Marijuana (Drugs: The Straight Facts)

Randi Mehling

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Marijuana is the flowering part of the Indian hemp plant Cannabis sativa, a weed-like species that grows wild and is also cultivated in many tropical and temperate parts of the world. Cannabis means “hemp” in Latin and is derived from the Greek word kannabis. Marijuana probably comes from the Mexican Spanish marijuana/marihuana (Mary’s leaf or plant) or from Maria and Juan (Mary and John). Among its many names, marijuana is commonly known as weed, ganja, mary jane, and pot.

For thousands of years, cannabis has enjoyed historical significance as a recreational drug, a useful fiber, an oil, an edible seed, and a medicine. It has been used to aid religious practices, alter mood (psychoactive effect), stimulate creativity, treat disease, relieve anxiety and boredom, enhance sensory experience and pleasure, rebel against authority, and go along with peer influence. That is a lot of work for one plant to do. This probably explains why cannabis has always been an important cultivated crop and is currently a cornerstone of controversial debate in all sectors of U.S. and international society.

Despite society’s focus on the marijuana “high,” cannabis historically has provided many meaningful industrial and medicinal values that are not attributed to its psychoactive effects. Researchers discovered that cannabis crops farmed as far back as 12,000 years ago yielded hemp, a distinct variety of the cannabis plant associated with little or no psychoactivity. The first evidence of the medicinal use of cannabis can be traced to a Chinese health publication from 5,000 years ago, which listed cannabis as an herbal remedy. Cannabis probably originated in central Asia.
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