Marijuana: Therapeutic use, Treatment. Marijuana rehab.
Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 5:00 pm
Official names: Marijuana, hashish, hashish oil
Street names: There are more than 200 slang terms for marijuana, including: A-bomb, Acapulco gold, ace, African black, Aunt Mary, bhang, blanche, boo, boom, bush, charas, chronic, dagga, dope, gangster, ganja, grass, hash, hash oil, herb, kef, kief, kif, marihuana, Mary Jane, nickel, oil, old man, pot, reefer, sinsemilla, sensi, skunk, smoke, tar, weed
Drug classifications: Schedule I, hallucinogen
ADDICTION: Physical dependence on a drug characterized by tolerance and withdrawal.
BHANG: The mildest form of cannabis used in India.
CANNABINOID: One of the approximately 60 chemical compounds found in Cannabis saliva.
CANNABIS: Refers to all plant and/or drug forms of the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis saliva.
CHARAS: Concentrated cannabis resin, similar to hashish.
DEPENDENCE: A psychological compulsion to use a drug that is not linked to physical addiction.
GANJA: A moderately potent form of Indian cannabis, marked by a greater THC content than bhang.
HASHISH: Concentrated cannabis resin, similar to charas.
HASHISH OIL: The most potent form of cannabis resin, extracted by chemical solvent.
HEMP: Cannabis plants that are grown for fiber; in nineteenth-century medicine, also referred to cannabis used medicinally.
MARIJUANA: The dried leaves and flowers of female Cannabis saliva plants.
TETRAHYDROCANNABINOLS (THC): A group of cannabinoid compounds thought to cause most of the psychoactive reactions to marijuana use.
Marijuana is derived from the Indian hemp plant, Cannabis saliva, a member of the Cannabaceae family and the Urticales (nettle) order. Some botanists claim that this genus contains as many as three other species: C. indica, C. ruderalis, and even Humulus lupulus, the hops plant. Other botanists insist that the differences between plants reflect simple variations, not different species.
Cannabis saliva is dioecious, which means that it produces both male and female plants. All types of cannabis strains — both male and female plants — produce THC, the active ingredient that, when smoked or ingested, intoxicates the user. This substance can be detected in every part of the plant, including the stems. The highest concentration of THC, however, is found in the resin, which is most abundant in the flowers of female plants.
Several hemp plant types have sturdy stems that can grow to heights of 20 ft (6 m). These stems contain a strong and durable fiber that can be processed to make rope, cloth, and paper. Other hemp plant types produce oil- and protein-rich seeds that are used in some industrial applications and a few types of animal feed. By far the hemp plant most frequently cultivated, however, is the short bushy strain whose leaves and flowers contain high concentrations of THC.
Marijuana defies easy classification as a drug. It is described as a psychogenic (a cannabinoid), a narcotic (although it does not contain opium), and a hallucinogen (the government’s designation). Each of these definitions, however, is at best a compromise. Opinion is further divided on whether the drug is a stimulant or a depressant. Controversy also rages over marijuana’s medicinal properties, which are alleged and denied fiercely by proponents and detractors, respectively. One fact remains indisputable: Marijuana is the most abused illegal drug in the world.
The use of marijuana for both medicinal purposes and relaxation has a history almost as long as its other applications, such as paper or cloth. The world’s oldest-known pharmacopeia, dated from the third century B.C., recognized the drug’s psychoactive qualities and recommended its use as a painkiller, antidepressant, and sedative. It was also recommended, although with dubious efficacy, to treat gout, constipation, and forgetfulness. Three thousand years later, during the second century A.D., a Chinese surgeon boiled hemp in wine to produce an anaesthetic he called ma fei son. Interestingly, aside from its medicinal uses, marijuana never became the popular recreational drug in China that it has in other parts of the world.
From China, marijuana spread eastward. In India, its use as a drug began around 1,000 B.C., and it soon became an important part of Hindu religious rituals and meditation. The Artharvaveda, one of the four Vedas, or sacred Hindu texts, portrays cannabis as a divine elixir that eases anxiety. Ancient Indian physicians prescribed marijuana for malaria and rheumatism, presumably for its analgesic qualities. Other early medical indications — for “blood clearing” and to encourage the formation of pus (thought to be a sign of healing) — say more about the state of medicine during those centuries than cannabis’s therapeutic value. The Persians and Assyrians also used cannabis as a drug, as reflected in tablets from the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., respectively.
However practical its uses, though, cannabis was always consumed recreationally. Marijuana became popular in the Moslem world, partly because the Islamic faith forbade the use of alcohol. The Sufis, a mystical Islamic sect, used marijuana as part of their religious rituals. Over the centuries, Arab traders brought cannabis to east Africa, and from there it spread throughout the continent.
By 400 A.D., hemp was being cultivated in Europe and in England. With the rise of the national navies during the sixteenth century, hemp farming was encouraged to meet the demand for rope and naval rigging. After Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign brought hashish to Europe, nineteenth-century French writers, artists, and intellectuals took up its use. When some of their surreal experiences with hashish were publicized, the shocked reaction by the public established drug use as a lower-class, disreputable pursuit.
Hemp farming became an important crop in America as well. In fact, the Virginia Assembly required every farmer in the colony to grow it, and imposed penalties on those who did not. By the middle of the nineteenth century, hempen cloth was a staple of American life; it was turned into everything from garments to the covers on Conestoga wagons. The advent of steam power for ships and railroads reduced demand for hemp considerably. Today, superior manmade alternatives have all but eliminated the profitability of hemp as a crop.
In the early part of the twentieth century, American soldiers fighting Pancho Villa in Mexico and civilians stationed in Panama during the construction of the canal discovered the intoxicating power of marijuana and brought it back to the States. The influx of nearly a million Mexican laborers between 1900 and 1930 also brought marijuana smoking into the country. Port cities such as New York, Chicago, and New Orleans were points of entry for the drug as well.
In the 1930s, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, forerunner of today’s Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), began a propaganda campaign that portrayed marijuana as a drug that led users to drug addiction, violence, and insanity. The government produced films such as Marihuana (1935), Reefer Madness (1936), and Assassin of Youth (1937) in its attempts scare people straight. At that point, however, cannabis was not only legal, it was an approved medication frequently prescribed by doctors. Marijuana’s status changed drastically in 1937, when the Marijuana Tax Act effectively criminalized its use and possession, even for medical reasons.
The Beat Generation of the 1950s began the counterculture movement, and icons like Kerouac and Ginsberg glamorized the use of marijuana as part of their rebellion against the mainstream. The revolution continued in the 1960s, when flower children and hippies promoted marijuana as a harmless drug, a view that acquired particular resonance among the young. The pendulum swung back toward the center in the 1980s, after drug abuse reached its zenith in 1979 and people began to assess its true toll. As scientific research progressed, the dangers that marijuana posed — and the possible therapeutic benefits it possessed — came to light.