The Origins of Cannabis
The oldest known written record on cannabis use comes from the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung in 2727 B.C. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America cannabis, in the form of hemp, was grown on many plantations for use in rope, clothing and paper.
The Use of Cannabis
Cannabis sativa grows wild throughout many tropical and humid parts of the world. Its seeds have been used for animal feed, its fiber for hemp rope, and its oil as a vehicle for paint.
The Cannabis Plant
Cannabis is dioecious, meaning it comes as separate male and female plants. Male plants are taller and thinner and have flower like pods which contain the fertilizing, pollen-generating anthers. The female plant is darker and shorter and has short hairs protruding at the end of the bracteole pods.
Most users smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints. Other popular methods of smoking marijuana include using bowls, pipes, and bongs.
The topic of legalizing marijuana for medical use is a controversial issue since the therapeutic properties of marijuana are presently at question when claiming medicinal purpose. The impairment of cognitive abilities when under the influence of cannabis or THC and the short term effects of marijuana use can include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, coordination and increased heart rate.
Cannabis: A Schedule I Substance
Having no current accepted medical use in the United States and a high potential for abuse, cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance.
In a variety of vending machines it is common to find marijuana packed at maturity, marijuana candies, marijuana gum and sometimes marijuana cigarettes.
Current Medical Use
Research over the years has resulted in the development and marketing of the dronabinol (synthetic THC) product, Marinol®, for the control of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapeutic agents used in the treatment of cancer and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients. In 1999 Marinol® was placed in Schedule III of the CSA.
Hashish, also known as hash, is the most concentrated and potent form of cannabis containing high levels of THC. Hash is derived from the dried resin of the plants flowering tops and is compressed into a variety of forms such as balls, cakes or sticks. The Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the main sources of hashish. Pieces of hash are broken off and placed in pipes (similar to marijuana) and smokes.
Hash oil is the refined oily extract of the cannabis plant. Depending on the refining technique the oil can vary in color from amber to dark brown with an average THC of content of approximately 15 percent. The oil is usually mixed with tobacco or marijuana and smoked.
One of the first fiber plants to be cultivated, prior to the widespread use of cotton, hemp has been referenced to originate in Central Asia. In the Middle East and India hemp was largely used in religious settings; however it was also used as a natural medicine. Hemp later made its way to Europe where its use as a fiber was highly ideal in many countries. Eventually, hemp landed in the Americas where it was popular for rope, clothing and paper.
Today, hemp fibers are more commonly used in clothing and jewelry.
Marketable Cannabis Items
Marijuana and hemp have been and are used in a variety of products. Some of the most common foods and drinks include cereal, candy, coffees and teas. Hemp is also found in body lotions, make up and shampoo.
With a variety of cannabis strains the potency of marijuana varies greatly. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the flowers of the female marijuana plant. Marijuana is much more powerful today than it was 30 years ago. The average THC levels rose from less than 1 percent in the mid-1970’s to more than 6 percent in 2002 to 8.5 percent in 2008.
As cannabis strains are continually discovered and grown the potency changes as well. The differences in marijuana potency are what make various strains popular. One of the most potent early strains is sinsemillas, which is seedless marijuana from the inflorescences of the female cannabis plants. Other more current strains known for their potency include: Purple Haze, Early Girl, Big Bud and Hindu Kush.