Drug Dictionary Series: Marijuana



What is it?

Marijuana is the most often used illegal drug in this country, originating from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical found in marijuana that can produce mind-altering effects is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Marijuana use is widespread among young people. According to an annual survey of middle and high school students, rates of use have been increasing while the overall number of individuals who believe marijuana use is risky is decreasing. Recent legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use in a growing number of states in America may affect these views. (Read more about medical marijuana here.)

What does it look like?

Marijuana looks like a green, brown, or gray mixture of parts (dried shredded flowers and leaves) of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant. It may resemble tobacco.

What are some other names for it?

Other names for marijuana include Aunt Mary, Bud, Blunt, Chronic, Dope, Ganja, Grass, Green, Hash, Herb, Joint, Loud, Mary Jane, MJ, Pot, Reefer, Sinsemilla, Skunk, Smoke, Trees, Weed, Yerba.

How is it used?

Although marijuana is usually smoked, some individuals mix it with food or brew it as tea. When smoked, it can be in the form of a joint/cigarette or in a pipe, a bong, or a blunt (an empty cigar of tobacco refilled with marijuana).  

What are the effects of the drug?

Short-Term Effects:

  • Altered senses
  • Changes in mood
  • Sedation
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Coughing from lung irritation
  • Increased appetite
  • Impaired body movement
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • Decreased blood pressure

Long-Term Effects:

  • Bronchitis, emphysema, bronchial asthma
  • Increased risk of cancer to the head, neck, lungs, and respiratory tract
  • Increased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Affects brain development (thinking, memory, learning functions)
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy
  • Temporary hallucinations
  • Temporary paranoia
  • Addiction

What is marijuana’s federal classification?

Schedule 1

Where can I find more information about marijuana?