Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the United States and use continues to grow as more states move towards legalization.
According to a 2009 survey, over 104 million people in the United States have used a form of cannabis at least once in their lives. Cannabis is known by many names including Mary Jane, pot, grass, weed, and skunk. Names often vary based on geographic location and cultural differences, and although they are used interchangeably, the name used indicates what the drug is derived from and its potency.
Aside from alcohol, marijuana is often the first drug an individual experiments with in their lifetime and the misconceptions surrounding the safety of its use continues to influence choices of adolescents and adults alike. As marijuana’s legal status changes, it has grown in popularity, as have new forms and methods of use.
Cannabis is derived from “cannabis sativa” a plant that grows in many different environments, including indoors with hydroponic technology. The main active ingredient of cannabis is THC, which is the part of the plant that produces a high. The potency of THC varies greatly depending on the way it is extracted and used.
Cannabis comes in three different forms: marijuana, hashish, and hash oil. Each form of cannabis can be used in a number of ways and is derived from different parts of the plant. Marijuana is the least potent of the three and is derived from dried flowers and leaves. Hashish is made from the resin of the cannabis plant and is typically pressed into small blocks and smoked, although it can also be added to food and consumed. Hashish oil is the most potent of the three and is a thick oil obtained from hashish. It is mostly commonly smoked.
Marijuana is the most common name used when discussing the cannabis plant, and it is the least potent version of the drug. Marijuana goes by many names including ganja, herb, weed, chronic, and pot. Marijuana is derived from dried flowers and leaves and most commonly smoked as a cigarette called a “joint,” but may also be baked into foods and consumed.
Marijuana can produce both short-term and long-term effects on users. It is a mind-altering drug that affects an individual’s perception, mood, and behavior. When smoked, the effects of marijuana can be instantaneous, but when consumed through food or beverages, the effects may take approximately 30 minutes to an hour to become apparent. Marijuana works by stimulating the parts of the brain that contain the most receptors, causing the “high” users experience. Users may experience changes in mood, an altered perception of time, impaired body movement and memory, difficulty thinking, and altered senses.
Over a long period of time, marijuana can affect brain development, especially if it is used in adolescence. Since the brain is still developing during teenage and young adult years, marijuana use can impair the brain’s ability to build connections in the areas of the brain that impact thinking, memory, and learning functions. Furthermore, use of marijuana can cause mental and physical side effects including breathing problems, increased heart rate, paranoia, hallucinations, depression, and anxiety. Those who smoke marijuana frequently are likely to develop a daily cough, frequent lung infections, and an increased risk for lung cancer.
Hashish is often referred to as hash oil, chronic, hemp, butane, wax, or shatter. Hash is available in solid form and softened by heat so that it may be smoked in a pipe, bong, or joint. Hash can also be baked into foods or vaporized (also known as “dabbing”). Although it is derived from marijuana, it is much more potent and can cause more dramatic side effects. Hash oil is most commonly made by passing liquid butane through a tube filled with cannabis. Once this is done, the plant material is removed and the remaining liquid is heated. The heat causes it to take many forms, which has in turn influenced many of its street names. Hash oil is dangerous to produce because butane is highly explosive. There have been several instances of home explosions and third degree burns related to this practice.
The concentrate is incredibly potent compared to traditional marijuana. Hash oil can contain as much as 80 to 90 percent THC, which is the equivalent of 15 to 20 joints of traditional marijuana. Due to the high concentration, hashish is known to produce powerful psychoactive effects including paranoia, anxiety, and other psychological issues that may last for days at a time. In addition, because hashish is made with butane, it can impair the brain and nervous system leading to dizziness, increased heart rate, and unconsciousness. In large doses, inhalation of butane can be deadly.
Many of the long-term and short-term side effects experienced using marijuana are the same. Since hashish oil has a higher concentration of THC, it is more likely to increase one’s likelihood of developing addictive behaviors.