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Cannabis as a plant and drug

Cannabis is a flowering plant sometimes called hemp for its fibrous product which has been used for centuries in the manufacture of paper, fuel, and industrial materials.

Cannabis is also the “marijuana plant,” containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana and hash believed to be unique to this particular genus. Two Cannabis subspecies or varieties—Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica —are most closely associated with products containing THC, a drug that is often categorized as a psychedelic for the perceptual distortions it produces in higher doses. Depending on how it is administered and the user’s level of tolerance, light doses of Cannabis produce relaxation, pleasure, and a heightened awareness of sensations; higher doses may lead to an altered perception of space and time and impaired memory; very high doses have been known to distort one’s sense of identity and to trigger hallucinations.
These effects make Cannabis a dangerous drug to use, even in small doses, when driving or in other situations requiring rapid refl exes and unimpaired motor coordination.

Cannabis is known for its tendency to stimulate appetite, relieve chronic pain, and suppress nausea. Some groups are therefore lobbying to legalize it for medical use by AIDS patients, those with persistently painful conditions, or cancer sufferers enduring the nausea and vomiting of chemotherapy. So far, these efforts have failed, but a form of synthetic THC can be prescribed by physicians via medications like Marinol or Sativex, Schedule III drugs under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). Since they have no currently approved medical use in the United States, however, the natural forms of Cannabis that are derived directly from the plant and are illegally marketed in the United States—marijuana, hash, and hashish oil—are placed under Schedule I of the CSA. These illicit substances are imported from around the world via the illegal drug trade.

Because Cannabis plants are fairly easy to cultivate under artificial conditions, hundreds of American basements and attics have been converted into clandestine growing laboratories where the plants are carefully nurtured to develop maximum concentrations of THC.

Source: Encyclopedia of addictions / Kathryn H. Hollen, vol. 1 p. 102.


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