- Marijuana is created from the dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the
hemp plant Cannabis sativa.b
- Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used in the United States. Approximately
100 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once, and more than 25
million have smoked it in the last year.f
- According to one national survey on drug use, each day approximately 6,000
Americans try marijuana for the first time.f
- Worldwide, it is estimated that about 162 million adults use marijuana
at least once per year, and 22.5 million use the drug daily.g
|After alcohol, marijuana is the most popular drug worldwide
- After alcohol, marijuana is the most popular recreational or mood-altering
drug used worldwide.g
- Just under 40% of high school students in the U.S. report using marijuana
at least once in their life, and 20% report using it regularly.f
- According to one report, it would take 800 joints to kill a person—but
the cause of death would be carbon monoxide poisoning.b
- There are over 200 slang terms for marijuana in the popular vernacular.
Some of the more common nicknames include pot, grass, weed, hash, and ganja.b
- The international and scientific name for marijuana is cannabis.
However, the substance is most commonly called marijuana within the United
- The name marijuana comes from a Mexican slang term for cannabis
and is believed to have derived from the Spanish pronunciation of the names
Mary and Jane. (The two names were also common Mexican military slang for
a prostitute or brothel.) Marijuana came into popularity as a name for cannabis
in the U.S. during the late 1800s.b
- The cannabis plant can grow in nearly any environment and averages one
to two inches of growth per day and up to 18 feet total in ideal conditions.a
- The primary active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta 9 tetrhydrocannabinol).
It is this chemical that produces marijuana’s mind-altering effects.a
- The psychoactive side effects of THC in small doses include loss of inhibition,
elation, and a distorted sense of time. The drug can also cause increased
visual sensitivity and heightened imagination.b
- Depending upon the weather conditions, soil type, and time of harvest for a cannabis plant, as well as the specific mixture of dried leaves and flowers in the marijuana product, a sample of marijuana can contain anywhere from 3% to 20% THC.b
- Cannabis seeds were used as a food source in China as early as 6000 B.C.a
|Marijuana was first used as a medicinal drug in 2737 B.C. by Chinese emperor Shen Nung
- The first recorded use of marijuana as a medicinal drug occurred in 2737
B.C. by Chinese emperor Shen Nung. The emperor documented the drug’s
effectiveness in treating the pains of rheumatism and gout.a
- The first law in the American colonies regarding marijuana was a 1619 law
that actually required farmers to grow the hemp plant. Once harvested, hemp
was useful for clothing, sails, and rope.b
- During the temperance movement of the 1890s, marijuana was commonly recommended
as a substitute for alcohol. The reason for this was that use of marijuana
did not lead to domestic violence while alcohol abuse did.b
- Marijuana was first severely restricted as a recreational and medicinal
drug in the U.S. by the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The law did not prohibit
marijuana use but imposed such a heavy tax that legal sale and use became
- In October of 1937, Samuel Caldwell was the first U.S. citizen arrested under the Marihuana Tax Act for selling marijuana without paying the newly mandated tax. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to four years of hard labor in Leavenworth.b
- Prior to its ban, hemp was a staple cash crop of the family farm in early
America. The first two drafts of the United States Declaration of Independence
were written on paper made from hemp.e
- The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made it illegal to possess, use,
buy, sell, or cultivate marijuana in the United States. The law classifies
marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse
and no acceptable medical use.f
- Marijuana production and trafficking make up the world’s largest
drug market and the substance can be grown in almost every country. The United
Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) has data on 172 countries and territories
known to grow marijuana.g
- Paraguay is believed to be the world’s largest producer of marijuana.d
- According to the UNODC, there are several countries worldwide where greater
than 8% of the population are said to use marijuana. Among those countries
are the United States, Canada, England, Spain, France, South
- In 2007, nearly 900,000 arrests for marijuana violations were made in the
United States. Approximately 90% of offenders charged with marijuana-related
crimes were arrested for possession only.f
|Marijuana was easily obtained at the local grocery store or pharmacy until the early 1940s
- From 1850 to 1942, marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia
as a useful medicine for nausea, rheumatism, and labor pains and was easily
obtained at the local general store or pharmacy.b
- Current supporters of medical marijuana believe the drug has significant
medical value for patients who suffer from AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple
sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain. Several studies have been published
to support and document this belief.c
- In 2003, Canada became the first country in the world to offer medical
marijuana to pain-suffering patients.c
- In 1996, California became the first U.S. state to legally allow medical
marijuana for patients with a valid doctor’s recommendation.c
- While marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law, 13 U.S.
states currently have compassionate use laws in place, which allow for regulated
medical marijuana use: AK, CA, CO, HI, ME, MI, MT, NV, NM, OR, RI, VT, and WA. An additional 17 states and the District of Columbia have legislated
to recognize the value of medical marijuana but do not protect users from
-- Posted February 27, 2009. Updated March 2, 2010.
a Abel, Ernest L. 1980. Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years.
New York, NY: Plenum Press.
b Booth, Martin. 2003. Cannabis: A History. London, England:
c Chapkis, Wendy and Richard Webb. 2008. Dying
to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine. New York, NY: New York University
d Leggett, Ted. “Why
Should We Care about Cannabis?” United Nations Office on
Drugs and Crime. Accessed: November 29, 2008.
Rowan. 1996. The Great Book of Hemp: The Complete Guide to the
Environmental, Commercial, and Medicinal Uses of the World’s
Most Extraordinary Plant. Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.
Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Marijuana
Facts & Figures.”
Accessed: February 10, 2009.
Drug Report 2008. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Accessed: December 2, 2008.