Pot, or more commonly known as cannabis, is a psychoactive drug derived from the cannabis plant. Originating in Central or South Asia, it has served recreational, entheogenic, and medicinal purposes for centuries. The primary psychoactive component is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), accompanied by at least 65 other cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD). Cannabis can be consumed through smoking, vaporizing, ingestion, or extraction. Its effects encompass altered states of mind, euphoria, impaired memory, relaxation, and increased appetite. While the onset of effects is rapid when smoked, it may take up to 90 minutes when ingested orally, with effects lasting two to six hours.
Cannabis has deep historical roots, with evidence of its use for fabric and rope in China and Japan during the Neolithic age. Archaeological findings in Romanian kurgans from 3,500 BC suggest early ritualistic cannabis burning. The Indo-European tribes in the Pontic-Caspian steppe are believed to have spread cannabis use during the Chalcolithic period. References to cannabis use in the Vedas, the ancient Indo-Iranian drug soma, and its presence in Assyrian ceremonies highlight its diverse historical applications. Cannabis was known in China around 2800 BC and found therapeutic use in India by 1000 BC.
Introduction to the New World and Modern Era
In the 16th century, the Spaniards introduced cannabis to the New World. Subsequently, in the 19th century, physicians like Jacques-Joseph Moreau and William Brooke O’Shaughnessy explored its psychological effects. Cannabis criminalization began in the 14th century, escalating through the 20th century. Uruguay became the first country to legalize recreational cannabis use in 2013, with other nations, including Canada, Mexico, and some U.S. states, following suit. Despite such changes, cannabis remains federally illegal in the U.S.
Global Cannabis Consumption
In 2013, 128 to 232 million people, comprising 2.7% to 4.9% of the global population aged 15 to 65, used cannabis. It stands as the most commonly used largely-illegal drug globally, with high usage rates in Zambia, the United States, Canada, and Nigeria. Cultivation of marijuanas plants dates back to the 3rd millennium BCE, with evidence of psychoactive use 2,500 years ago in the Pamir Mountains. Legal restrictions on cannabis emerged in the 14th century, and most countries criminalized its possession, use, and cultivation in the 20th century.
Diverse Uses of Cannabis
Medical cannabis, or medical marijuana, involves using cannabis to treat diseases or alleviate symptoms. However, its classification as an illegal drug by many governments hampers rigorous scientific research. Some evidence suggests its efficacy in reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea, improving appetite in HIV/AIDS patients, and treating chronic pain and muscle spasms. Medical cannabis is legal in several territories, including Canada, Belgium, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, and certain U.S. states, but requires a prescription.
Cannabis consumption, termed being “high,” has psychoactive and physiological effects. The experience varies based on the user’s prior exposure and the type of mariwanna consumed. Desired effects include altered perception, increased awareness, relaxation, and changes in time perception.
The weed plant holds sacred status in several religions and serves as an entheogen in the Indian subcontinent since the Vedic period. Reports from the Atharva Veda, dating back to 1400 BCE, attest to its sacred status. The Hindu god Shiva is associated with cannabis use, known as the “Lord of the Bhang Plant.” Additionally, The Rastafari movement also spread the spiritual use of cannabis for sacramental and meditative purposes.
Modes of Consumption
One of the most common methods of cannabis consumption involves smoking. Users burn and inhale cannabinoids through various means such as small pipes, bongs, paper-wrapped joints, tobacco-leaf-wrapped blunts, and similar devices.
Vaporizing, or “vaping,” entails heating different forms of cannabis to a temperature range of 165–190 °C (329–374 °F). This process causes the active ingredients to form vapor without combusting the plant material, providing an alternative to traditional smoking.
The mary jane drug is incorporated into a wide array of foods, including butter and baked goods, in the form of edibles. In India, it is notably consumed as a beverage called bhang.
Prepared with attention to the lipophilic quality of THC, cannabis tea involves infusing cannabis in a saturated fat, given THC’s low water solubility. The tea offers an alternative method of consumption.
Tincture of Cannabis
Referred to as “green dragon,” cannabis tincture is an alcoholic concentrate. It involves extracting cannabinoids from the plant using high-proof spirits, creating a liquid form for consumption.
Cannabis oil is encapsulated, creating a convenient and controlled form of consumption. In Canada, numerous cannabis-infused dietary supplement products, including capsules, were approved in 2018.
Cannabis Varieties and Strains
Among the many prominent strains of cannabis, we have all time favorites such as ‘OG Kush,’ ‘Blue Dream,’ ‘Girl Scout Cookies,’ and many more. Also, CBD, a 5-HT1A receptor agonist, is currently under laboratory research for potential anxiolytic effects. A 2015 review found high CBD-to-THC strains correlated with fewer positive symptoms and a lower risk of psychosis onset.
THC content serves as a gauge for psychoactive weed potency, with flower/fruit at around 5%, resin up to 20%, and cannabis oil potentially exceeding 60%. Illicit bud pot potency has increased since the 1970s, marked by rising THC and declining CBD levels. Skunk, a high-potency strain, comprises 70-80% of police seizures in the UK. Notably, hemp buds laced with synthetic cannabinoids emerged in 2020, enhancing psychoactive effects and posing overdose risks.
Herbal cannabis, commonly known as marijuana or marihuana, consists of dried flowers, fruits, and leaves of the female cannabis plant. It is the most widely consumed form, with varying THC content.
Kief, a powder rich in trichomes, is sifted from weed herb leaves, flowers, and fruits. It can be consumed in powder form or compressed to produce hashish cakes.
Hashish is a concentrated resin cake or ball produced from pressed kief or by scraping resin from the ganja plant. It varies in color and can be consumed orally, smoked, or vaporized.
Tincture and Hash Oil
Cannabinoids are extracted using high-proof spirits to create tinctures, also known as “green dragon.” Hash oil, obtained through solvent extraction, is a resinous matrix of cannabinoids with varying potency.
Various non-volatile solvents, such as cocoa butter, dairy butter, cooking oil, glycerine, and skin moisturizers, are used to create cannabis infusions. These can be incorporated into foods or applied topically.
Widespread among the lower classes of South America, marihuana prensada, or “pressed marijuana,” is a cannabis-derived product. It is dried, mixed with binding agents, cut into brick shapes, and sold at a low price, notably in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, and the United States.
Research on cannabis faces challenges due to its illegal status in most countries. Obtaining research-grade samples is difficult, and recruiting participants is complicated by the stigma surrounding cannabis use. Confounding factors, such as concurrent tobacco use, further complicate studying the isolated effects of cannabis. Despite these challenges, ongoing research aims to explore the diverse aspects of cannabis use, from its medical applications to its possible positive outcomes.
In summary, cannabis has a fascinating history, evolving over time and impacting cultures globally. As the global attitude towards cannabis shifts, with legalization efforts gaining momentum, ongoing research helps us better understand cannabis and it’s potential benefits.