Cannabis, also known as marijuana or ganja, is a psychoactive product of the plant Cannabis sativa. The drug is commonly ingested after it is dried. The most common parts of the plants used in ingestion are dried flowers and leaves of the female plants. Another method of consumption is the resinous form, which consists of the crystalline trichomes on the flowers and leaves.
The psychoactive chemical substance of the plant is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC. This compound causes psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed, usually through smoking or ingestion. Common effects include euphoria, laughter, philosophical thinking, increased appreciation for music, heightened sensory awareness, pain relief, increased appetite, and reduced nausea. Negative effects include coughing, lung problems, possible psychological dependence, panic attacks or anxiety problems, and the exacerbation of mental illness.
Cannabis has been consumed by humans since before written history. In the 20th century, the consumption of the drug has increased due to recreational, religious, and medicinal purposes. Statistics estimate that about 4% of the world’s population use marijuana annually and that 0.6% use the drug daily. However, the possession, use, and sale of the substance became illegal in most countries during the 20th century. In recent years, some countries have tightened their restrictions on cannabis while others have lessened the charges or legalized the drug.
Several countries have reduced the penalties for marijuana possession, especially in small quantities. These countries tend to focus on finding people who sell or grow the drug instead. The Netherlands has legalized the drug, choosing to regulate its distribution in select coffee shops. The United States has allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes, such as increasing appetite in anorexic patients or helping relieve eye pressure in those who suffer from glaucoma. However, the United States still legally pursues people who use or distribute the drug outside of a medical context.
Unfortunately, negative health effects can occur from habitual use of the substance. A recent study determined marijuana smoke contains 20 times the amount of ammonia of cigarette smoke and 5 times more hydrogen cyanide and nitrous oxides than tobacco products. Despite this finding, the research found no correlation between heavy use and lung cancer. In a different study, however, habitual marijuana smokers suffered from bullous lung disease about 24 years sooner than their tobacco smoking counterparts.