Cannabis is the short name for the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Marijuana, and hashish (or hash) come from the dried leaves and flowers of this plant. The chemical in cannabis that makes the user high is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. The more THC cannabis contains, the stronger it is. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in Australia.
pot, grass, dope, mull, yundi, hooch and dagga
Forms and Appearance
Marijuana is the dried plant form. It is a coarse, tobacco-like mixture, usually greenish-brown in colour.
Hashish, or hash, is the resin of the plant, and ranges in colour from light brown to almost black. It is sold as oil or in compressed small blocks.
Medical and Other Uses
Cannabis has been used for many thousands of years in the manufacture of products such as clothing and rope, and for medicinal and spiritual purposes.
Cannabis has been combined with other drugs such as opium and heroin.
Methods of Use
Marijuana is usually smoked in water pipes called bongs or in hand-rolled cigarettes called joints. Hash is usually mixed with tobacco and smoked. The concentration of THC is higher and more potent in hash than in the leaf and flower heads. Marijuana and hashish can also be cooked in foods and eaten.
Effects of Use
The effects of cannabis depend on the amount taken; the person’s experience with the drug; their expectations; the mood they are in; and the way in which the drug is taken. Effects also depend on the quality and purity of the drug. The effects of cannabis are most intense during the first hour after taking it, although they may persist for three to five hours. The most common reaction to cannabis is to feel ‘stoned, ‘happy’, ‘bent’, ‘relaxed’ or ‘high’. Small amounts can produce a feeling of well-being and a tendency to talk and laugh more than usual. It can also redden eyes, impair coordination and reduce concentration. Cannabis can affect one’s ability to drive.
Higher doses make the above effects stronger. A person’s perception of time, sound, and colour may become distorted or sharpened. Feelings of excitement, anxiety and confusion may also increase.
Frequent or heavy smokers may experience some long-term effects. These include:
- loss of interest in activities
- loss of energy, and boredom
- reduced memory, concentration and learning abilities
- the increased risk of bronchitis and respiratory diseases
- reduced sex drive
- lowered sperm count/irregular menstrual cycles
- the risk of psychotic behaviour – this is more likely if the person already has schizophrenia.
Cannabis affects a person’s motor and coordination skills, vision and ability to judge distance and speed. This can make driving very dangerous. In Queensland, it is against the law to drive if under the effect of any drug. There are heavy fines for driving under the influence of cannabis.
As stated before, cannabis affects concentration and coordination. Using drugs at work can result in loss of a job or cause an accident or injury.
Health Research indicates that if used during pregnancy, the chemicals in cannabis may have an effect on the developing baby. There are reports of miscarriages, stillbirths, premature babies and low birth weights due to marijuana use. The THC in cannabis is passed on to newborn babies through a mother’s milk.
In Australia, cannabis laws are different from State to State. In NSW and Queensland, it is illegal to possess, grow, manufacture, trade or use any cannabis products. If convicted of these offences a person can face heavy fines or go to jail, which means they will then have a criminal record. This can affect future work, travel and relationships.
Penalties range from a $2,000 fine and or 2 years in prison to a $500 000 fine and/or life imprisonment. The sale, supply or commercial display of any item used for administering cannabis such as bongs is also illegal.
Tolerance and Dependence
Some regular users develop a psychological dependence on cannabis. If it is unavailable they may panic or become anxious. Some heavy users of cannabis may experience physical dependence.
They may also develop tolerance which means they need more cannabis to get the same effects as before.
Withdrawal occurs when a person stops using cannabis or severely cuts down the amount used. During withdrawal, the person may experience sleeping problems, anxiety, sweating, loss of appetite, and an upset stomach. These symptoms usually disappear within a few days, although sleep disturbances may last longer.
It is not thought to be possible to overdose with cannabis.