The Cannabis reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Scientific classification
Order: Rosales
Binomial name
Cannabis sativa

Cannabis is a genus (see scientific classification) of dioecious, annual herbs belonging to the family Cannabaceae which was formerly classified in the nettle order Urticales, but is now in Rosales.

There is phylogenetic controversy as to whether the cultivated varieties of the plant are of a single species (Cannabis sativa) or represent distinct species (such as those called Cannabis indica, Cannabis ruderalis, or Cannabis americana).

Its varieties grow in most climates. The tough fiber of the plant is known as hemp and has various uses, including the manufacture of cloth, rope, and paper. Its seeds, used in bird feed, are a valuable source of protein, energy, and long-chain fatty acids. Containing mildly hallucinogenic and other psychoactive and physiologically active chemicals known as cannabinoids, the buds and leaves of the plant are used recreationally and medicinally; such a preparation is often referred to as \'marijuana (archaic: marihuana'; see street names below) and, today, is usually consumed orally or by inhalation in smoking or vaporization.

Concentrated preparations derived from THC-laden resin secreted from the plant are known as hashish. Historically, tinctures, teas, and ointments were also common preparations, especially medicinally.

Table of contents
1 Plant Physiology
2 THC Content
3 Effects of Human Consumption
4 Medical use
5 Recreational use
6 Common Slang
7 History
8 Death penalty for cannabis usage or trafficking
9 Canadian Law Relating to Cannabis
10 Related articles
11 External links

Plant Physiology

Cannabis reproduces sexually. The female plant forms buds which can produce hundreds of seeds. Males reach sexual maturity several weeks prior to females. Though a gene disposes a plant to a certain sex, environmental factors can alter the sex. Natural hermaphrodytes, with both male and female parts, are usually sterile but artificially induced hermaphrodytes can have fully functional reproductive organs. 'Feminized' seed sold by many commercial seed suppliers are derived from artificially hermaphodytic females that lack the male gene or by treating the seeds with hormones.

Cannabis uses C3 photosynthesis, so is not dependent upon a night cycle for carbon dioxide absorption. A cannabis plant in the vegetative growth phase of its life cycle can thrive under twenty-four hour daylight conditions, although some growers advocate a small rest period to avoid overstressing the plant. Flowering usually occurs when darkness exceeds eleven hours per day and can take up to six weeks.

THC Content

The main psychoactive substance in cannabis is Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (also known as D-9-THC or THC), but the plant contains about 60 cannabinoids in total, including two others of particularly high concentration, cannabinol and cannabidiol. Differences in the chemical composition of cannabis varieties can produce very different human reactions, and the complexity of the composition of the plant is one reason why its effects can differ from that of the synthetic version of THC, dronabinol.

Although the potency of most cannabis varieties is uncertain, most cannabis contains below 8% THC. Selective breeding and modern cultivation techniques (e.g. hydroponics) have produced varieties of up to 25% THC content. With varieties containing below 2-3% THC, such as those specifically cultivated for usage as hemp, smoking produces lightheadedness or mild headache. The THC content is also affected by the sex of the plant, with female plants generating more resin than their male counterparts. Seedless varieties derived from unpollinated female plants, with high THC content, are sometimes described as sinsemilla (Spanish: "without seed").

Effects of Human Consumption

Acute effects of marijuana consumption vary greatly by individual and by the qualities of particular varieties, but generally include some or all of the following:

The effects of the cannabis plant vary according to the individual, the environment, the variety of plant, and the method of use. A safe environment among friendly companions is traditionally recommended to first-time users.

THC has an effect on the modulation of the immune system which may have an effect on cancerous cells. Mild allergies to cannabis may be possible in some members of the population.

Lethal dose

No fatal overdose due to cannabis use has ever been recorded. According to the Merck Index, 12th edition, the LD50, the lethal dose for 50% of tested rats, was 42 milligrams per kilogram of body weight when inhaled. As for oral consumption, the LD50 for rats was 1270 mg/kg and 730 mg/kg for males and females, respectively. It would be impossible for THC in blood plasma to reach such a level in human cannabis smokers. With other methods of administration, such a level may be feasible, though highly unlikely. Moreover, some evidence suggests that toxic levels may be higher for humans than for rats.

Tolerance and Withdrawal

The use of cannabis is not medically addictive. Tolerance tends to vanish after a few days of abstinence. There is some evidence correlating long-term use with depression and aggravation of pre-existing mental conditions. However, the relationship between depression and substance abuse is not fully understood, and drug use may, in some cases, be the result of a mental condition instead of the cause.

Long-term effects

The long-term effects of cannabis still need more study. One of the most important concerns regarding cannabis is that its high tar content may lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. Pipes using water filtration, called bongs, can reduce lung damage by cooling the smoke, and possibly by significantly filtering the tar. A recent report [1] suggests that marijuana's effects on the lungs are at least as serious as those of tobacco; however, defenders of cannabis use, point out that it is not necessarily smoked (though sometimes it is mixed with tobacco), is consumed in far less amounts than tobacco, and is free of impurities and radioactive elements found in consumer tobacco products.

Medical use

In most nations, cannabis is rarely prescribed by physicians due to its legal status. When prescribed, it is most often prescribed as an appetite stimulant and pain reliever for terminal illnesses including cancer and AIDS. The medical use of cannabis is highly controversial and is dealt with under the article medical marijuana. See section on History for information on historical and possible other medical use.

Recreational use

Cannabis comes in several forms. It is most commonly smoked, usually in a "joint" or "spliff". Other names include "J", "jacob", "blunt" (cigar hollowed out and filled with marijuana to replace the tobacco), "hooter", "doobie", "grifo", and "binge": the dried buds or leaves (sometimes mixed with tobacco) are rolled in paper or cigar wrapping and smoked much like a cigarette.

Other methods include using water pipes or "bongs" and buckets to smoke the cannabis whilst cooling the smoke down and, in the case of bongs, removing some of the unwanted impurities. Smoke is generally inhaled in one single "hit" by opening a hole called a "carb". Also, a drink called bhang can be prepared. See also hashish and hashish oil.

Cannabis is also cooked to make things such as Alice B. Toklas brownies, "space cake", "pot pie", and "hash brownies". Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to heat or cook the cannibus before consumption, rather the important factor is in blending it with a fat or alcohol. The resulting effects are much reduced if it is not so blended. The effects of ingested cannabis usually do not take effect for over 30 minutes (many times much longer), making it harder for users to regulate their dosage. The more finely ground the cannibus is the faster the active chemicals are absorbed into the blood stream.

The seeds of the hemp plant are also eaten and roasted, as well as being used to make hemp seed oil. A few restaurants that specialize in food with hemp seeds in it have opened, and appeal mostly to a countercultural clientele. Hemp seeds contain little THC.

Another method of ingestion is vaporization. Vaporization allows the Cannabis resins (THC and other cannabinoids) to be extracted into a vapor by heating without actually burning the plant material. This is advantageous because most of the toxic chemicals found in cannabis and tobacco smoke are byproducts of the combustion process. When cannabis is heated to about 190ðC, its resins are released into an unburnt vapor which can be inhaled.

Because THC is soluble in fat, cannabis can also be prepared by mixing it in dairy products and other fatty foods, which is in turn added to preparations of flavoring herbs (e.g. cloves or cinnamon). Such a preparation is referred to as "bhang" and is a traditional method of consumption in India and related countries.

See also: Recreational drug use

Common Slang

Cannabis: bud, chronic, dagga (from Afrikaans via South Africa), dak, dank, dope, dro (derived from hydroponics, i.e. high quality), electric puha (puha being a plant in NZ), ganja, grass, green, hashish, herb, indo, instaga, KB (kind bud/killer bud), kind, Mary Jane, nugget, nug, pot, reefer, shwag (low quality), skunk, sticky-icky-icky (Snoop Doggy Dogg coinage), tea, tree, weed, waccybaccy, whacky tobaccy. The meaning of each of these terms may vary by region and context.

Cigarette: blunt (cigar papers), bomb, bomber, ell (cigar papers), joint, muggle, reefer, rope, toke.

Reefer was common in the early 20th century, but is now usually only used humorously, often in reference to the 1930s propaganda film Reefer Madness, which significantly overstated the effects of cannabis. The term started as a reference to one of the more common places for people to keep their stash – in the refrigerator. The term stash is also used as a slang for a cachet of marijuana or possibly any other drugs.

Intoxication: baked, blasted, blazed, blowed, buzzed, faded, fucked up, gone, high, keyed, lit up, lifted, mashed, mullered (UK), ripped, smashed, spaced, spaced out, stoned, throwed, wasted, zonked.

Smoking: blazing, getting high, toking (up).

Early twentieth century: mez, muggles, gage, viper jive.

Potent strains: White widow (light green-white in appearance), Buddha, C99, AK-47 (C. sativa/C. indica cross), Bubblegum (very sticky), JuicyFruit, Orange Bud and Blueberry (plant smells or tastes somewhat like its name); G-13 (developed at the University of Washington); BC Bud (from British Columbia, Canada); Thunderfuck, Northern-lights (these two natives of Alaska), purple haze, kush, Thai or Thai stick (the legitimate product is C. sativa from Thailand or US Grown of Thai seed, the buds being long and treelike in appearance, often with string wrapped in a spiral pattern for the purpose of holding the bud together); Maui Wowie (from Hawai'i); Alcapulco Gold. The term Thai stick is also used for imitation marijuana.

It should be noted that, in part due to the illegal status of cannabis in most countries, false information about origin and THC content is perpetuated by dishonest sellers to boost sales or justify high prices.


The use of cannabis, for food, fibers, and medicine, is thought to go back at least five millenia. Neolithic archaeology grounds in China include cannabis seeds and plants. The first known mention of cannabis is in a Chinese medical text of 2737 BC. It was used as medicine throughout Asia and the Middle East to treat a variety of conditions. In India particularly, cannabis was associated with Shiva.

Cannabis was well known to the Scythians. Germans grew hemp for its fibers to make nautical ropes and material for clothes since ancient times. Large fields of hemp along the banks of the Rhine are featured in 19th century copper etchings.

The hemp plant has to be soaked to harvest the fiber. This liquid can be drunk; in modern Germany, some bars serve hemp beer and hemp wine, but the hemp used is required by law to contain very minimal levels of THC.

Cannabis was used medicinally in the western world (usually as a tincture) around the middle of the 19th century. It was famously used to treat Queen Victoria's menstrual pains, and was available from shops in the US. By the end of the 19th century its medicinal use began to fall as other drugs such as aspirin took over.

Until 1937, consumption and sale of marijuana was legal in most American states. In some areas it could be openly purchased in bulk from grocers or in cigarette form at newstands, though an increasing number of them had begun to outlaw it. In that year, federal law made possession or transfer of marijuana illegal without the purchase of a by-then incriminating tax stamp throughout the United States (contrary to the advice of the American Medical Association at the time); legal opinions of time held that the federal government could not outlaw it entirely.

The decision of the U.S. Congress was based in part on testimony derived from articles in the newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst, who was heavily interested in DuPont Inc. Some analysts theorize DuPont wanted to boost declining post-war textile sales, and wished to eliminate hemp fiber as competition. Many argue that this seems unlikely given DuPont's lack of concern with the legal status of cotton, wool, and linen; although it should be noted that hemp's textile potential had not yet been largely exploited, while textile factories already had made large investments in equipment to handle cotton, wool, and linen. Even more inflammatory and biased were the accusations by that period's US 'drug czar' Henry (Harry) Anslinger. Anslinger charged that the drug provoked murderous rampages in previously solid citizens. Anslinger testified that cannabis "makes darkies feel equal to white men," a plaint typical of much of the anti-drug rhetoric of the time, which for example emphasised opium's role in promoting Anglo-Chinese miscegenation. He told the married men in the audience: "Gentlemen, it will make your wives want to have sex with a Black man!" Anslinger also popularized the word marihuana for the plant, using a Mexican derived word (believed to be derived from a Brazilian Portuguese term for inebriation) in order to associate the plant with increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants, creating a negative stereotype which persists to this day.

Cannabis has a prominent role in the Rastafarian religion.

Although cannabis has been used recreationally throughout its history, it first became well known in the United States during the jazz scene of the late 1920s and 30s. Louis Armstrong became one of its most prominent and life-long devotees. Cannabis use was also a prominent part of 1960s counterculture.

It is now the most widely used illicit drug in the world.


Federal Bureau of Narcotics propaganda poster used in the late 1930s and 1940s

Death penalty for cannabis usage or trafficking

As of 2003, only a minority of countries still include the death penalty in their legal system. Several of those which still have the death penalty have either carried it out or legislated it for cannabis usage or trafficking.

In Malaysia, Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 yrs old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 yrs old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.2 kilograms of cannabis. [1] Under Malaysia's anti-drug laws, the death penalty is mandatory for trafficking certain drugs. Anyone found in possession of at least 15 grams of heroin, 1,000 grams of opium or 200 grams of cannabis is presumed to be guilty (until proven innocent) of trafficking in the drug. This reverses the usual presumption of innocence of internationally recognised norms of law.

The Philippines introduced stronger anti-drug laws (including the death penalty) in 2002. [1]

In 1996 in the USA, Newt Gingrich planned to introduce a mandatory death penalty for a second offense of smuggling 50 grams of marijuana into the USA, in the proposed law H.R. 4170. It seems that the proposal failed, so that under the 1994 Crime Act, the threshold for sentencing a death penalty in relation to marijuana is the involvement with the cultivation or distribution of 60,000 marijuana plants (or seedlings) or 60,000 kilograms of marijuana.

Canadian Law Relating to Cannabis

On December 23, 2003, The Supreme Court of Canada announced (in a 6-3 decision) that the criminalization of Marijuana was not unconstitutional.

Related articles

External links

Drug Information