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Cannabis is a plant (Cannabis spp.) that contains a complex of psychoactive substances, the most notable of these being tetrahydrocannabinol (usually shortened to THC). The term Marijuana originated in Spanish, although its origin is obscure. Harry Anslinger, as part of his propaganda campaign[1] against the plant, popularized the unlikely notion that the term derives from mallihuan, a Nahuatl word meaning prisonerlink=wp:Marijuana_%28word%29. Despite this pejorative association, the term annoyingly persists.[2]


Cannabis predates humanity's appearance on Earth by a long time, and was legal for at least 34 million years before being made illegal in America in 1937[3] and the rest of the world shortly thereafter. Evolutionary theory supports the notion that it evolved, whereas Christians believe that God made it on the third day. And that it was Good Shit. Ironically, as a direct result of its prohibition, cannabis has been selectively bred to increase its overall potency. (Good work, war on drugs!) Although not all strains are as potent as each other, most are considerably more potent than that of the pre-prohibition era, leading one UK cannabis-reform campaigner to refer to it as the chronic 'moonshine weed'.[4] The parallels with alcohol prohibition are uncanny.


Whilst usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes, called 'joints', or various kinds of pipes, or 'bongs', the active ingredients of cannabis can also be decarboxylated and added to food items (cookies, brownies, or more accurately, 'space cakes'). The essential oils of cannabis can be butane-extracted and taken in pill, wax or 'dab' form, thus massively increasing its psychoactivity and paradoxically leading some to call it the 'crack of cannabis'.[5]

Another (healthier) way to partake is by means of a vaporizer. This device heats the plant material to a precise temperature at which the psychoactive component sublimates/evaporates, thereby releasing it from the plant material itself without releasing the potentially carcinogenic compounds. This allows one to enjoy the high without risking lung cancer. Alas, cheap vaporizers tend to release a few of the carcinogens (not as many as smoking the stuff, but still more than a quality vaporizer would release) and a good vaporizer is very, very expensive.

Bio-neurological effects[edit]

THC, the active ingredient of pot

Low to medium dosage of cannabis often causes a pleasant "stoned" effect that combines depressant and psychedelic elements. Cannabis often makes the user feel relaxed and happy. There is often an increase in abstract, philosophical thought, as well as appreciation of food, music, art, and sex, and a sense of peace or connection with others. Despite this, it also often causes a decrease in rational thought and awareness of surroundings. It can cause adverse effects, most commonly feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

In higher dosages, cannabis takes on a fully psychedelic effect, although not one as strong as that produced by other psychedelics such as LSD. Perception is distorted and hallucinations are produced. These hallucinations are often of a pleasant or personally or spiritually significant in nature, but it is also possible to have a "bad trip" characterized by distressing and unpleasant hallucinations.[6] Sustained use has even been linked to risk of schizophrenia [7]


For many people, knowing the actual risks of cannabis is difficult. On the one hand, there are those who say it is extremely addictive and causes cancer and mental illness, on the other hand, there are those who say it is not addictive and can remedy cancer and mental illness. To add to the confusion, both camps can quote a large amount of scientific literature supporting their claims. There are two main reasons why the scientific evidence behind the risks of cannabis can seem so contradictory: firstly, prohibition makes studying cannabis' effects tricky for researchers; and secondly because media often reports studies that have major implications, but not the many subsequent studies that undermine them. For instance, a recent study that reported cannabis use causes an irreversible and large IQ drop was heavily reported, but the many subsequent studies that failed to replicate its findings were not. This is not just a problem when it comes to cannabis, but all media reporting on science.

It is known that cannabis is nowhere near as dangerous as heroin or cocaine, and is also much safer than legal drugs alcohol and tobacco. However, there are other illegal drugs, such as psilocybin and LSD, which are considered safer than cannabis.[8]

Adverse effects[edit]

As previously mentioned, cannabis impairs awareness and thus it is very dangerous to drive or operate machinery while under its influence. It can also cause adverse effects which, particularly in high doses, can be dangerous. Bad trips can provoke psychotic and suicidal symptoms. Harm reduction advocates recommend "trip sitters" as a way of dealing with the adverse effects of psychedelics.


Cannabis dependence occurs in about half of long-term daily users. Cessation by a dependent user causes withdrawal, usually characterized by anxiety, cravings, low mood, and disturbed sleep. These symptoms usually last a couple of days to a week. [9]

Effect on the young[edit]

Cannabis use during pregnancy "is associated with decreased attention span and behavioral problems." Additionally, children exposed to cannabis in utero also are reported to have "lower scores on tests of visual problem solving, visual-motor coordination, and visual analysis" than children who were not exposed.[10]

Although a 2012 study purported to find that cannabis use in adolescents leads to a drop in IQ, subsequent studies have found no such effect. But a UK study did find a 3% drop in school exams taken at age 16."[11]

Relationship with mental illness[edit]

The link between cannabis use and mental illness is controversial and hotly debated. Cannabis use is associated with anxiety disorders,[12] but not depressive disorders.[13] Correlation does not imply causation, however, especially when cannabis is so heavily associated with relieving stress. Many sufferers of depression and anxiety who self-medicate with cannabis believe it helps them more than many other remedies.

The relationship between cannabis and psychotic illnesses is more controversial and intricate. It is thought that cannabis with a high concentration of THC (ie. cannabis that is smoked to get high) worsens pre-existing psychotic illnesses[14], but cannabis with a lower concentration of THC and higher concentration of CBD (ie. most medicinal cannabis) can help remedy psychosis.[15] It is thought that, for people with a genetic predisposition towards psychotic illness, heavy use of cannabis with a high concentration of THC can "nudge" them into psychosis.[16] However, it should be noted that something as seemingly harmless as living in a city carries the same risk of "nudging" someone into psychosis.

Lung damage[edit]

Smoking cannabis can cause bronchitis episodes.[17] Sharing water pipes and smoking with multiple people in a confined area ("hotboxing") can contribute to the spread of respiratory disease.[18]

Relationship with cancer[edit]

Perhaps the most hotly debated risk of cannabis use is its effect on cancer. Some claim cannabis is a one-way ticket to the graveyard, while others claim it can cure all cancers. There is evidence that isolated THC can decrease the growth of cancerous tumors,[19] but there may be other material in cannabis smoke that is carcinogenic, and it is not known if THC counteracts it or not. Frequent smoking of cannabis may be linked to bladder cancer, for instance.[20] Harm reduction experts recommend eating or vaporizing cannabis as a way to avoid possible carcinogens in the smoke.[21]

Gateway drug hypothesis[edit]

Main article: Gateway drug theory

In conclusion...[edit]

Essentially, in all non-psychotic people beyond the point of puberty, light to moderate cannabis use is not thought to cause problems so long as you aren't doing anything stupid like driving stoned, and have a trip sitter present if you're experimenting with a dose higher than you're used to. Heavy, habitual use, especially of stuff with a high concentration of THC, does carry risks, and really this should go without saying.

North American status (not that this article is American-centric or anything)[edit]


After the appeal of R v Mernagh, cannabis laws can be generously described as "confusing". Licensed growing for personal use is still permitted.[22]

Also, one notable politician has singlehandedly made it a 2015 election issue.[23] Said politician actually won the election, and his health minister announced at the UN that they would introduce legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana in spring 2017.[24]

Sam's ditchweed[edit]

In the United States, research into such issues as cannabis for medical use is restricted to the supply of government-grown plants,[25] which are of poor quality (potency), a sore point with many researchers in the field.

Nine US jurisdictions legalize cannabis[edit]

On November 7th, 2012 two US states, Colorado and Washington, partly legalized cannabis at the state level through voter approval. On November 4, 2014, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. also partly legalized cannabis. On November 9, 2016, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine[26] followed suit by legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Other municipalities (the first being Breckenridge, Colorado) had previously decriminalized cannabis. The immediate actions taken by state officials after legalization were to dismiss any pending cannabis-related court cases, such as possession. Amnesty for those already convicted of cannabis crimes may be forthcoming, and regulations to license and tax cannabis sales are soon to be in the works.

By an odd coincidence, the first legal sales of recreational pot in the US took place a few blocks from the site of the first federal arrest for pot, which occurred about a month after it was criminalized in August, 1937. Samuel R. Caldwell, a 58-year-old unemployed farmhand, sold three joints out of his Denver apartment to 26-year-old Moses Baca. The feds raided the apartment and found about three pounds (about 1.4 kilos) of weed. Caldwell was sentenced to four years of hard labor in Leavenworth Federal PenitentiaryWikipedia's W.svg and fined $1000. Baca was sentenced to eighteen months at Leavenworth.[27]

Although recreational use of cannabis is legal under the state laws of eight states plus D.C, and medical use of cannabis is legal under the laws of several other U.S. states, cannabis is still completely illegal at the Federal level; it is still on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as of March 2017. Federal drug enforcement agents are currently turning a blind eye to these pot-legal states, but that could change on the whim of whoever's in power. Also, Congress has tried to nullify D.C.'s legalization, but ended up only being able to nullify certain details. You know—gotta keep the incarceration of black youth going.

There is a campaign to free a Missouri man in prison over 20 years for cannabis offenses. 21 similar cases exist nationwide.[28]

Colorado has turned it into a billion-dollar business, all with no access to the US banking system.[29]

Reasons to visit Zearing, Iowa[edit]

You know it's a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them?
Richard Nixon, discussing the international Jewish conspiracy on the marijuanas.[30]

During the 1970s, to distract Americans from the Vietnam War and Watergate, President Richard Nixon declared cannabis a 'gateway drug' and instituted a program to eradicate the plant where it grew wild, especially in the Midwest and more particularly in the fertile farmland in central Iowa. Between Clemons and Zearing, near Marshalltown, Iowa, this became known as The Great Bonfire of 1971.[31]


When traveling, carrying any illegal drugs is ill-advised, especially if traveling by airplane or if crossing international borders. While some sensibly refuse to travel with cannabis, traveling to cannabis is a different matter.

Reasons to visit the Netherlands[edit]

Even Yoda smokes cannabis.

Cannabis, while still technically illegal in the Netherlands, is available in local coffee shops. As long as you don't actually blow hash smoke in a police officer's face, the policy is one of non-enforcement. Recently, the Dutch government announced that tourists would be banned from these shops;[32] Bummer! but these laws were subsequently not implemented[33] after the city of Amsterdam refused to comply and early projects with the law failed spectacularly, leading to sharp rises in crime and drug dealing within a few weeks.[34] Go legal weed!

Reasons to visit Uruguay[edit]

It's been legal there since 2013 and, although its not legal to buy if you're not native, you can easily get an Uruguayan to do it for you. Also, everyone has plants in their own home.

Reasons to visit Bangladesh[edit]

It must be fun to swim high. Just don't tell anyone you're not Muslim. Who put the bhang in Bangladesh?

Reasons to visit Washington State[edit]

Recreational cannabis has been legal in Washington State since the passing of Initiative 502Wikipedia's W.svg in November 2012. While the legislation isn't as straightforward as what passed in Colorado, acquiring weed is still as easy as wandering into one of the many, many dispensaries in the state and talking to a friendly "budtender." Smoking in public is verboten, however, as is smoking inside of most businesses.

Things to do in Denver when you're alive[edit]

Get higgggghhhhh.[35] It is the Mile-High CityWikipedia's W.svg after all. And if you take a day trip to Boulder, remember that Will Vill has the highest towers in the city.



The most famous early users in the history of cannabis were the Hindus of India and Nepal.  Soma, a drug mentioned in early Hindu texts as an intoxicating hallucinogen, may have been a reference to cannabis.[36]

In Hinduism, the 'holy men' (referred to as SadhusWikipedia's W.svg) ritually consume cannabis as their sacrament.

It is also believed by some rabbinical scholars that when the Jews still had a temple in Jerusalem, the "holy anointing oil" used there for religious rituals had some cannabis content.

There are also a handful of First Nations (people native to what are now the United States and Canada) traditions in which cannabis is part of religious ritual. The United States government made it legal for these religions on First Amendment grounds until a bunch of non-native people converted to that religion.[37]

In Rastafari, ganja is a sacrament. 'Ganga' is a term of Sanskrit origin, and is the name given to the goddess who personifies of the River Gangeslink=wp:Ganga_%28goddess%29. Why would diasporic Africans 'relocated' to the Caribbean use an ancient Sanskrit term for cannabis? Most probably because cannabis was introduced to the Caribbean by Indian indentured labourers.[38] Funny how, when exposed to cannabis for a few centuries or millenia, people tend to make a sacrament of it, and yet when it is not used for a few decades because it is demonised and forbidden, it's considered a bore or a nuisance.


See the main article on this topic: Marijuana woo

Given that cannabis is natural, it's practically inevitable that some woo peddlers try to promote weed as an amazing cure for all kinds of ills. For instance, over at The Mind Unleashed woo distribution center they insist that Mary Jane will cure cancer.[39]

Joking aside, cannabis has been used to treat a whole variety of unrelated disorders such as: autism,[40] cancer,[41] and asthma.[42] In fact, the cannabis woo is so great that some people think it cures every disease ever.[43] Treating these medical conditions with cannabis is an unproven discipline; judging from the side effects[44] of cannabis these treatments are irresponsible dangerous woo.


Like most "street drugs," marijuana cannabis has a proliferation of slang terms surrounding it.

This is but a sample:

  • Blunt: tobacco cigar wrap filled with cannabis
  • Bud(s): may be used to describe the individual flower buds that are smoked
  • Bunk: low quality/ineffective cannabis
  • Bushweed/Ditchweed: low quality cannabis, esp. leafy or dried-up
  • Cheeba (UK, mostly)
  • Chronic
  • Corn (Texas)
  • Crow (UK)
  • Dab: Hash oil, vaporized at very high heat rather than smoked
  • Dank: The good stuff, also used as an adjective
  • The Devil's Lettuce (see poisoning the well)
  • Doobie
  • Dope
  • Draw
  • 'erb (Jamaican/USA pronunciation)
  • 4-20, 4:20, 4/20: slang for cannabis use, a quasi-traditional time of day to smoke, April 20th is also unofficial "international cannabis day"
  • Food
  • Grass
  • Ganja (see above)
  • Green
  • Gringo
  • Gritweed: Bud that has been mixed with contaminants (e.g. plant matter or sugar) by an unscrupulous dealer to increase the weight [45]
  • Hash: hand rubbed resin, mesh-sifted pollen heads, or ice-extracted "bubble hash"
  • Herb (UK pronunciation)
  • High grade (or just "grade"): The good stuff
  • Joint: cannabis cigarette
  • Kush: another name for the good stuff, also a specific strain
  • Loud: another name for the good stuff, perhaps a reference to synaesthesia?
  • Marijuana (see above)
  • Mary Jane (the personification of "marijuana")
  • Mid: supposedly medium quality cannabis, but more often than not is not much better than "reggie".
  • MJ or Mary Jane (or Mary J Blige by One Direction[46])
  • Nugs/nuggets: individual pieces of ground/picked apart weed
  • Peng (UK, orig. pen and ink = stink, then just add a 'g', obviously)
  • Piff (UK)
  • Pot
  • Reefer:[47]
  • Reggie: low quality, see bushweed
  • Shake: leftover dust and crumbs
  • Skunk: the very strong stuff, also a specific strain
  • Stress: low quality, see bushweed
  • Spliff: see joint
  • Trees
  • Weed
  • Zoot (UK): see joint

Some (notable) potheads cannabis-users[edit]

Stoners in popular culture[edit]

Stoners might seem to the uninitiated to become a bit of a bore about their new found friend, but only to the extent that alcohol users can be smug and obnoxious about their preferred vice being legal. If there was a war between alcohol and cannabis, cannabis would win because it is non-lethal, and less addictive, so there. It just happens to make you think outside the box and rebel, which is perhaps why visionaries of all fields have benefitted from using it (see above).


  • Rap group Cypress Hill have a particular fondness for "Mary Jane", and did the world a favour by introducing many people to her ways (like many a rock, or reggae act before them - notice the distinct lack of genuinely good pop music?). The inlay sleeve for their 1993 album 'Black Sunday' featured a list of 19 reasons why cannabis should be made legal.[53]
  • Shel Silverstein performed a song named "Smoke Off", about a competition between the world's fastest joint smoker and the world's fastest roller of said joints. The contest ended when they ran out of pot to roll. It gave us several euphemisms for various varieties of weed, such as "Maui wowie," "Panama red," "Acapulco gold," etc..
  • Metal band Black Sabbath created a new term for the plant with their song "Sweet Leaf", and introduced many new stoners to the plant. The song even begins with guitarist Tony Iommi coughing after lighting up a joint, and breathing it in.


  • Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke (1978): A story about more perpetual stoners, this time smuggling pot from Mexico to the US. Cheech and Chong's other movies feature similar positive views on cannabis. Tommy Chong has been a long-time advocate of cannabis, and is often typecast as a hippie or stoner in other films and television shows, such as That 70's Show and Cars.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998): A story about a stoner caught up in a kidnapping. The film spawned a religion, "Dudeism" involving pot, bowling, and White Russians.
  • That '70s Show (1998-2006): The story of a group of small-town Wisconsin teenagers in the late 1970s. A regular motif in the series is "the circle" wherein four characters would sit around a table smoking pot while the camera (swivel-mounted in the center of the table) panned around to each character as they spoke. The cast included Tommy Chong as the stoner manager of a film developing kiosk.
  • Pineapple Express (2008): A story about two perpetual stoners caught up in a murder.
  • The 2014 Emmy Awards was referred to as the first to be 'sponsered by marijuana [sic]', as cannabis takes centre stage. *Warning* fox news clip[54]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  3. See the Wikipedia article on Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.
  6. Marijuana May Both Trigger and Suppress Psychosis
  7. Johns, Andrew (2001). Psychiatric effects of cannabis. The British Journal of Psychiatry Feb 2001, 178 (2) 116-122.
  9. What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use? by Wayne Hall, Addiction, Volume 110, Issue 1, pages 19–35, January 2015. DOI: 10.1111/add.12703
  22. "Medical marijuana: New rules and a 'ton of confusion'" Janet Davison, CBC News. Mar 31, 2014
  23. Majority of Canadians want to loosen marijuana laws: polls, The Globe and Mail
  24. "Federal marijuana legislation to be introduced in spring 2017, Philpott says"
  25. The plants are grown in a carefully concealed, undisclosed location.
  26. Election 2016: What It Means For Marijuana Legalization. Time Magazine, 10 November 2016
  27. Marijuana Prohibition Began With An Arrest In Denver, Ends Here With Long Lines And High Hopes, Huffington Post, 6 January 2014
  28. [1][2][3]
  30. May 13, 1971, between 10:30am and 12:30pm -- Oval Office Conversation 498-5-- meeting with Nixon, Haldeman and Ehrlichman. Also cited by Metapedia.
  31. Granny and the Great Smoke-out
  32. "Holland's Pot Tourism Set to Go Up in Smoke"
  36. God Gave Us Cannabis,Weed List
  37. Native American Church Wants its Marijuana Back,Opposing Views
  39. "Proved" by 34 medical studies, no less. Wow! That's, like, awesome dude! And particularly good for the likes of Bill Hicks and Bob Marley; hey, wait a minute...
  45. [4]
  46. I refuse to directly source the Heil
  47. attributed to Nixon as "roofers" in Firesign Theatre skit
  48. The Collected Controversies of William F. Buckley
  49. Barack Obama, asked about drug history, admits he inhaled, The New York Times
  50. 7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization, The Huffington Post