Think you know everything there is to know about the world’s most popular recreational drug? Think again. Here are fifteen facts about marijuana that you probably didn’t know:
1. More People Use It Than You Think.
4.4% of the world’s population consume marijuana — about 190 million people — and .6% use it on a daily basis (22.5 million people). [source: pdf]
2. People have been using it forever.
Cannibis has been around for ages (at least since the stone ages). The earliest record of cannabis use dates back to China — the island of Taiwan. Tools unearthed in an ancient village bore a similarity to the kind of tools that were used to loosen cannabis fibers from their stems. [source]
3. It’s a multi-category drug.
Marijuana has the effect of a stimulant, depressant (much like alcohol), and hallucinogenic drug all at once. Stronger doses can even induce paranoia or strange visions. [source]
4. It might prevent cancer.
A study by researchers at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute discovered that a compound called CBD, found in Cannabis sativa, can act as a form of therapy less toxic than chemotherapy, potentially stopping the spread of breast cancer. [source]
5. And…it might cause it.
A New Zealand study linked cannabis to lung cancer, reporting that one joint is “…equivalent to 20 cigarettes in terms of lung cancer risk.” A high-cannabis exposure group was found to have their “lung cancer risk [rise] by 5.7 times for patients who smoked more than a joint a day for 10 years, or two joints a day for 5 years, after adjusting for other variables, including cigarette smoking.” [source]
Editor’s note: Some studies have found no link. [source] Thanks to Reddit user argonaute for pointing this out.
6. Smoking it is the worst way to consume it.
Smoking marijuana – as opposed to consuming it orally, or vaporizing it — can cause respiratory problems (coughing, phlegm, wheezing) and may lead to lung disease in much the same way that tobacco can. [source]
7. It was once used as a Truth Serum.
In 1942, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) (the pre-CIA) used a cannabis concoction to interrogate enemy spies and prisoners of war. The drug, given the code name “TD,” would loosen the inhibitions and rational judgments of prisoners, thereby making it easier to obtain information from them. From the classified OSS Report: “TD appears to relax all inhibitions and to deaden the areas of the brain which govern an individual’s discretion and caution. . . . [G]enerally speaking, the reaction will be one of great loquacity and hilarity.” [source]
8. It’s the fourth biggest market in the U.S.
According to ABC News, marijuana is a top cash crop: “…at a value of $35.8 billion, [it] exceeds the combined value of corn ($23.3 billion) and wheat ($7.5 billion).” In 30 states, it’s among the top three crops, and the very top in 12. [source]
9. People Have Odd Ways of Growing It.
This is mostly to get around the sheer illegality of growing it at all: Hydroponics systems (using mineral nutrient solutions with water), cutting/cloning with water, using the Sea of Green or Screen of Green method with high densities of plants, and using artificial light are all advanced methods of growing the plant, particularly indoors.
10. You can be executed for possessing it.
In some countries in East Asia — known for their harsh drug penalties — recreational marijuana use can use to long-term imprisonment, or even death (as in Malaysia, where possession of over 200 grams can land you the death penalty by hanging.) [source]
11. It’s not really a gateway drug.
A 2010 University of New Hampshire study showed that race/ethnicity and employment status are better factors than prior marijuana use of predicting future illicit drug use. And, if you’re over age 21, the “gateway” effect pretty much dissolves (it applies mostly to teenage drug use.) [source]
12. It’s legal in some US states…
Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana is federally illegal in the United States. Still, 15 states — Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, and Washington — all allow small doses for medicinal use. As of 2009, possession of under 1 ounce of the drug for personal use is no longer a criminal offence in Massachusetts. As of 2012, marijuana has been legalized in Washington and Colorado.
13. And in some countries.
11 nations have decriminalized marijuana, including regions of North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco), Europe (Germany and Belgium) and Latin America (Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia).
14. You have “cannabinoid receptors” in your brain.
You have two, actually: CB1 and CB2. CB1 is responsible for helping activate the psychoactive effects of marijuana — that euphoric feeling — while CB2’s are found mostly in the immune system and are thought to be responsible for the therapeutic effects of taking the drug. [source]
15. The medicinal effects are substantial.
So, oddly enough, smoking it might be linked to lung cancer — but it has therapeutic effects as well. It’s been used to treat glaucoma, pain relief, and nausea. [source]
About the Author: Tracy Arnold is a freelance writer for The Vapor Experts. The Vapor Experts was founded in 2005 with the goal of offering the finest available aromatherapy products on the market. On their site you can find Vapir Vaporizers as well as many other vaporizers.
March 4th, 2011: We have made some factual corrections based on user feedback and comments.
May 22, 2013: We have updated this article to reflect new laws and fixed two broken links. Thanks Martin!