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The cannabis plant's flowers contain a chemical or drug known as THC (short for tetra-hydro-cannabinol). Smoking or eating the flower can make a person feel euphoric (very good) or sleepy. The plant is also used to make hemp fibre, and for its seeds and seed oil.
In its natural environment, THC's purpose was to protect itself against being eaten. There are many varieties of marijuana, and those low on THC production are selected for producing hemp and seeds.
Scientists believe that cannabis first grew somewhere in the Himalayas. Evidence of people smoking marijuana goes as far back as prehistory: archaeologists have found burnt hemp seeds at a burial site in what is now Romania. The most famous users of cannabis were the ancient Hindus, who called it ganjika in Sanskrit (ganja in modern Indian languages). According to legend, the Indian god Shiva told his followers to worship the plant. The ancient drug soma was sometimes associated with cannabis.
Marijuana was also known in ancient Greece, where magicians would burn its flowers in order to cause strange thoughts in the audience members' minds. Historians think that the cult of Dionysus also began in ancient Greece and involved inhaling marijuana smoke.
When a person breathes in the marijuana smoke or eats marijuana, he or she may get a feeling called "getting high" or "getting stoned". Marijuana's most common effects include feeling happy, relaxed, tired, silly or scared; having many ideas about what to do; not being able to think clearly (or remember some things at all); and getting hungry (also called getting "the munchies"). Smoking marijuana changes how people think and feel, making it either harder or easier to solve some problems. Some people who take marijuana feel strange or paranoid (worried that something bad is going to happen).
Hashish (dried resin) is much more concentrated than marijuana (it includes both leaves and flowers). Because of this, people who take large amounts of hashish may feel even stronger effects. They may also see things or hear things that do not exist (these are called hallucinations). They may also have strange thoughts. Some hashish users like the feeling of these visions and thoughts, while others may find them scary. However, people rarely get hallucinations after smoking or eating cannabis.
On December 11, 2013, Uruguay was the first country in the world to make it legal to grow, sell, and use cannabis. Other countries that allow people to have small amounts of marijuana (just enough for them to use personally) include Colombia, Ecuador, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. In the United States, on January 1, 2014, the states of Washington and Colorado made it legal for people aged 21 or older to buy cannabis.
As of 2016, many different countries and some states in the United States have made it legal for people with certain medical problems to use marijuana as a medicine. Medical use of cannabis is legal in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
According to a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine, marijuana (especially THC) can decrease pain; control nausea and vomiting; and improve appetite. As of June 2016, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "Further studies have found that marijuana [helps] some of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and multiple sclerosis.
Dangers of cannabis
Marijuana can be very addictive which means that people often have trouble stopping use of a drug when they want to, even though it is having a bad impact on their lives. Marijuana is unsafe if you're driving a car since it impairs judgment and many other important skills needed for safe driving, such as alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to properly judge distances and react to signals and sounds while driving. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illegal drug in deadly crashes. It is sometimes found in combination with alcohol or other harmful drugs. Marijuana by itself is thought to double a driver's chances of being in a crash. Mixing it with other drugs makes it even more deadly. Marijuana has been linked to lower grades and school failure, decreased overall life satisfaction, including poorer mental and physical health, relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success. Marijuana has negative effects on things such attention span, memory, and learning that can continue after the drug's immediate effects wear off. Research has shown that people lost an average of 6 to 8 IQ points by mid-adulthood when they abused Marijuana heavily as teen. Marijuana is also linked to certain mental illnesses. Smoking cannabis has also been shown to increase the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attacks) by 4.8 times for the 60 minutes after consumption.
Driving while "stoned"
A person who is intoxicated ("high" or "stoned") from marijuana could get hurt or killed in an accident if they drive a car. It is not safe to drive under the influence of any intoxicant. However, drivers who are "stoned" are much less likely to get into car accidents than drunk drivers.
- See also: Addiction
"Hard drugs", such as heroin, meth, and cocaine, are chemically addictive. This means that if a person starts taking heroin, meth, or cocaine, that person's body will physically need to keep taking the drug. If they try to stop using the drug, they may become very sick. Marijuana and hashish are not chemically addictive, but they can be psychologically or habitually addictive. This means that people can get so used to the pleasure marijuana causes that they feel as if they need the drug. Unlike with alcohol, tobacco, and hard drugs, most people who use marijuana can stop taking it when they want, while experiencing only minor withdrawal symptoms. However, while marijuana may not be as addictive as other drugs, people can still become very much addicted to the pleasure of marijuana.
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