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Cannabis (also known as marijuana or ganja in its herbal form and hashish in its resinous form) is a psychoactive product of the plant Cannabis sativa L. subsp. indica (= C. indica Lam.). The herbal form of the drug consists of dried mature inflorescences and subtending leaves of pistillate ("female") plants. The resinous form consists primarily of glandular trichomes collected from the same plant material. It has been reported that commercial hashish is often no more potent than high quality seedless marijuana. However, carefully produced and screened hashish is up to three times as potent as the highest quality herbal varieties.
The major biologically active chemical compound in Cannabis is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly referred to as THC. It has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed, usually by smoking or ingestion. The minimum amount of THC required to have a perceptible psychoactive effect is about 5 mg. A related compound, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabidivarin, also know as THCV, is produced in appreciable amounts by certain drug strains. This cannabinoid has been described in the popular literature as having shorter-acting, flashier effects than THC, but recent studies suggest that it may actually inhibit the effects of THC. Relatively high levels of THCV are common in African dagga (marijuana), and in hashish from the northwest Himalayas.
Humans have been consuming Cannabis since prehistory, although in the 20th century there was a rise in its use for recreational, religious or spiritual, and medicinal purposes. It is estimated that Cannabis is now regularly used by four percent of the world's adult population, with estimates of up to 20% or greater of the adult population in the United States having tried the drug, and 10-30% or greater using the herb in many European countries. The possession, use, or sale of psychoactive Cannabis products became illegal in most parts of the world in the early 20th century. Since then, some countries have intensified the enforcement of Cannabis prohibition while others have reduced the priority of enforcement, almost to the point of legalization, as is the case in The Netherlands. The production of Cannabis for drug use remains illegal throughout most of the world through the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, while simple possession of small quantities is either legal, or treated as an addiction rather than a criminal offense in a few countries. The laws in the United States vary from state to state, some having decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana although it is still a federal crime.
 Ancient history
Botanists have determined that Cannabis, is native to central Asia, possibly extending southward into the Himalayas. Evidence of the inhalation of Cannabis smoke can be found as far back as the Neolithic age, as evidenced by charred seeds found in a ritual brazier at an ancient burial site in present day Romania. The most famous users of Cannabis were the ancient Hindus of India, and the Hashshashins (hashish eaters) of present day Syria. The herb was called ganjika in Sanskrit (ganja in modern Indian languages, named for the Ganges river). The ancient drug soma, mentioned in the Vedas as a sacred intoxicating hallucinogen, was sometimes associated with Cannabis.
Citizens of the Persian Empire would partake in the ceremonial burning of massive Cannabis bonfires, directly exposing their children and neighboring tribes to the billowing fumes, often for over 24 hours.
Cannabis was also known to the Assyrians, who discovered it through the Aryans. Using it in some religious ceremonies, they called it qunubu or the drug for sadness. Cannabis was also introduced by the Aryans to the Scythians and Thracians/Dacians, whose shamans (the kapnobatai - "those who walk on smoke/clouds") burned Cannabis flowers to induce a state of trance. The cult of Dionysus, believed to have originated in Thrace, is also thought to have inhaled Cannabis smoke. In 2003, a leather basket filled with Cannabis leaf fragments and seeds was found next to a 2,500 to 2,800 year old mummified shaman in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China.
 Religious and spiritual use
Cannabis has an ancient history of ritual use and is found in pharmacological cults around the world. Hemp seeds discovered by archaeologists at Pazyryk suggest early ceremonial practices by the Scythians occurred during the 5th to 2nd century BC, confirming previous historical reports by Herodotus. Some historians and etymologists have claimed that cannabis was used as a religious sacrament by ancient Jews, early Christians and Muslims of the Sufi order. In India and Nepal, it has been used by some of the wandering spiritual sadhus for centuries, and in modern times the Rastafari movement has embraced it. Elders of the modern religious movement known as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church consider cannabis to be the eucharist, claiming it as an oral tradition from Ethiopia dating back to the time of Christ. Like the Rastafari, some modern Gnostic Christian sects have asserted that Cannabis is the Tree of Life. Other organized religions founded in the past century that treat cannabis as a sacrament are the THC Ministry, the Way of Infinite Harmony, Cantheism, the Cannabis Assembly and the Church of cognizance. Many individuals also consider their use of cannabis to be spiritual regardless of organized religion.
 Medical use
The Marijuana Policy Project states that Cannabis is an ideal therapeutic drug for cancer and AIDS patients, who often suffer from clinical depression, and from nausea and resulting weight loss due to chemotherapy and other aggressive treatments. It is claimed that Cannabis makes these other treatments more tolerable. The nausea suppression and mild analgesic effects of Cannabis also provide a degree of relief for persons suffering from motion sickness, and it can also be used by hyperhidrosis sufferers for temporary relief of excessive sweating.
There are many claims regarding the use of Cannabis in a medical context, both for and against.  On April 20, 2006 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an intra-agency advisory warning against medical Cannabis, restating the Drug Enforcement Administration's position that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. The FDA also asserted that, "there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful." However, a recent epidemiological study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) concluded that, "the association of these [lung and upper aerodigestive tract] cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits." Nevertheless, the official position of several medical organizations including the American Medical Association , the National Multiple Sclerosis Society , the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology  and the American Cancer Society  is that they do not support smoking the herbal form of marijuana for medical use.  On June 6, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision which supported the Federal Government's position against "medical marijuana".  Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist, and Thomas filed dissenting opinions.
Claims have been made that Cannabis reduces intraocular pressure (fluid pressure within the eye) and is therefore useful for glaucoma patients. It is also reported to be beneficial for treating certain neurological illnesses such as epilepsy, migraine and bipolar disorder. Studies have found that the use of Cannabis can relieve tics in patients suffering from OCD and/or Tourette syndrome. Patients treated with marijuana reported a significant decrease in both motor and vocal tics, some of 50% or more. Some decrease in obsessive-compulsive behavior were also found. A recent study has also concluded that cannabinoids found in Cannabis might have the ability to prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Currently the citizens of 11 states in the United States (upwards of 60 million people) have legalized Cannabis for medical use to some degree. Additionally, six states have enacted decriminalization policies toward the drug. Because the federal government does not acknowledge any medical uses for Cannabis, federal enforcement of prohibition continues in these states.
The medical use of Cannabis is politically controversial, but physicians sometimes recommend it informally despite the risk of federal prosecution in the United States. A synthetic version of the major active compound in Cannabis, THC, is available in capsule form as the prescription drug dronabinol (Marinol) in many countries. THC has been shown to reduce arterial blockages. The prescription drug Sativex, an extract of Cannabis administered as a sublingual spray, has been approved in Canada for the treatment of multiple sclerosis; this medication may now be legally imported into the United Kingdom and Spain on prescription.  United States federal law currently registers Cannabis as a Schedule I drug (along with heroin and LSD), and Marinol as a Schedule III drug, despite the fact that they have the same active ingredient. 
 Relationship with other illicit drugs
Since its origin in the 1950s, the "gateway drug" theory has been one of the central pillars of marijuana drug policy in the United States. Those who subscribe to this theory, which has since spread throughout the world, argue that Cannabis use may lead one down the path of drug addiction, and should therefore be treated as a serious matter. Some researchers conclude that this model of behavior has little basis in fact, whereas others have found truth in these claims. Despite the conflicting results of these studies, many researchers agree that the illegal status of Cannabis has a direct connection to the "gateway theory". The reasoning goes that Cannabis users are more likely than non-users to place themselves in situations where other illicit substances are being used. In order to acquire Cannabis they are likely to become acquainted with people who use or sell other more stigmatized drugs such as cocaine or heroin, which may lead to serious addictions. Using this philosophy, activities such as smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol may also be regarded as having a gateway effect on youth. Indeed, certain studies have shown that tobacco smoking is a better predictor of concurrent illicit drug use than smoking Cannabis. Keeping this argument in mind, certain activist groups such as NORML contend that legalizing Cannabis would substantially reduce the use of other drugs by taking the distribution of marijuana out of the hands of criminals, and regulating it in a similar manner to alcohol or tobacco. Government agencies such as the DEA, however, claim that legalization would do far more harm than good, and would likely cause a rise in Cannabis use.
 New breeding and cultivation techniques
It is often claimed by growers and breeders of herbal Cannabis that advances in breeding and cultivation techniques have increased the potency of Cannabis since the late 1960's and early '70's. However, potent seedless marijuana such as "Thai sticks" were already available at that time. In fact, the sinsemilla technique of producing high potency ganja (marijuana) has been practiced in India for centuries. Sinsemilla (Spanish for without seed), is the dried, seedless inflorescences of female Cannabis plants. Because THC production drops off once pollination occurs, the male plants (which produce little THC themselves) are eliminated before they shed pollen to ensure that no pollination occurs. Advanced cultivation techniques such as hydroponics, cloning, high-intensity artificial lighting, and the sea of green method are frequently employed as a response (in part) to prohibition enforcement efforts that make outdoor cultivation more risky. These intensive horticultural techniques have led to fewer seeds being present in Cannabis and a general increase in potency over the past 20 years.
Many opponents of Cannabis use, both in and out of government, have exaggerated the increases in potency and ramifications thereof. In the United States, government advertisements encourage parents to disregard their own experiences with Cannabis when speaking to their children, on the premise that the "pot" of today is significantly stronger, and thus more dangerous, than that which they used in the past. In proposed revisions to Cannabis rescheduling in the U.K., the government is considering scheduling the more potent Cannabis material as a separate, more restricted substance. Many Cannabis proponents are vehemently opposed, reasoning that if one can smoke less Cannabis to achieve the same effect, then it is safer in the long run than smoking a less potent product.
There are two recognized types of herbal Cannabis, "sativa" and "indica." So-called "sativa" strains are reputed to induce a noticeably more "cerebral" high, while "indica" strains induce more of a body high. These two drug types are often hybridized or crossed with early-maturing (but low THC) "ruderalis" strains to increase the range in desirable characteristics.
 Preparations for human consumption
Cannabis is prepared for human consumption in several forms:
- Marijuana or ganja: the leaves and flowering tops of female plants
- Hashish or charas: a concentrated resin composed of glandular trichomes and vegetative debris that has been physically extracted, usually by rubbing, sifting, or with ice
- Kief or kif: 1) the chopped flowering tops of female Cannabis plants, often mixed with tobacco; 2) Moroccan hashish produced in the Rif mountains; 3) sifted Cannabis trichomes consisting of only the glandular "heads" (often incorrectly referred to as "crystals" or "pollen")
- Bhang: a beverage prepared by grinding Cannabis leaves in milk and boiling with spices and other ingredients
- Hash oil: an oily mixture resulting from chemical extraction or distillation of the THC-rich parts of the plant
- Budder: hash oil whipped to incorporate air, making it more like butter
These forms are not exclusive, and mixtures of two or more different forms of Cannabis are frequently consumed. Between the many different strains of Cannabis and the various ways that it is prepared, there are innumerable variations similar to the wide variety of mixed alcoholic beverages that are consumed.
There are a wide variety of methods and apparatus for smoking Cannabis. The most popular include the joint, the blunt, the hookah, the bong, the pipe (more commonly called a "bowl" or "piece"), the shotgun, the chillum, and the one-hitter or "bat." Cannabis is sometimes smoked within a small enclosed area (such as a car) to trap the smoke, so that it is inhaled with every breath. This is often referred to as "hotboxing," "fishbowling," "baking," "jeaning," "clam-baking," "green-housing," creating a "potmosphere," or (in Australia), a "compression session." One can also smoke marijuana in a steam-filled environment (bathroom, sauna), with the added humidity intended to produce a greater high.
To create a joint, herbal Cannabis is rolled into a cigarette using rolling paper, when available. As a last resort, brown paper, newsprint, and other assorted paper products are sometimes used to roll a "spliff." Cannabis cigars, or blunts can also be created by using the wrapper of an ordinary cigar ("Phillies Blunts" and "Swisher Sheets" are popular choices).
The classic bong is a tube with a small bowl (at the end of a thinner tube) inserted through the side, near the base. The bong is partially filled with water for the smoke to bubble through. The herb is placed in the bowl and ignited. After filling the tube with smoke, it is "cleared" by removing one's finger from a hole in the side. Homemade bongs are sometimes made with plastic soda bottles. Smoking marijuana through a bong concentrates the smoke, and it is often followed by fits of coughing and laughter. Variants include the gravity bong (also known as a bucket bong), which consists of a cone atop a perforated or cut water bottle. This method of Cannabis smoking is one of the most efficient, as the presence of a chamber and "carburetor" hole reduce smoke waste. With a bong, one can consume greater amounts of Cannabis in one "hit" than with an ordinary pipe. Another similar smoking device is known as a "waterfall bong". This is usually made by poking a hole in the bottom of a plastic water bottle and either sticking a bowl through a hole in the cap, or resting the bowl over the top. The hole in the bottom is covered with a finger, and the bottle filled with water. The bowl is placed on top of the bottle and lit by holding a flame over it and moving the finger covering the hole. As the water drains out, a vacuum is created, pulling smoke into the bottle. When the water has all drained out, the bowl is removed and the is smoke sucked out of the bottle, often very quickly. The effects of this type of bong are usually felt almost immediately, and often very intensely. Pipes are usually made of blown glass, wood, or non-reactive metals. Metal pipes are often made of interchangeable pieces. Glass pipes often have a "carburetor" hole, colloquially referred to as a carb, rush, choke, shotgun, or shooter (British use) that is covered for suction and then released to draw a mixture of smoke and air into the lungs. Some users prefer vertically held pipes (chillums), or improvised pipes (e.g., "tinnies" or "foilies") made from aluminium foil, small plumbing fittings, soda cans, crisp fruits or vegetables, or the cardboard tubes from bathroom-tissue or aluminium foil rolls.
A "one-hitter" is a device that enables a small amount of Cannabis to be burned and inhaled in a single breath. The Cannabis is loaded into one end of a small screenless tube (usually brass), and the entire amount is smoked at once. This is repeated for each hit. This method is useful for carefully titrating the desired dose. One-hitters are often disguised to fool people into believing that one is smoking an authentic cigarette. This deception is more effective (but less healthy) if the Cannabis is mixed with a little tobacco.
With a vaporizer, herbal Cannabis is heated to a temperature of about 365 - 410 °F (185 - 210 °C), at which the active ingredients are released into gaseous form with little or no burning of the plant material (the boiling point of THC is 200°C at 0.02 mm Hg pressure, and somewhat higher at standard atmospheric pressure). With this method the user inhales toxic chemicals, at much lower levels than by smoking, although this may vary depending on the design of the vaporizer and the temperature at which it is set. Scientific studies have yielded varied results on the effectiveness of vaporizing as a method of Cannabis consumption. A study by MAPS/NORML, using a Volcanotm vaporizer reported 95% THC and no toxins delivered in the vapor. However, an older study using vaporizers of a less sophisticated design showed substantially less reduction of toxins.
 Eating cannabis
As an alternative to smoking, Cannabis may be consumed orally. Although hashish is sometimes eaten raw or mixed with water, THC and other cannabinoids are more efficiently absorbed into the bloodstream when dissolved in ethanol, or combined with butter or other lipids. The effects of Cannabis administered this way take longer to begin, but last longer. They are sometimes perceived as more physical than mental, although there are many claims to the contrary. An oral dose of Cannabis is often considered to give a more intense experience than the equivalent dose of smoked Cannabis. Some people report unpleasant experiences after ingesting Cannabis, because they experience a more intense effect than they are comfortable with.
Smoking Cannabis results in a significant loss of THC and other cannabinoids in the exhaled smoke, by decomposition on burning, and in smoke that is not inhaled. In contrast, of all of the active constituents enters the body when Cannabis in ingested. It has been shown that the primary active component of Cannabis, Δ9-THC, is converted to the more psychoactive 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver. Titration to the desired effect by ingestion is much more difficult than through inhalation.
A common method of preparation involves blending Cannabis material with butter to create "cannabutter", which is used in preparing such culinary delights as brownies, fudge, cookies, "ganja goo balls," and "space cakes". Before blending with melted butter, the plant material is often finely ground, almost to a powder. A more refined form of cannabutter is prepared by heating Cannabis material with butter and water for an extended period of time, without bringing to a complete boil. The vegetative material is then removed by filtering through a strainer or cheese cloth, and the water and butter are allowed to separate, leaving clarified cannabutter to be used in various recipes. However, some recipes do not contain butter and fall into a slightly different category; these delicacies include the "Leary biscuit," which require less work to prepare than more "conventional" recipes. Cannabis infusions (known as Bhang) containing milk, spices, and other ingredients are commonly consumed in India and elsewhere, especially on festive occasions.
In 2006, hollowed-out gumballs filled with Cannabis material and labeled as "Greenades" were distributed by high school students in the United States.
As with other drugs taken orally, it is sometimes customary to fast before eating Cannabis to increase the effect, possibly because an empty stomach will enable the THC to enter the bloodstream more quickly. However, some people eat ordinary food before consuming the drug, because eating it on an empty stomach can cause nausea. The time to onset of effects is usually about an hour and may continue for a considerable length of time, whereas the effects of smoking herbal Cannabis are almost immediate.
Cannabis can also be consumed as a tea. Although THC is lipophilic and only slightly water soluble (with a solubility of 2.8 grams per litre), enough THC can be dissolved to make a mildly psychoactive tea. However, water-based infusions are generally considered to be an inefficient use of the herb.
Cannabis "seeds" (technically called achenes) are high in protein and essential fatty acids, and are readily consumed by many species of birds. In many countries including the United States and Canada, possession of viable Cannabis seeds is illegal. Cannabis seeds, which are not psychoactive, are also consumed by humans, and are a key ingredient in certain traditional recipes in Europe, and elsewhere.
 Immediate effects of consumption
- Further information: cannabis intoxication
The nature and intensity of the immediate (as opposed to long-term) effects of Cannabis consumption vary depending on such factors as dose, potency, cannabinoid (and possibly terpenoid) composition, method of consumption, length of time since last usage, the user's mental and physical state, and their surroundings. These last two factors are sometimes referred to as set and setting. Smoking the same Cannabis material in different frames of mind (set) or in different locations (setting) can alter the effects themselves, or one's perception of the effects. What the user does while under the influence of Cannabis can also alter the effects. If the user is inactive they may feel relaxed and sleepy, whereas if the user engages in physical or mental activity they may feel energized. The effects of Cannabis consumption may be loosely classified as cognitive and physical. Anecdotal evidence suggests that so-called "sativa" drug varieties tend to produce greater cognitive or perceptual effects, while indica varieties tend to produce more physical effects.
 Active ingredients and unsubstantiated effects
Of the 414 constituents of Cannabis reported in 1980,  the main active ingredient is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is chemically unstable and will degrade over time to cannabinol (CBN). Different Cannabis strains have different ratios of THC, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol, and other cannabinoids. Depending on these ratios, the quality and nature of the "high" may vary.
According to the Merck Index, the LD50 (dosage lethal to 50% of rats tested) of Δ9-THC by inhalation is 42 mg/kg of body weight. That is the equivalent of a 165 lb (75 kg) man inhaling the THC in 21, one-gram cigarettes of extremely high-potency (15% THC) marijuana all in one sitting, assuming no THC is lost through smoke loss or absorption by the lungs. For oral consumption, the LD50 for male rats is 1270 mg/kg, and 730 mg/kg for females - equivalent to the THC in about a pound of 15% THC marijuana. The ratio of Cannabis material required to saturate cannabinoid receptors to the amount required for a fatal overdose is 1:40,000. There have been no reported deaths or permanent injuries sustained as a result of a marijuana overdose.
 Health issues and the effects of cannabis
Although there are many conflicting studies involving health issues and the effects of cannabis, certain physical and mental health effects conclusions have been reached. Today, there is still a substantial amount of propaganda and misinformation from both cannabis advocates and opponents due to the legal issues of cannabis, including legal and political constraints on cannabis research.
The most obvious confounding factor in cannabis research is the prevalent usage of other recreational drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. Such complications demonstrate the need for studies on cannabis that have stronger controls, and investigations into the symptoms of cannabis use that may also be caused by tobacco. Much cannabis research the USA is funded by government agencies that publish position papers that only cite research studies that report negative consequences of cannabis use. In light of this, some people question whether these agencies make an honest effort to present an accurate, unbiased summary of the evidence, or whether they "cherry-pick" their data.
Unlike tobacco, cannabis has not been shown to cause emphysema, lung cancer, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other studies have suggested that cannabis use by expectant mothers does not appear to cause birth defects or developmental delays in their newborn children. According to a United Kingdom government report, using cannabis is less dangerous than both tobacco and alcohol in social harms, physical harm and addiction.
Cannabis is known to act on the hippocampus (and area of the brain associated with memory and learning), and impair short term memory and attention for the duration of its effects and in some cases for the next days. In the long term, some studies point to enhancement of particular types of memory. Cannabis was found to be neuroprotective against excitotoxicity and is therefore beneficial for the prevention of progressive degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. A 1998 report commissioned in France by Health Secretary of State Bernard Kouchner and directed by Dr. Pierre-Bernard Roques determined that, "former results suggesting anatomic changes in the brain of chronic cannabis users, measured by tomography, were not confirmed by the accurate modern neuro-imaging techniques," (like MRI). "Moreover, morphological impairment of the hippocampus [which plays a part in memory and navigation] of rat after administration of very high doses of THC (Langfield et al., 1988) was not shown (Slikker et al., 1992)" (translated). He concluded that cannabis does not have any neurotoxicity as defined in the report, unlike alcohol and cocaine.
Research between the use of cannabis and mental illness has also brought significant results. Cannabis use is generally higher among sufferers of schizophrenia, but the causality between the two has not been established. Another study concluded that sustained early-adolescent cannabis use among genetically predisposed individuals has been associated with a variety of mental illness outcomes; ranging from psychotic episodes to clinical schizophrenia.
Since the 20th century, most countries have enacted laws against the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. Naturally, these laws impact adversely on the cannabis plant's cultivation for non-recreational purposes, but there are many regions where, under certain circumstances, handling of cannabis is legal or licensed, and others where laws against its use, possession, or sale are not enforced. Many jurisdictions have also decriminalized possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation or a fine, rather than imprisonment. By effectively removing the user from the criminal justice system, decriminalization focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market. However, this does not solve the problem of how a user will obtain the "legal amount" of cannabis, since buying or growing cannabis is still illegal. Increasingly, many jurisdictions also permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. Some countries allow the sale through drug companies. However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in East Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to a sentence of life in prison or even execution.
 Recent history
Under the name cannabis, 19th century medical practitioners sold the drug, (usually as a tincture) popularizing the word amongst English-speakers. It was rumoured to have been used to treat Queen Victoria's menstrual pains as her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, was a staunch supporter of the benefits of cannabis. Cannabis was also openly available from shops in the US. By the end of the 19th century, its medicinal use began to fall as other drugs like aspirin took over its use as a pain reliever.
In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in the decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries. The Report, which at over 500 pages remains one of the most complete collections of information on cannabis in existence, shows the stark contrast in the way that the American and British governments went about deciding whether to criminalize cannabis. In 1937 the F.D. Roosevelt administration crafted the first national US law making cannabis possession illegal in the US via an unpayable tax on the drug. Hollywood supported that effort with the realease of "misinformation documentaries" such as the iconical "Reefer Madness" (1937).
The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s, which deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the populace against the idea that it should be legal, playing upon attitudes towards race. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marihuana omitted the fact that the "deadly marihuana" was identical to cannabis indica, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety.
Although cannabis has been used for its psychoactive effects since ancient times, it first became well known in the United States during the jazz music scene of the late 1920s and 1930s. Louis Armstrong became a prominent and life-long devotee. It was popular in the blues scene as well, and eventually became a prominent part of 1960s counterculture.
 Decriminalization and legalization
In recent decades, a movement to decriminalize cannabis has arisen in several countries. 12 US states have passed by majority vote of the citizenry, laws allowing some degree of medical use, while a further 6 states have taken steps to decriminalize it to some degree. This movement seeks to make simple possession of cannabis punishable by only confiscation or a fine, rather than prison. In the past several years, the movement has started to have some successes. These include Denver, Colorado legalizing possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, a broad coalition of political parties in Amsterdam, Netherlands unveiling a pilot program to allow farmers to grow it legally, and Massachusetts voting in favor of a bill to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis. These laws passed by states and cities to decriminalize marijuana do not result in marijuana being legal, however. The Federal Government has the power to regulate marijuana because of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Additionally, under the Supremacy Clause, any state law in conflict with federal law is not valid. These issues were squarely addressed by the United States Supreme Court in Raich v. Ashcroft, 352 F. 3d 1222.http://blogs.salon.com/0002762/stories/2004/11/23/raichVAshcroftAGuideToTheS.html
In Alaska, cannabis was decided legal for in-home, personal use under the Ravin vs. State ruling in 1975. This ruling allowed up to four ounces of cannabis for these purposes. A 1991 voter ballot initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld the Ravin ruling, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution. In response to former Governor Frank Murkowski's successive attempt to re-criminalize cannabis, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state. On July 17, 2006, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins awarded the Case Summary judgement to the ACLU. In her ruling, she said "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than 1 ounce of cannabis, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than 1 ounce of cannabis in their homes." This does not mean that the legal possession threshold has been reduced to one ounce, as this was a mere case summary review filed by the ACLU, not a full case. Reinforcing Ravin, Collins wrote "A lower court cannot reverse the State Supreme Court's 1975 decision in Ravin v. State" and "Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law". The law regarding possession of cannabis has not changed in Alaska, and the Supreme Court has declined to review the case, therefore the law still stands at 4 ounces.
In 2002, Nevada voters defeated a ballot question which would legalize up to 3 ounces for adults 21 and older by 39% to 61%. In 2006, a similar Nevada ballot initiative, which would have legalized and regulated the cultivation, distribution, and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older, was defeated by 44% to 56%.
In 2001 in the United Kingdom, it was announced that cannabis would become a Class C drug, rather than a Class B, this change took effect on January 29, 2004. Since then there has recently been some controversy amongst UK politicians about the message this sends out, with some calling for its reclassification to Class B.
The Government of Mexico voted to legalize the possession of cannabis under 5 grams on April 28, 2006. However, as of May 3, 2006, Mexican President Vicente Fox has said that he will not sign this proposed law until Congress removes the parts that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of drugs and vetoed the bill on May 4, 2006, sparking broad controversy over the bill. In the early summer of 2006 Fox and the Mexican congress came to an agreement and legalized possession of small amounts (and also measured amounts of other drugs). On July 17, 2006, Italian Social Solidarity Minister Paolo Ferrero, speaking of the urgent need for depenalising the consumption of light drugs, said that "a joint is less harmful than a litre of wine." In the Australian Capital Territory, two plants both less than 6 feet tall are allowed for personal use. In South Australia however, possession of cannabis is an offence, with fines ranging from $150 to $300 for possession and cultivation of small amounts. There is much confusion on the subject, with many people believing that possession of a certain amount is legal. In South Australia however, this is a myth.
 Legality in Hong Kong
Cannabis is regulated under section 9 of Hong Kong's Chapter 134 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. Cultivation and dealing with cannabis plant is illegal and a fine of $100,000 and to imprisonment for 15 years can be laid by the court. Anyone who supplies the substance without prescription can be fined $10,000(HKD). The penalty for trafficking or manufacturing the substance is a $5,000,000 (HKD) fine and life imprisonment. Possession of the substance for consumption without license from the Department of Health is illegal with a $1,000,000 fine and/or 7 years of jail time.
 Legality in the United States
Under Federal law, it is illegal to possess, use, buy, sell, or cultivate marijuana anywhere in the United States. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Federal law in the United States preempts conflicting state and local laws. Nevertheless, some states and local governments have established laws attempting to decriminalize cannabis, which has reduced the number of "simple possession" offenders sent to jail, since federal enforcement agents rarely target individuals directly for such relatively minor offenses. Other state and local governments ask law enforcement agencies to limit enforcement of drug laws with respect to cannabis. In the 2006 election, amendment 44 of Colorado making it legal to possess less than 1 ounce of marijuana, failed and the election was 40-60, yet it is still a misdemeanor to possess up to one half pound, and is punished mainly by fines unless sale is established.
The National Center for Natural Products Research in Oxford, Mississippi is the only facility in the United States that is federally licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to cultivate cannabis for scientific research. The Center is part of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi.
 See also
- Wiktionary appendix of cannabis slang
- National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
- Illegal drug trade
- Psychoactive drugs
- Health issues and the effects of cannabis
- 420 (cannabis culture)
- BC Bud
- Cannabis (drug) cultivation
- Cannabis coffee shops
- Contaminated cannabis alert (UK)
- Cheech & Chong
- Drug policy of the Netherlands
- Eagle Bill
- Emerald Triangle
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- Cannabis: A History (2005). Martin Booth - ISBN 0-312-32220-8