The various forms of cannabis all come from the plant Cannabis Sativa, which grows throughout the world. The product of its crushed stems (hemp) was formerly vital for rope and sack making. Cannabis is available in three main forms, as a dried herb (composed of top leaves and buds), as a resin (known as hash or hashish) which is extracted from the buds and flower heads in the country of origin, and less commonly as a sticky liquid (hash oil) which is prepared from the resin.
Cannabis resin found in the UK comes from a variety of sources, traditionally the Indian subcontinent, Lebanon and Morocco, all of which differ considerably in texture, colour and aroma. Some are soft and pliable (usually from Pakistan), whilst others can be hard and brittle (often from Morocco and Lebanon). Most resin turning up on the streets will have been reformulated in Europe after leaving its country of origin, hence the term 'formula' loosely applied to any Cannabis resin of below average potency. Different types of resin have different names such as 'red seal', 'gold seal', 'squidgy black', 'rocky', 'slate' and 'soap bar' (although there are many more).
Herbal cannabis or grass is slowly gaining a greater market share. On a practical level grass is much harder to smuggle due to its bulk and aroma. Traditionally imported from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, herbal cannabis is increasingly being 'home grown' in the UK and Europe, mainly due to the increasingly sophisticated growing equipment available. Many strains of intensively grown and particularly strong herbal cannabis are becoming increasingly common. Strains known as 'Northern lights', 'Super skunk' and 'Sensi (sensemilla)' have a far higher content of the chemical in them which causes the drugs intoxicating effect (THC or tetrahydrocannabinol).
There have been worrying statistics showing that young people think that smoking Marijuana is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. Most young people who smoke Marijuana mix resin with tobacco which means the concoction of drugs is as potentially lethal as smoking tobacco.
Cannabis is most commonly smoked. Usually by mixing it with tobacco and rolling it up with cigarette papers into a cannabis cigarette (often called a 'spliff', 'joint', 'reefer', or 'jay'). However, it can also be smoked with or without tobacco in various forms of pipes and smoking devices (such as 'bongs' or 'water pipes'). Nowadays the smoking of Cannabis through pipes (often using water to cool the smoke) has become more prevalent due to its greater efficiency. This method is safer since it circumvents problems associated with tobacco smoking.
Cannabis can also be taken orally, either eaten direct or mixed with food preparations, such as cakes, biscuits (hence 'hash cookies') or hot drinks. Taking Cannabis orally means that the active ingredients have to fight their way through the stomach contents before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Eating cannabis might not be safe but compared to smoking (especially with tobacco) research indicates the potential dangers are decreased. The major problem with eating cannabis compared to smoking it is that a smoker of Cannabis can stop smoking once he or she reaches the required level of intoxication, however when taken orally getting the dosage right is a far harder business.
Effects depend largely upon the expectations, motivations and mood of the user, the amount used and the circumstances.
The most common and most desired effects are talkativeness, cheerfulness, relaxation and greater appreciation of sound and colour. Whilst under the influence of Cannabis, tests have clearly proved that tasks involving concentration and manual dexterity - such as driving a car - are not performed well. Driving whilst under the influence of Cannabis is not recommended, although the rashness and aggression displayed by drink drivers is unlikely to be present. However, Cannabis users frequently report enhanced performance for tasks involving creativity, such as playing music.
Not all the effects of the drug are pleasant. High doses can cause mild hallucinations and sensory distortions which could be disconcerting if unexpected. Those who use the drug when anxious or depressed may find these conditions exaggerated and the user can become more self obsessed with his or her problem. Mild panic and paranoia could then result. Nausea and vomiting can occur when an inexperienced user tries too much at once; this is far more likely if Cannabis has been used with alcohol.
Smoking Cannabis produces fairly instant intoxication, the effects lasting from 1 to 4 hours depending on the amount used. Fatalities from Cannabis use are unknown, and the 'morning after the night before' effect is far less profound than that produced by alcohol, no headaches or nausea, more of a slightly woolly-headed abstract feeling.
Two further effects experienced by many Cannabis users are the drying up of the mouth and binge eating (known as the 'munchies').
There are now many people in the UK who have used Cannabis regularly or intermittently for at least 20 years, yet there is no conclusive evidence that long-term use of Cannabis causes lasting damage to physical and mental health. Short-term memory loss is reported by some users, however the main health problems stem from the method of use. Smoking any substance over a long period of time is a bad idea and frequent inhalation of Cannabis smoke can lead to bronchitis, other chest related disorders and may cause lung cancer. Whilst Cannabis does not produce a physical dependency, mixing it with tobacco will almost certainly produce a dependency on nicotine in quite a short period of time.
The positive effects of Cannabis as an effective reliever of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, hypoglycaemia and, in certain instances, as a medication for the terminally ill have become topical again recently. It is important to remember that Cannabis has been used medically world-wide for centuries, and in this country it was legally prescribed up until 1928, however many people still use it illegally as an effective medicine. In fact Queen Victoria used it to alleviate period pains. However, some women may find that heavy Cannabis use can make their periods irregular, whilst Cannabis smoked with tobacco during pregnancy produces the same risks to the mother and child as smoking cigarettes.
Cannabis is a Class B drug, except Cannabis Oil which is sometimes considered to be a Class A drug.. It is illegal to grow, produce, supply or posses the drug except under special home office licence for research or other special cases. It is also an offence to allow a premises to be used for growing, producing, supplying or using Cannabis.
There is now considerable debate about whether Cannabis should be legalised or at least decriminalised, which is what has happened in Holland, Germany and some parts of the USA.
Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the New World at the end of the fifteenth century. Smoking spread rapidly and was long regarded as having medicinal value. It was not until the 20th century, however, that smoking became a mass habit and not until after the Second World War that the dangers of smoking were firmly established.
Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is the single most preventable cause of death in the United Kingdom. Cigarette smoking alone is directly responsible for at least one-third of all cancer deaths annually in the United Kingdom, and contributes to the development of low birth weight babies and cardiovascular disease.
I do feel better, not a lot but enough that I'm glad that I quit. A lot of my "mysterious" ailments are gone, ones that I used to experience on a daily basis. I know for a fact that my stomach pains are gone due to the decrease of stomach acid since I quit. People with any form of stomach irritation should not smoke.