This site is dedicated to answering all your questions about Cannabis and Marijuana.
Cannabis or Marijuana, What’s the Difference?
The terms marijuana and cannabis are pretty much interchangeable in everyday use, but don’t mean exactly the same thing. Cannabis usually refers to the plant itself, while marijuana is used in reference to cannabis leaves or buds, with higher psychoactive properties, and used as a drug.
Medical cannabis applications have been in the news a lot lately. Many governments are seeing the light and relaxing their laws regarding medical marijuana usage. Generally speaking, strains containing higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) and lower levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are most suited for medicinal use. This is covered in more detail on our Medical Cannabis page, along with more on what these terms actually mean.
There’s a Wikipedia article here that gives a detailed rundown on the cannabis plant, various sub-species, and its many uses. Cannabis or Indian Hemp has been with us for thousands of years, and it was the main source of rope-making fiber for many years. From around 200 BC up to the late 1800’s hemp fiber was the principal ingredient used in paper making. I remember reading some time back that fossilized cannabis leaves had been found in Scotland. (Now we now why they call them the Highlands!)
Cannabis is a common weed found growing by roadsides in many parts of India, Pakistan, and other places. It has been used for centuries in religious ceremonies by many cultures including, some say, the early Christians.
So why is marijuana illegal?
To answer this question we need to go back to the early 1900’s. In the US, there was a lot of concern over immigrants from Mexico. (Sound familiar?) This was shortly after the Mexican revolution, and many Mexicans felt that the US offered a better lifestyle and greater opportunities.
As with most immigrants, these folk brought many of their customs and cultural influences with them. One of these was marijuana, both as a recreational relaxant and as a medicine.
North Americans weren’t familiar with the term “marijuana”. Cannabis as a medicine was known to them, but the connection wasn’t common knowledge. When the media of the day started reporting on antisocial behavior by some Mexican immigrants – mostly playing on public fears about these newcomers disrupting the status quo (again, sound familiar?) and stealing jobs – marijuana was named as one thing that the Mexicans were introducing to the US and one of the main causes of their “disruptive behavior”.
As I said, cannabis was widely used in many medical preparations, but marijuana as a recreational drug was almost unheard of. It was pretty easy therefore, for the Government of the day to demonize the plant and push through legislation making its possession and use illegal.
Enter the Department of Prohibition…
From 1900 to 1933 alcohol prohibition was in force in the US. At the end of that era, Harry Anslinger , the head of the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. suddenly had a problem. He was in charge of a huge government department with a budget to match, and nothing to do. Alcohol prohibition had been a disaster. All that had happened was that gangsters had taken over the production and distribution of liquor. Public consumption of alcohol had not been curtailed, and in fact alcohol had become more dangerous due to lack of quality controls.
Despite the fact that Mr Anslinger himself was quoted as saying that marijuana was not dangerous, and posed no threat, he suddenly did an about-face on the issue and lobbied for its criminalization.
As part of this campaign he cited the case of young man called Victor Licata, who hacked his family to death while supposedly under the influence of marijuana. This assertion was years later shown to be false. Victor Licata had been under psychiatric treatment and narrowly avoided being institutionalized just a year before the incident. There were no reports that he had ever been a marijuana user.
There was another element at play here as well. Political lobby groups are not a new thing, in fact they were probably more influential then than they are now.
Large chemical and pharmaceutical corporations had a lot to gain from cannabis becoming illegal. Not the least of these was DuPont, a company trying to replace natural products like hemp fiber with synthetic fibers in rope and textile production. By sheer coincidence, Henry Anslinger is reported to have been close friends with the DuPont family.
Outlawing cannabis growth and production played right into their hands by eliminating their main opposition.
Once the US had passed their anti-cannabis laws the next step was to use its influence to push similar legislation through the parliaments of other western countries.
In the UK, marijuana use was outlawed on September 9, 1928. Medical cannabis use was made illegal in 1971.
Mexico eventually caved in to political and financial pressure from the US government and passed its own anti-marijuana legislation.
If you’d like to read a more detailed report on this subject you’ll find one here.
There’s also an enlightening YouTube clip here which deals with America’s anti-cannabis legislation and how the US influenced international governments to follow suit.
While we’re on the subject of videos, check this one out…
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the propaganda film Reefer Madness. You can watch the full version here. (It runs for just over an hour and was meant to scare the pants off viewers. Looking at it today it’s as funny as…)
If you’re short of time, bookmark this page and watch it later. (After a smoke, of course)
I remember seeing this years ago and still get a laugh from it.
Is Marijuana dangerous?
Ask a hundred people these questions and you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. It’s all relative, after all.
Dangerous? It depends how you define dangerous. Marijuana will affect your thinking and may cause you to make some pretty stupid decisions.
Should you drive or do risky work while you’re stoned? Definitely not!
Will it affect your health? Probably, but so will breathing traffic fumes or eating fatty food, and I can’t see any legislation on the horizon to cover that.
Alcohol causes many, many more health issues and contributes to a large number of traffic and work-related accidents. However, alcohol prohibition will, I’m sure, never become a political issue again. That’s with the exception of some countries of course, where religious constraints decree total abstinence from alcohol.
The biggest issue with marijuana usage, from a mental and physical health point of view, is its effect on the developing brain. The most negative results seem to come from exposure to THC at an age when the brain is still growing, and creating neural pathways that will be relied on in future years for memory and communication.
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse has published a detailed review of the effects of THC on the brain.
The safe alternative, in my humble opinion, would be to legalize pot with strict controls and heavy penalties for supplying to underage users. Weed would then be taxable, and users wouldn’t have to get their supply from underworld sources who may try to upsell them to more potent and dangerous substances.
Which brings us to…
Is Weed a Gateway Drug?
There’s been a lot said about marijuana’s standing as a gateway drug – one that serves as an introduction to using harder, more addictive drugs. This was another of Alsinger’s theories. Or at least, he’s credited with coining the term.
Again, opinions will vary, but consider this; If you could legally buy your stash from a dispensary and not from a street dealer, would this question even come up? Yeah, I’ve heard the statistics that say almost every heroin addict started with marijuana but so did most alcoholics start with beer. The vast majority, in both cases, won’t become addicts and those who do would probably have ended up down that path regardless of any legislation.
Is Marijuana addictive?
Define addiction! The truth is, anything that’s enjoyable or makes us feel better about ourselves has the potential to become addictive, at least on an emotional level.
Is marijuana addictive in the same way as opiates, nicotine or alcohol? I don’t believe so. Used in moderation marijuana has the potential to be one of the most benign recreational drugs available.
Of course, anything pleasurable is open to abuse and possible addiction by certain personality types. If I had to choose though, I’d rather see a friend or relative dependent on pot than on some other substances you’ll come across. Many of which are legal!
To Wrap Up…
Cannabis has been around since the year dot. The plant has been used for millennia by almost every known civilization. It has been a source of fiber for both textiles and fuel, as well as a medicine and recreational substance.
Cannabis use for religious or ceremonial purposes is long documented. If it were truly the Devil Weed it’s purported to be, the human race would be in a whole lot more trouble than we are now.
The medicinal benefits of cannabis have long been supported anecdotally, and are only now being fully investigated scientifically. There are, of course, some downsides to cannabis use but mostly these are outweighed by the benefits. More research is needed, and this can only be carried out within a controlled and legal environment.
Marijuana’s illegal status only helps the criminals who profit from producing and selling it. While ever it remains illegal there can be no proper and unbiased research on its effects and/or benefits. Add to that the fact that the only way you can get your hands on it is to associate with criminals who have a vested interest in introducing you to new and more dangerous drugs. Street dealers are often known to add various narcotics or stimulants to their product to produce that extra kick with little regard for possible side effects or addiction issues.
One safer alternative is to Grow Your Own.
Whether it be for medical or recreational use, you can’t beat having your own steady supply. Here is a book I highly recommend for anyone looking at going down the path of Home-Grown Marijuana.
Check out the Complete Guide to Growing Marijuana here.
Do you have an opinion on marijuana or cannabis? Have you or a friend experienced serious issues as a result of cannabis use?
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