Marijuana refers to a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the hemp plant (Leonard 34). Its most common street names include the pot, herb, weed, grass, boom, Mary Jane, gangster, or chronic. All forms of marijuana contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main active chemical in marijuana. Marijuana also contains more than 400 other chemicals (Leonard 38). The Effects of marijuana on any user depends on its strength or potency which on the other hand, depends on the amount of THC it contains. The THC content of Marijuana has been increasing since 1970s. This has been attributed to improvements in the available varieties (Leonard 40).
Marijuana is usually smoked as cigarettes (joints) or in a pipe or a bong. With the growth of its use, it has often been combined with other drugs such as cocaine. How long the marijuana stays in the human body system, depends on the degree of usage also amount of the fatty tissue which tend to absorb THC rapidly. This varies from few days to several weeks. The main reasons for the marijuana use include the influence from brothers, sisters, friends, or even older family members using it. Others do it due to peer pressure, while others think it’s cool because they see it being used on TV and in movies. By 1979, more than 50 million people had tried it at least once. In addition, there have been increased consumption among adolescents and the young adults, although there has been a leveling-off in its final use among the high school seniors (National Reseach Council).
Marijuana remains a controlled substance in almost all the countries globally. It has also not been approved by the FDA to treat any diseases or conditions. This can be attributed to a high potential for its abuse. Also, due to no current accepted medical use in the general United States marijuana remains a schedule I drug under the provisions of the controlled substances act of 1970 (McCollum 102).
The usage of marijuana has been linked to the cancers of the tongue and larynx in the young people with the history of heavy marijuana use. This have however been based on very small numbers and therefore no cause and effect relationship. Marijuana also produces acute effects on the brain, including chemical and electrophysiological changes. It impairs motor coordination and affects tracking ability and sensory and perceptual functions. All these functions are necessary during driving and thus, it’s important for the drivers and operators of other machines to avoid it at all times.it also impairs short term memory and slows learning. Other serious effects include the feelings of euphoria and other mood changes, such as brief periods of anxiety, confusion, or psychosis (National Reseach Council 55). Contrary to the popular beliefs, there is no any conclusive evidence as to whether prolonged use of marijuana causes permanent changes in the nervous system or sustained impairment of the brain functions and behaviors in human beings (National Reseach Council 60). Usage of the marijuana leads to the acute changes in the cardiovascular system. Evidence has shown that marijuana use increases the work of the heart, usually by raising heart rate and in some people raising the blood pressure. This poses considerable danger to patients with hypertension, cerebrovascular diseases, and coronary atherosclerosis. Other risks involved with the use of marijuana include the increased risk for cancer of the respiratory tract (though no direct connection have been made), effects on the hormonal functions in females and males (Jacoby and Youngson 122).
Cannabis has been used as medicine for a thousand of years (Iversen 37). Compendium of medicines “Pen ts’ao” first published around 2800 B.C. recommended cannabis for the treatment of constipation, gout, malaria, and rheumatism and menstrual problems. Chinese herbal medicine texts continued to advocate cannabis preparations for many centuries. Among other things, its pain relieving properties were exploited to relieve the pain of surgical operations (Iversen). The Indians also had a long history of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. For instance, the ancient medical text the “Athera Veda”, which dates from 2000-1400 B.C., mentions bhang (marijuana). Further reference is made to this writing of Panini (ca 300 B.C.). Cannabis was believed to possess sedative, cooling and febrifuge properties.
“In the ancient Ayurvedic system of medicine cannabis played an important role in Hindu material medica, and continues to be used by Ayurvedic practitioners today. In various medieval Ayurvedic texts, cannabis leaves and resin are recommended as decongestant, astringent, soothing, and capable of stimulating appetite and promoting digestion. Cannabis was also used to induce sleep and as an anesthetic for surgical operations.it was also considered to have aphrodisiac properties and was recommended for this purpose. (Iversen 122)”
In Arab medicine and in the Muslim India, frequent mention is also made of hashish (cannabis resin) and “benj” (marijuana). They were used to treat gonorrhea diarrhea, asthma and as an appetite stimulant and analgesic (Iversen 123). In Indian folk medicine, bhang (marijuana) and ganja (cannabis resin) were recommended as stimulants to improve staying power under the conditions of severe exertion or fatigue.
Poultices applied it to the wounds and sores were believed to promote healing, when applied to the areas of inflammation (e.g., Piles) to act as an anodyne and sedative (Jacoby and Youngson 200). Extracts of ganja were used to promote sleep and to treat painful neuralgias, migraines and menstrual pain. Numerous concoctions containing cannabis extracts together with various other herbal medicines continue to be used in rural Indian folk medicine today, with a variety of different medical indications including dyspepsia, diarrhea, sprue, dysentery, fever, renal colic, dysmenorrhea, cough, and asthma. There have been claims of cannabis consumption with aphrodisiacs. The consumption of cannabis based medicines has been in a reduction for quite some time in the recent years among the Indian populations. This can be attributed to the general availability of western medicines also due to degradation of the THC on storage.
In medieval Europe cannabis or hemp was used as a healing plant in herbals such as those by William Turner, Mattioli, and Dioscobas Taberemontanus. In one of the most famous herbals, written by Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) recommended that:
”… an emulsion of decoction of the seed,… eases the colic and always the troublesome humour in the bowels and stays bleeding at the mouth, nose and other places.” (Iversen 123).
In the middle of 19th century an Irish doctor, William O’Shaughnessy, serving with the Bengal Medical Service of the East India Company, studied the effects of marijuana in animals to establish what doses could be tolerated. His experiments confirmed that cannabis usage was remarkably safe. He noted that despite many escalation of the doses cannabis didn’t kill any mice, rat or the rabbit on which he was experimenting on. After that, he experimented on patients suffering from seizures, rheumatism, tetanus, and rabies and found that cannabis could relieve pain and act as a muscle relaxant and an anticonvulsant.at the end of the study O’Shaugnesssey was brave enough to recommend cannabis, particularly as an, “anticonvulsive remedy of the greatest value”.
In addition, voters in the states in the United States share the view in favor of proposals to make cannabis, including smoked marijuana, available for therapeutic use. Despite its hard line on the unscientific nature of smoked marijuana as a medicine, the American Medical Association report (1997) nevertheless recommended adequate and well controlled studies of smoked marijuana be conducted in patients who had serious conditions. For which preclinical anecdotal, or controlled evidence suggests possible advantage including AIDS wasting syndrome, severe acute or delayed emesis induced by chemo therapy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, dystonia and neuropathic pain.
These numerous medicinal usage of cannabis outweighs the few disadvantages involved by the recreational use of it. It's therefore important for the appropriate rules and policies regulating the usage of it be enacted and passed into laws. This will allow more studies to be conducted on cannabis which may eventually lead to the discovery of more of cannabis.