Marijuana – also referred to as weed, pot, grass, Mary Jane, MJ, cannabis, or ganga – comes from the dried leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds of the hemp plant. It is most often smoked, either rolled in a joint or out of a pipe or a water pipe, called a bong. A blunt is made with a combination of tobacco and marijuana. In some cases, people brew marijuana tea or bake marijuana cookies or brownies to consume.
Use of Marijuana in the United States
Marijuana is by far the most commonly-used drug in the United States. In fact, due to its ubiquitous presence, recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia. In other states, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized. In 2010, marijuana was used by more than 75% of illicit drug users. For 60.1% of illicit drug users, marijuana was the only drug they used. Use of marijuana is more prevalent among teenagers and young adults in their early- to mid-twenties. In 2011, 12.5% of persons in Grade Eight reported using marijuana in the past twelve months and 7.2% were current users. By Grade Ten, nearly 29% of individuals had used marijuana at least once in the preceding year and 17.6% were current users. Twelfth-graders were even more likely to smoke marijuana, with nearly 33% having used in the past year and 20.6% claiming current use.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Contrary to popular belief, use of marijuana can lead to addiction over the long-term. Many people who use cannabis over a long-term period have difficulty regulating their drug use in spite of the fact that it may interfere with aspects of their everyday lives, such as family or work. Estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) indicate that 9% of persons who use marijuana will become addicted. The likelihood of addiction is even higher when other conditions are considered. Estimates indicate that between 1 in 4 and 1 in 2 persons who use marijuana every day will become dependent, and 1 in 6 persons who start using in their teens will become dependent.
Potential Effects of Marijuana Use
Research indicates that marijuana can impair memory, learning, and attention. The drug has lasting effects even after the acute “high” wears off. Students who smoke marijuana every day are more likely to get lower grades and drop out of high school. However, there is no evidence to suggest that casual cannabis use comes with the same risks. Heavy marijuana users tend to report poor or limited outcomes on measures of satisfaction and achievement. For example, a study compared current and former heavy users of marijuana over the long term with a control group of individuals who had smoked marijuana in their lives but not more than fifty times. The study found that in spite of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, heavy users were less likely to have incomes over $30,000 or have completed college. Most users reported negative effects of their marijuana use on their social lives, physical health, mental health, career achievement, and cognitive abilities.