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Cannabis grows wild throughout most of the tropic and temperate regions of the world. It is also known as hemp, although this term usually refers to varieties of cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. As a drug it usually comes in the form of dried flowers (marijuana), resin (hashish), or various extracts collectively referred to as hash oil.

Prior to the advent of synthetic fibers, the cannabis plant was cultivated for the tough fiber of its stem.

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What Is It Exactly?

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plant that includes one or more species. It contains chemicals called cannabinoids that are unique to the cannabis plant.

Among the cannabinoids synthesized by the plant are cannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinolidic acids, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, and several isomers of tetrahydrocannabinol. One of these, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is believed to be responsible for most of the characteristic psychoactive effects of cannabis.

Research has resulted in development and marketing of the dronabinol (synthetic THC) product, Marinol®, for the control of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotheraputic agents used in the treatment of cancer and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients. Marinol® was rescheduled in 1999 and placed in Schedule III of the CSA.

How Is It Used?

Cannabis products are usually smoked. Their effects are felt within minutes, reach their peak in 10 to 30 minutes, and may linger for two or three hours.

The effects experienced often depend upon the experience and expectations of the individual user, as well as the activity of the drug itself.

Low doses tend to induce a sense of well-being and a dreamy state of relaxation, which may be accompanied by a more vivid sense of sight, smell, taste, and hearing, as well as by subtle alterations in thought formation and expression. This state of intoxication may not be noticeable to an observer. However, driving, occupational, or household accidents may result from a distortion of time and space relationships and impaired coordination.

Stronger doses intensify reactions. The individual may experience shifting sensory imagery, rapidly fluctuating emotions, fragmentary thoughts with disturbing associations, an altered sense of self-identity, impaired memory, and a dulling of attention despite an illusion of heightened insight.

High doses may result in image distortion, a loss of personal identity, fantasies, and hallucinations.