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Indoor Marijuana Grow (DEA photo)

Marijuana (colloquially known as "weed" or "pot") is the name given to the flowering buds of the cannabis sativa plant prepared for human consumption. The main active ingredient in marijuana is THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, an organic chemical compound. Marijuana is generally illegal to possess, cultivate and sell in most countries, although it is legal in some jurisdictions as a medical treatment. However, there is a significant minority of countries and provinces in which possession (usually of a small amount for personal use) is decriminalized; for instance Portugal, Argentina, California and South Australia. There are also countries, most famously the Netherlands, in which the sale of marijuana in small quantities is tolerated by law enforcement.

The effects of marijuana can include short-term memory loss, malaise, psychosis in predisposed individuals as well as impairment of physical and mental functioning. Some research has found that cannabis has medicinal benefits (see Medical marijuana); however many contest this, and state that there are numerous federally approved medicines for the diseases that medicinal marijuana can be used to treat.

Medicinal Harms

Marijuana contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco, thus when smoked it has the same harmful effects including: potential damage to DNA, cancer, respiratory diseases associated with smoke inhilation, and impaired immune system.[1]. However, these effects have not been linked directly to alternate methods of marijuana use. Marijuana use can impair short term memory while intoxicated. THC has slight negative affects on long term memory and thus, in chronic users (approximately 1g/24Hrs)[2], complications with long term memory are a risk. If smoked, marijuana leads to a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure while intoxicated. For this reason, there is a slight increase in the risk for heart related problems including heart attack during the time of intoxication[3]. Chronic smokers often suffer from mild withdrawal symptoms, however marijuana is not physically addictive.[4]. Marijuana can impair judgment, motor skills, and balance [5]. Marijuana has also been linked to impaired learning and developmental diability in unborn children [6]

Medicinal Benefits

The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, has been shown (in studies) to produce certain psychological and medicinal benefits. Marijuana has been used to treat anorexia and has been used as an antiemetic.[7] Harvard University conducted a study on the effect of Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on certain lung cancers. The result of the test was that THC can reduce tumor size by as much as half.[8] In addition to a significant reduction in tumor size, there was a reduction in lesions on the lungs by 60%, and a reduction in protein markers associated with the progression of cancer.[9] This study shows that not only can THC treat the side effects of cancer treatment, but can stop the spread of cancer, repair damage caused by tumors, and even reduce the size of tumors.

In addition to the positive effect on cancer treatment symptoms and cancer itself, marijuana is used to help patients afflicted with ALS[10].

Marijuana is an antispasmodic and is used in the treatment of seizures [11]. Marijuana is also used in the treatment of migraines, arthritis[12], depression[13], and glaucoma. However the effect of marijuana on intraocular pressure (IOC) is not as effective as those offered by other drugs on the market [14].

There have not been many in-depth and widely distributed studies into the possible medicinal effects of marijuana. However, with pressure from liberal advocates of marijuana, more otherwise accredited institutions are conducting research on the drug.

Interesting Facts

  • Carl Sagan used recreational marijuana to help "open his mind".[15]
  • Cannabis was first cultivated in China around 4000 B.C.[16]
  • U.S. Declaration of Independence was not written on hemp paper, despite popular belief.[17]
  • George Washington grew marijuana. [18]
  • Alcohol is over 100 times more lethal than marijuana (ratio of lethal dose to effective dose)[19].
  • President Obama has admitted to use of marijuana. Former President Clinton has also admitted to smoking marijuana, but claims that he 'did not inhale'.

Legal Status

Marijuana is a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the United States of America, meaning that it is illegal under federal law of the United States, and considered to have no redeemable medical value. In several countries, particularly in Western Europe, it is has been decriminalised. However, in many other countries, particularly those in the Middle East and Asia, possession of even small amounts of cannabis can be punishable by death. In 2012, the states of Washington and Colorado adopted voter referenda to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. At the same time, Oregon voters rejected a similar proposition. Federal officials said that they would contest state laws that would legalize marijuana.[20]

The Netherlands decriminalized the use of marijuana in 1976. As a result, marijuana use among the 18-25 age group doubled, however, despite its availability, marijuana use in the Netherlands is lower than the European average. The Netherlands also saw an influx of "drug tourists" and other undesirables, as well as an increase in crime. This has since levelled out, leaving the Netherlands with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe.

Many liberals have advocated for decriminalization.[21][22]

Many American conservatives, especially social conservatives, oppose legalization of marijuana in any form due to its perceived harmful medical and psychological effects and its likelihood of harm to third parties due to drug-related crime and reckless driving. A few libertarian-leaning conservatives, most notably Ron Paul, William F. Buckley, and Larry Elder, have advocated the decriminalization of this drug. Some liberals support legalization, but most instead advocate for drug treatment and rehabilitation. Libertarians are usually the biggest supporters of marijuana legalization. Gary Johnson, a former Republican and 2012 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate for President, is the highest ranking US politician to advocate for marijuana legalization. He was a two-term Governor of New Mexico.


  1. Science Daily 6/9/2009
  2. AskMen: Benefits of Marijuana
  3. AskMen: Benefits of Marijuana
  4. Psychology Today: Is Marijuana Addictive?
  5. [1]
  6. Neuropsycopharmacology: High-Potency Marijuana Impairs Executive Function and Inhibitory Motor Control
  7. National Cancer Institute
  8. Science Daily 4/7/2007
  9. Science Daily 4/17/2007
  10. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  11. National Academies Press: Marijuana and muscle spasticity
  12. Online Library: Treatment of adjuvant arthritis in rats with anti-inflammatory drugs
  13. Interesting Facts: Facts about marijuana
  14. National Eye Institue: Glaucoma and Marijuana use
  15. Boing Boing: Carl Sagan Spaced Out
  16. Interesting Facts: Facts about marijuana
  17. Constitutional FAQ Answer #145 - U.S. Constitution Online
  18. The President and the Cabinet: George Washington the Man
  19. Wikipedia: Tetrahydrocannabinol
  20. Dobuzinskis, Alex. "Marijuana legalization victories could be short-lived", Nov 7, 2012. Retrieved on November 8, 2012. 
  21. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition