MARIJUANA—ITS BACKGROUND

The Indian hemp plant (from which cannabis drugs like marijuana and hashish are made) was grown for use as an hallucinogen more than 2,000 years ago.

Although cannabis contains over 400 different chemicals, the main ingredient which affects the mind is THC. The amount of THC in the hemp plant determines the strength of the drug. The weather, soil and other factors determine the percentage of THC found in the plant. By using modern farming techniques, hemp growers have developed strains of cannabis which have much higher levels of THC than in the past. THC levels averaged 1% in 1974 and 4% in 1994. In 2008, levels reached 9.6%, highest ever since analysis of the drug began in the 1970s.

One form of cannabis, called sinsemilla (Spanish for “without seeds”), may have THC levels from 7.5% to as much as 24%.

ALCOHOL VS. MARIJUANA

Is smoking a joint the same as drinking alcohol?

You decide. Here are the facts:

Alcohol consists of one substance only: ethanol. Marijuana contains more than 400 known chemicals, including the same cancer-causing substances found in tobacco smoke. Unlike cigarette smokers, pot smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold the smoke as long as possible to increase the effect of the drug, worsening the damage to the lungs.

Alcohol is eliminated from the body in a few hours, but THC stays in the body for weeks, possibly months, depending on the length and intensity of usage.

THC damages the immune system. Alcohol does not.

There is no intention here to minimize the dangers of alcohol abuse, which can be equally harmful. Users, however, need to be aware that the chemicals in marijuana, some of them cancer-causing, remain in the body long after the drug is taken.