is considering scheduling stronger cannabis (skunk, in local parlance) as a separate, more restricted substance.

Immediate effects of human consumption[]


A dried flowered bud of the Cannabis sativa plant, in this case, Sweet Tooth #3, a fourth generation, third backcross to Sweet Pink Grapefruit mother

The nature and intensity of the immediate effects of cannabis consumption vary according to the dose, the species or hybridization of the source plant, the method of consumption, the user's mental and physical characteristics (such as possible tolerance), and the environment of consumption. This is sometimes referred to as set and setting. Smoking the same marijuana either in a different frame of mind (set) or in a different location (setting) can alter the effects or perception of the effects by the individual. Effects of cannabis consumption may be loosely classified as cognitive and physical. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Cannabis sativa species tends to produce more of the cognitive or perceptual effects, while Cannabis indica tends to produce more of the physical effects.

Cognitive, behavioral, or perceptual[]

Cannabis has a broad spectrum of possible cognitive, behavioral, or perceptual effects, the occurrence of which vary from user to user. Some of these are the intended effect desired by users, some may be considered desirable depending on the situation, and others are generally considered undesirable. Users of cannabis report that these kinds of effects are more often produced by the sativa species of Cannabis.

Physical or sensory[]

Cannabis also has effects that are predominantly physical or sensory, widely believed to be more common with the indica species.

List of effects[]

Main article: Effects of cannabis

List of therapeutic effects[]

  • Pain relief (especially headaches, cramps, and eye pain due to lowered intraocular pressure).
  • Increased appetite, food subjectively tastes better.
  • Reduced nausea, (especially from chemotherapy), though may cause or exacerbate nausea for some.
  • Dilation of alveoli (air sacs) in lungs, resulting in deeper respiration.
  • Increase in productive coughs (although, consumption in large quantities can worsen coughs)
  • Dilation of blood vessels (vasodilation), resulting in:
    • Increased blood flow and heart rate
    • Reddening of the conjunctivae (red eye)
  • Lower intra-ocular pressure (beneficial to glaucoma patients).
  • Lower blood pressure while standing. Higher blood pressure while sitting (note that this can lead to instances of orthostatic hypotension, a.k.a. head rush).
  • Induces drowsiness (beneficial to sufferers of insomnia and sleep deprivation).
  • Relaxation
  • Reduced stress
  • Mild entheogenesis (e.g. per Rastafarian users, more "Jah-Vibrations")

Aspects of cannabis use[]

  • Cannabis (drug) cultivation
  • Health issues and the effects of cannabis
    • respiratory disease
  • Legal issues of cannabis
  • List of cannabis strains

Physiological systems effected[]

Psychoactive chemistry[]

Active ingredients, metabolism, and method of activity[]

Of the approximately 400 different chemicals found in Cannabis, the main active ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, THC). THC can degrade to CBL and CBN (other cannabinoids), which can make one feel sleepy and disoriented. Different marijuana products have different ratios of these and other cannabinoids. Depending on the ratio, the quality of the "high" will vary.

THC has an effect on the modulation of the immune system which may have an effect on malignant cells, but there is insufficient scientific study to determine whether this might promote or limit cancer. Cannabinoid receptors are also present in the human reproductive system, but there is insufficient scientific study to conclusively determine the effects of cannabis on reproduction. Mild allergies to cannabis may be possible in some members of the population.

A study has shown that holding cannabis smoke in one's lungs for longer periods of time does not conclusively increase THC's effects[4].

Lethal dose[]

It is generally considered to be impossible to achieve a lethal overdose by smoking cannabis. According to the Merck Index, 12th edition, the LD50, the lethal dose for 50% of rats tested by inhalation, is 42 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. That is equivalent of a 75 kg (165 lb) man ingesting all of the THC in 21 one-gram cigarettes of maximum-potency (15% THC) cannabis buds at once, assuming no THC was lost through burning or exhalation. For oral consumption, the LD50 for rats is 1270 mg/kg and 730 mg/kg for males and females, respectively, equivalent to the THC in about a pound of 15% THC cannabis. Only with intravenous administration — an unheard-of method of use — may such a level be even theoretically possible[5].

There has only ever been one recorded verdict of fatal overdose due to cannabis. In January 2004, Lee Maisey of Pembrokeshire, Wales was found dead. The coroner's report stated "Death due to probable cannabis toxicity". It had been reported that Maisey smoked about six joints a day. Mr. Maisey's blood contained 130 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of the THC metabolite THC-COOH.

The validity of the finding did not stand up well under review. As reported on 2004-01-28 in the Neue Züricher Zeitung, the Federal Health Ministry of Switzerland asked Dr. Rudolf Brenneisen, a professor at the department for clinical research at the University of Bern, to review the data of this case. Dr. Brenneisen said that the data of the toxicological analysis and collected by autopsy were "scanty and not conclusive" and that the conclusion "death by cannabis intoxication" was "not legitimate". Additionally, Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen of the Nova-Institute in Cologne, Germany said: "A concentration of 130 ng/ml THC-COOH in blood is a moderate concentration, which may be observed some hours after the use of one or two joints. Heavy regular use of cannabis easily results in THC-COOH concentrations of above 500 ng/ml. Many people use much more cannabis than Mr. Maisey did, without any negative consequences."

Health issues and the effects of cannabis[]

Main article: Health issues and the effects of cannabis

There is little conclusive scientific evidence about the long-term effects of human cannabis consumption. The findings of many earlier studies purporting to demonstrate the effects of the drug are unreliable and generally regarded as junk science, as the studies were flawed, with strong bias and poor methodology. The most significant confounding factor is the use of other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, by test subjects in conjunction with cannabis. When subjects using only cannabis were combined in the same sample with subjects using other drugs as well, researchers could not reach a conclusion as to whether their findings were caused by cannabis, other drugs or the interaction between them.

Growers who cultivate large amounts of cannabis typically favour hydroponically-grown marijuana for its higher crop yield, stronger THC content and reduced contact with humans, predators and the elements. However, the prime motivation for many individuals and groups to grow marijuana this way is the amount of money that can be exploited from selling hydroponic plants compared to soil-grown varieties. With hydroponics, concentrated amounts of nutrients are dissolved in water and delivered to the root system of the plant, becoming easily absorbed by the marijuana plant and promoting faster growth.

This is noteworthy because plants grown in this fashion should be 'flushed' or fed plain water a few weeks prior to cultivation to excrete excessive amounts of nutrients and contaminants from the plant. In many instances, growers overlook this important step in the consideration of selling the plants off as quickly as possible. Such plants that are sold to the public will retain chemicals that are ingested or inhaled into the body and can exacerbate physiological risks such as respiratory and neurological damage when compared with 'flushed' or natural marijuana plants. While plenty of supposition exists about the true effects of marijuana on the human body, there is an inherent danger in using marijuana that is still laced with commercial grade nutrients and fertilisers.

Medicinal use[]

Main article: Medical marijuana

Medically, cannabis is most often used as an appetite stimulant and pain reliever for certain terminal illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. It is used to relieve glaucoma and certain neurological illnesses such as epilepsy, migraine and bipolar disorder. It has also been found to relieve nausea for chemotherapy patients. The medical use of cannabis is politically controversial, but it is sometimes recommended informally by physicians. A synthetic version of the major active chemical in cannabis, THC, is readily available in the form of a pill as the prescription drug Marinol. THC has also been found to reduce arterial blockages[6]. A sublingual spray derived from an extract of cannabis has also been approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis in Canada as the prescription drug Sativex - this drug may now be legally imported into the UK on prescription. Eleven states in the US allow marijuana consumption for medical purposes; however, Gonzales v. Raich ruled marijuana illegal for any purpose. In the case United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative, 00-151, the Supreme Court ruled against marijuana. The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that there is no exception in federal law for people to use marijuana to ease their pain from cancer, AIDS or other illnesses.

See section History for information on historic and other medical use.

Spiritual use[]

Main article: Cannabis (spiritual use)

Cannabis has a long history of spiritual use, especially in India, where it has been used by wandering spiritual sadhus for centuries. The most famous religious group to use cannabis in a spiritual context is the Rastafari movement, though it is by no means the only group (e.g. Church of the Universe). Some historians and etymologists have claimed that cannabis was used by ancient Jews, early Christians and Muslims of the Sufi order. Hashish was used by the Hashshashin, a warrior Shi'a sect.

Many individuals also consider their use of cannabis to be spiritual regardless of organized religion, though it is banned in many parts of the world (and in some cases 'because' it is banned).

Preparations for human consumption[]

Weed full

Roughly 4 to 5 grams of cannabis flowers, or buds, in a plastic bag.

Cannabis is prepared for human consumption in several forms:

  • Marijuana or buds, the resin gland-rich flowering tops of female plants.
    • Sinsemilla or sensemillia, flowering tops which are free of seeds as a result of being grown in a pollen-free environment. Since no plant energy can go into seed formation, this version is higher in psychoactive components.
  • kief or kif, a powder containing the resin glands (glandular trichomes, often incorrectly called "crystals" or "pollen"). It is produced by sifting marijuana and leaves.
  • Hashish, a concentrated resin made from pressing kif into blocks.
  • Charas, produced by hand-rubbing the resin from the resin gland-rich parts of the plant. Often thin dark rectangular pieces.
  • Bhang, prepared by the wet grinding of the leaves of the plant and used as a drink.
  • Hash oil, resulting from extraction or distillation of THC-rich parts of the plant.
  • Minimally potent leaves and detritus, called shake, bush or leaf.

There are also three species of Cannabis. These include Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis, the latter containing much less THC and generally not used as a psychoactive. They differ in their appearance and the highs they produce. There have also been claims to a fourth species of cannabis, which has been nicknamed "Cannabis rasta". It is not yet a formally accepted species and similar to "Cannabis sativa" with regards to psychoactivity.


Spliff rolling machine papers pen

A cigarette rolling machine (A), a cannabis spliff (B), a small amount of crushed cannabis (C), and a book of cigarette rolling papers (D).

The most common method of cannabis consumption is by smoking a hit through one of several classes of devices:


Template:Mainarticles By rolling it up, either manually or with a rolling machine, into a cigarette, often called a spliff or joint, with thin rolling papers, or into a cigar, often called a blunt, with wrapper either obtained by removing the tobacco from the inside of a standard cigar or purchased as a "blunt wrap". In such preparation, tobacco or other smokable material are sometimes combined (mulled) into a single roll. Users may also purchase flavored papers or blunt wraps which both mask the scent of the cannabis and provide for a tastier smoke.


Main article: Bong

In a water-pipe, or bong, by which the smoke is filtered through water into a chamber. The design originated in Vietnam, bong likely being a corruption of the Thai word "baung", and was brought back to the states by American soldiers returning from the war. It should be noted that smoking from a bong loaded with cold water, ice, or snow will greatly cool the smoke and reduce adverse effects of the heat. Counterintuitively, using hot water (sometimes called lava shots or lava bongs) increases moisture in the smoke, which also can reduce adverse effects. Using non-carbonated alcoholic beverages, such as wine or liquor, as a filtering liquid is sometimes preferred by smokers and is said to make the smoke milder, although it's unknown whether this has any additional adverse effects. Bong use is common and enables smoking techniques that are not possible with a simple smoking pipe. Bongs are one of the most efficient methods of smoking, as very little smoke is wasted due to burning while not being inhaled (due to the presence of a chamber and carb), although large-chambered bongs can ignite cannabis at a very fast pace.


A small assortment of marijuana and paraphernalia. Clockwise starting left: Two spliffs, 3/8 oz of marijuana, baggies, grinder, rolling papers. In the middle are two British pound coins for size comparison.

Other designs include gravity bongs, a term which covers several variations, including waterfall bongs and bucket bongs. The bucket bong (or bucky as it is commonly referred to in New Zealand. In Canada they call this a pail, and the method is called pailing) usually consists of the user placing the marijuana in a cone made from a standard bowl or socket set (13 mm) atop a plastic bottle with either a few small holes (2 cm diameter) in the bottom of the bottle, or a complete cut along the bottom of the bottle. The bottle is then lowered into a bucket of water so that only the cone is above the water level. From here, the user lights the cone and proceeds to pull the bottle upwards until the bottle is full with smoke from the marijuana. The cone is then removed by unscrewing the bottle cap, and the user then proceeds to place his/her mouth over the bottle, exhaling all air beforehand, then inhaling as they lower the bottle into the water. This method is especially efficient when marijuana supplies are scarce, but also can burn up marijuana at a very fast pace. Bongs, and gravity bongs in particular, are notable by some for producing a very intense experience. In a homemade bong (U.S. Steamroller), a carbonated drinks bottle is often used, although any container, even glass, ceramic, or metal (according to the skill and preference of the user) can be used. A bong pipe (or other improvised bowl) is inserted into a small hole, usually burnt or somehow put near the bottom of the bottle, but leaving enough room to allow for the stem to pass through the user's choice of liquid. A carburetor may or may not be cut/bored/burnt into the bong, according to the user's preference.


Glass bowl or smoking pipe.


Main article: Smoking pipe

By using a smoking pipe, often called a bowl, usually made of blown glass, wood, or sometimes metal (nonreactive, such as brass, to avoid inhalation of undesirable metal vapors). When speaking about a specific pipe, the term "bowl" can be used to refer to the indentation where cannabis is placed in order to be smoked. Metal pipes are often assembled with various fittings that screw together, with interchangeable, and frequently decorative, parts. Blown-glass pipes are usually intricately and colorfully designed, with colors becoming more vivid after repeated use. Such pipes usually have a rush, choke, or carb, short for carburetor or shotgun hole which is covered by a finger for suction when beginning smoking, which is released to finish inhalation, thus clearing the pipe of smoke without advancing the burning any further. Tobacco pipes, pipes home-made by the user, and others, are also sometimes used. Some users prefer a vertically held ceramic or glass pipe, known as a chillum, coming from India. Pipes are also frequently improvised, using aluminum foil, small plumbing fittings, soda cans, or crisp fruits or vegetables (such as apples, carrots, or potatoes) that have been carved with a "bowl" on one end and a hole bored through the other end, connecting the bowl to a place where the user can inhale the smoke. While foil, fittings, and cans are often used out of desperation (no other utensils are available), some people prefer using crisp edibles, because the moisture content cools and flavors the smoke, and because they are easily disposed of (even eaten in an emergency to remove "evidence").


Main article: Shotgun (cannabis)

In a 'shottie', also known as a 'brainer' or 'super', one smoker takes a hit of a blunt or joint, and then turns it backwards in their mouth, ember in. A second smoker places his or her mouth in front of the end of the smoking device, and the first smoker exhales through the blunt, blowing both his or her smoke as well as that produced from the blunt itself into the second smoker's mouth. Other types of shotties have developed over the years, including types such as the boat shottie, Lincoln shottie, nose shottie, ghost shottie or whale shottie, which use the hands or the nose to direct the smoke in different ways.


One-hitter with wooden Dugout


Main article: Dugout (smoking)

By smoking it with a one-hitter (also referred to as a hitter or bat), a small ceramic or metal device that looks similiar to a cigarette. This is usually used in conjunction with a dugout. Marijuana buds are broken up and the stems and seeds are removed, then it is deposited into a compartment in the dugout. The hitter or "bat" is held in another spring loaded compartment. A small amount of marijuana is packed into the hitter and light then inhale. The bat will need to be lit for every individual hit and, if used properly, there is usually little or no burnoff at the one hitter's tip. This is often used by marijuana users who smoke in public because the hitter resembles a cigarette. It is also seen as the most efficient way to smoke cannabis, as there is little-to-no smoke that is not inhaled by the user. Complaints by users can include that there is too small an amount of cannabis consumed with each hit, and that the one-hitter heats up quickly, sometimes becomming too hot to hold or place to their lips. Users unfamiliar with one-hitters sometimes inhale too strongly and suck burning embers into their mouths and throats.


Main article: Knifers

By hot-knifing, blasting or doing blades, in which the tips of two knives are heated to a very high temperature, often by inserting them into the heating elements of a stove. The marijuana is then pressed between the heated knife-tips, rapidly combusting it. The smoke is often funneled into the mouth of the smoker through the use of a plastic bottle-top, empty pen, or other hollow tube or funnel. In New Zealand, this is also known as 'spots', and most famously undertaken at 'The Flat'. A modified method of "spotting", uses knife blades heated to a much lower temperature, hot enough to vaporise (see Vaporising below) the active ingredients, leaving the organic material scorched, rather than burned, thus removing potential harmful consequenses of the smoke itself.

Oral consumption[]

Cannabis may be orally consumed by blending it with alcohol or fats. With this method, some claim that more cannabis must be used, though considering that the effects of oral consumption are different than inhalation, others may claim that less is required. The effects of the drug take longer to begin, but last longer and may be more physical rather than mental (though some also claim the opposite). It has been suggested that the effects are more subjectivly "pharmacutical" in nature, as opposed to "narcotic." A dose of oral cannabis is often considered to give a stronger experience than the equivalent dose of smoked cannabis. A common belief holds that while smoked cannabis has a large volume exhaled (or simply burned) without consumption, ingested cannabis has 100% consumption (which cannot be confirmed without objective analysis). It is thought that the active component of cannabis, delta-9 THC, is converted to the more psychoactive delta-11 THC in the liver. It takes some experience for one to regulate the dose. Common preparations involve blending with butter (to create cannabutter) that is used in preparing brownies, fudge, cookies or ganja goo balls or "space cakes." Infusion in drinks containing milk and flavoring herbs is also possible, and more common in India.

As with other drugs that are taken orally, it is sometimes customary to fast before taking the drug to increase the effect (possibly because an empty stomach will absorb the drug faster so it 'hits' more strongly — although some do eat before consuming the drug because eating it on an empty stomach makes them feel sick). Still, time to effect onset is sometimes more than an hour, as opposed to smoking, where effects can be almost immediate.

Cannabis could also be consumed as a tea. THC is lipophilic and only a little water soluble (few grams/litre), but enough to make a tea effective. Water-based infusion is generally considered to be inefficient.

The seeds of the plant, high in protein and fatty acids, are appreciated by many species of birds. Contrary to popular belief, marijuana seeds capable of growing are illegal under U.S. law. Federal law only makes an exception in the case of sterilized seeds, incapable of growing, and the mature stalks of the plant[7].

See Cooking with cannabis external links below.


Usually with a vaporizer, cannabis can be heated to a temperature of about 365 °F (185 °C), at which the active ingredients are released into gaseous form with little or no burning of the plant material. With this method, the user does not inhale as many toxic chemicals per unit of mass that are byproducts of combustion. However, studies also suggest that less THC is inhaled. In fact thc/tar ratio is lower than if a regular unfiltered joint is smoked. Some users claim to experience subtly different effects when using cannabis in this way. In addition, users note an improved ability to distinguish subtle characteristics of flavor and aroma, in absence of lighter gas fumes or burnt matter.


Main article: Legal issues of cannabis

Since the twentieth century, most countries have laws against the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis (and, naturally, these laws impact adversely on the herb's cultivation for non-recreational purposes) but there are many regions where certain circumstances of cannabis handling are legal or licensed and others where laws against its use, possession, or sale are not enforced. Many jurisdictions have also decriminalized possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation and/or a fine, rather than imprisonment. By effectively removing the user from the criminal justice system, decriminalization focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market. However this does not solve the problem of how a user will obtain the 'legal amount' of marijuana, since buying or growing marijuana is still illegal. Increasingly, many jurisdictions also permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. However, simple possession can carry long jail terms in some countries, particularly in East Asia, and the sale of cannabis can lead to life in prison or execution.

420 9

A large scale anti-prohibition demonstration in Vancouver, Canada organized by the Marijuana Party and Marc Emery on April 20, 2005

Prohibition and criminalization in the US[]

Until 1937, consumption and sale of cannabis was legal in most American states. In some areas it could be openly purchased in bulk from grocers or in cigarette form at newsstands, though an increasing number of states had begun to outlaw it. In that year, federal law made possession or transfer of cannabis (without the purchase of a by-then-incriminating tax stamp) illegal throughout the United States. This was contrary to the advice of the American Medical Association at the time. Legal opinions of the time held that the federal government could not outlaw it entirely. The tax was $100 per pound of hemp, even for clothes or rope. The expense, extremely high for that time, was such that people stopped openly buying and making it.

The decision of the U.S. Congress 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 textile 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. Others argue that DuPont wanted to eliminate cannabis because its high natural cellulose content made it a viable alternative to the company's developing innovation: modern plastic. Still, others could argue that hemp could never truly compete with the high strength and elasticity of synthetics, such as nylon. Furthermore, hemp would have been an easy target due to its intoxicating effect, while no rational justification could have been made for outlawing cotton, wool, or linen.

Marahuana warning

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

During this period, Henry (Harry) Anslinger, then-Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, alleged that the drug could provoke criminal behavior in previously solid citizens. Anslinger, originally against a federal law, switched his position in response to pressure from Southern and Western states seeking to outlaw the substance in connection with immigrant populations. With the aid of Hearst and other media, the Bureau of Narcotics demonized the subject in pop culture. Anslinger was a prohibitionist and believed anti-marijuana laws would help encourage a revival of alcohol's prohibition. Anslinger also popularized the word marihuana for the plant, using a Mexican derived word (believed to be derived from an archaic Brazilian Portuguese term for inebriation, "Maria Joana") in order to associate the plant with increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, creating a negative stereotype which persists to this day.

Anslinger was successful in outlawing machine-gun sales with a trick of law that made it impossible to complete a transaction without a stamp issued by the government. Even though the government had no intentions of issuing said stamps, the Supreme Court upheld the restriction on machine gun sales. (Today these stamps are routinely issued however to qualified buyers under the rules set forth in the National Firearms Act.) Congress then applied the same theory to marijuana. Following passage of The 1937 federal marijuana tax act, the mayor of New York City commissioned a study that determined all of Anslinger's claims to be false. Despite the testimony of the American Medical Associations director, Congress passed the bill to curb the perceived violent spread of the drug. In fact, the legal spread of amphetamines by prescription from doctors was at this time clearly a larger problem.

Anslinger's law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1969. In a case brought by Timothy Leary, the Court held that the law's requirement that a would-be possessor of cannabis register with the local bureau of the IRS, thereby placing his name and address on a file available to local law enforcment, violated the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, given the fact that at the time all 50 states had state laws on the books outlawing cannabis outright. In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act made possession of cannabis (classified as Schedule I) illegal again on a federal level, without the Fifth Amendment issues that scuttled the 1937 act, and without apparent concern for the issues which required the Eighteenth Amendment to effect the prohibition of alcohol. Several petitions to reschedule cannabis under the CSA have been filed, since the Act permits the executive branch to do so, which would effectively legalize it at the federal level.



  1. Patrick O'Driscoll. Denver votes to legalize marijuana possession. URL accessed on 2005-03-11.
  2. Dutch Politicians Seek Marijuana Rules. URL accessed on 2006-02-25.
  3. Marijuana fight nears. URL accessed on 2006-02-17.
  4. Block RI, Farinpour R & Braverman K. (1992). Acute effects of marijuana on cognition: relationships to chronic effects and smoking techniques. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behaviour 43(3): 907 – 917.
  5. Erowid. Cannabis Chemistry. URL accessed on 2006-03-20.
    1. redirect template:cite news
  6. Controlled Substances Act. 21 USCS § 801. United States Drug Enforcement Agency. URL accessed on November 4, 2005.

See also[]


  1. REDIRECT Template:cite news
  1. REDIRECT Template:cite news
  • Bruce Mirken and Mitch Earleywine:
  1. redirect template:cite news
  • James Huff and Po Chan (October 2000). Antitumor Effects of THC. Environmental Health Perspectives 108(10): Correspondence. PMID 11097557.
  1. REDIRECT Template:cite news

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).