Marijuana (Cannabis sativa, C. indica) Cannabaceae
is one of the oldest cultivated plants, known since the discovery of
agriculture in the
2. It has followed two divergent paths to this day:
The first path,
begun in ancient
Along the other
path, which began in central
c. Ten thousand years later, hemp and marijauna are as different as night and day: hemp produces negligible amounts of THC, and cannabis is worthless as a fiber.
3. In addition to its use as a hallucinogen, the plant has been used medicinally and for its fiber, its oil, and it seed.
a. Its durable fibers can be turned into ropes, fishnet, and clothing.
b. Its seeds are highly nutritious
c. The oil expressed from them can be used for lamps or in paints and varnishes.
d. The Chinese were using it to make paper as long ago as 105 CE.
1. Marijuana plants are dioecious annuals with inconspicuous staminate and pistillate flowers on separate individuals.
2. Inflorescences occur in the axils of the upper leaves.
3. The leaves are palmately compound with 5-7 toothed leaflets.
4. Although there has been some taxonomic confusion regarding the placement of the plant, there are now 3 recognized species: C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalia.
5. The plants are known for their resin production by glandular hairs (trichomes), with the maximum amount of resin coating the unfertilized pistillate flowers and adjacent leaves. These are particularly rich in the psychoactive substances.
6. Whereas the psychoactive principles of most hallucinogenic plants are alkaloids. The active constituents of Cannabis are non-nitrogenous and occur in a resinous oil. The hallucinogenic properties are due to cannabinoids, of which the most effective is THC.
7. The psychoactive substance is known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
a. The concentration of THC varies widely, based on genetic strain, sex, climate, and growing conditions.
b. THC is fat-soluble, and accumulates in body tissues, and measurable amounts may remain in the body for days afterwards. (Because it is fat-soluble is why you can't make good marijuana tea without adding butter or some fatty product).
protect vulnerable plant parts from drying, they are produced in greatest
abundance when the plants are exposed to heat and sun. Marijuana grown in
9. The stimulation of resin production by dry conditions explains why plants grown in semiarid climates are more potent than those from cool temperate regions.
10. By growing the plants widely spaced and removing thee male plants (to prevent fertilization and prolong female flowering), growers can enhance resin production.
11. Marijuana is believed to have originated in central
12. Its wide cultivation has led to many common names for the plant: marijuana, hemp, pot, grass, hash, hashish, bhang, charas, ganja, ma, and dagga to name a few.
1. The Chinese were the first to use Cannabis and although they seemed to be aware of the plants' psychoactive properties, they were primarily interested in its medicinal and utilitarian properties.
a. Emperor Shen Nung recommended marijuana for treatment of rheumatism, gout, malaria, absentmindedness, and constipation.
documented records of marijuana's use as a hallucinogen can be traced to the
Scythians (ancient Slav horsemen from central
a. In ritualistic ceremonies, they'd pile the plants on burning coals in a small tent made of sheepskin pelts.
b. When vapors accumulated, they'd lift the sheepskin and inhale.
a. Whereas the Chinese grew their plants tightly spaced to discourage branching and therefore to improve fiber production, the Indians grew it in such a way as to enhance production of its psychoactive properties.
Three grades of
Cannabis have been recognized in
bhang - least potent; consists of the dried cut tops that
are ground with spices to prepare a drink or candy. One of the most common ways
of ingesting Cannabis in
2. ganja - prepared from resin-rich pistillate flowers and tops of specially bred high-yielding strains of marijuana, and is usually smoked.
3. charas - the most potent; consists of pure resin from these special strains. Also known as hashish.
The most common
way of ingesting Cannabis in
e. The folk-medicinal value of hemp - frequently indistinguishable from its hallucinogenic properties - may even be its earliest role as an economic plant. Indian medicine esteemed Cannabis and praised its success in lowering fevers, improving judgement, inducing sleep, curing leprosy, stimulating the appetite, improving digestion, relief from headaches, etc.
The use of Cannabis spread throughout the
Muslim world, into the
a. Hookahs or water pipes were commonplace in the bazaars of the Arab and North African world.
b. Legend of the Old Man on the Mountain: 12th century Persian Al-Hasan ibn-al-Sabbah, a leader of a Muslim sect whose followers became known as Hashishins (after their leader), swore to kill all enemies of their faith. Legend has it that they were worked into a murderous frenzy by smoking Cannabis. Nevertheless, the name of this sect, hashishins, left a legacy in the word assassin, as well as the name for the resin, hashish.
and 16th centuries, Arab traders introduced Cannabis into
a. Cannabis was commonly given to calm women during childbirth.
b. Here the plant as referred to as dagga.
c. Africans originally mixed the dried plant parts into beverages or chewed them.
d. Smoking became popular only after the Dutch had colonized most of the continent. (the Dutch had taught the Europeans how to smoke, but North Africans contributed the water pipe, or hookah, a device that cools smoke by drawing it through water. (Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - 1865 - depicts the Caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah and giving advice to Alice about parts of the mushroom to eat to make her grow tall again).
hoping to produce a lucrative fiber product, brought hemp to
as a plant with psychoactive properties happened much later on,
perhaps brought into the country through
b. It spread in the 1920s among the urban poor in the south, and became very popular with jazz musicians in the '20s and '30s.
c. In the1930s the Federal Bureau of narcotics launched a campaign that greatly distorted and exaggerated the dangers of marijuana, which culminated, in 1937, in the Federal Marijuana Tax Act which controlled the legal sale of the plant (taxed it heavily), and resulted in virtual elimination of Cannabis from the nation's pharmacopoeia.
d. Subsequent to that, in the 1960s and 70s, marijuana once again enjoyed a period of great popularity, and movements have developed ever since working towards the legalization (or decriminalization) of the plant.
1. Presently, marijuana is sometimes used in the treatment of glaucoma.
a. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by increased ocular pressure, and resulting damage to the optic nerve that may lead to blindness.
b. Smoking or eating marijuana has been shown to significantly reduce ocular pressure in patients with glaucoma.
2. Marijuana is also used for patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
a. The side effects of nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss has been greatly reduced by the use of marijuana, as well as by marinol, a synthetic form of THC.
3. Marijuana has also been effective in counteracting the weight loss associated with the AIDS wasting syndrome and to reduce spastic movements in multiple sclerosis patients.
4. Marijuana appears to be effective as a pain reliever, for combating hypertension, and for dilating bronchial vessels providing relief for asthma sufferers.
5. It has also proven effective in reducing the severity of epileptic seizures and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
6. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, which is defined as a drug with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
a. The New England Journal of Medicine has advocated for the reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule II drug so that physicians could prescribe it when needed.
b. In 1997, a panel of scientists from the National Institute of Health (NIH) reviewed the scientific evidence of specific medicinal uses of marijuana and agreed THC has some medicinal uses.
Since 1996, a
number of states (9) have passed referenda to legalize the medical use of
marijuana. Included on that list of states are
d. Although study after study has been unable to find evidence of addiction or permanent deleterious medical effects with low to moderate use, heavy use has been correlated with reduced sex drive, lowered sperm count, reduced motor coordination, and impairment of short-term memory.
e. Since marijuana is ordinarily smoked, heavy users can develop lung disorders similar to those incurred by cigarette smokers.
An irony of the modern prohibition against marijuana is that it led to a revolution in both genetics and the creation of a powerfully new plant.
i. If unpollinated, it will continue to produce new calyxes, steadily adding to the length of the flower.
ii. In this state of perpetual sexual frustration, the plant also continues to produce large quantities of THC-rich resins.
iii. To ensure no males would contaminate the population, growers began to use clones, rather than seeds. With clones, the plants got to multiply their genes with out diluting them, as would be the case in sexual reproduction.
iv. Genetically identical, they were guaranteed to be female.
In mid-1960s, Israeli neuroscientist, Raphael Mechoulam, identified the chemical compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a molecule with a structure unlike any found in nature.
In 1988, Allyn Howlett,
The cannabinoid receptors were found throughout the brain, but were clustered in regions responsible for the mental processes that marijuana is known to alter: the cerebral cortex (locus of high order thought), hippocampus (memory), basal ganglia ((movement), the amygdale (emotions). The only neurological address where the cannabinoid receptors did not show up was in the brain stem, which regulates involuntary functions such as circulation and respiration. This might explain the low toxicity of cannabis and the fact that no one is known to have ever died from an overdose.
The brain didn’t manufacture a structure (these receptors) to get itself high on marijuana. The brain must manufacture its own THC-like chemical for some reason. In 1992, Raphael Mechoulam found it – the brain’s own endogenous cannabinoid. He named it anandamide (Sanskrit for “inner bliss”).
This network may regulate several different biological processes, including pain management, memory formation, appetite, coordination of movement, and emotion.
Purpose of THC?