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Free Research Paper on Cannabis

Free research paper example on Cannabis:

Marijuana is the most common name for the hemp plant, cannabis sativa, in the United States. The term marijuana is derived from the Mexican Spanish mariguana/marijuana that translates to ‘Mary’s leaf or plant.’ The term marijuana entered in to English in about 1894 and has become the mainstream term in the United States. Cannabis now has a variety of names such as hashish, pot, ganja, hemp, tea, grass, and weed. Cannabis is a unique plant, with a long history. It is also a useful plant medically, and a highly controversial substance around the world.

Cannabis sativa was originally classified under the Nette family under Urticaceae, and then placed into the Fig family under Moraceae. It is now classified as an annual herb in the hemp family, Cannabaceae, which grows three to ten feet tall in the tropics, subtropics, and temperate regions. The Cannabaceae family contains only the cannabis plant and the humulus plant, which are both genus of hops. The hairy leaves of the plant are divided into five to seven serrated leaflets, and are sticky with resin. Each plant is distinctly male or female. Separate plants produce the male and female flowers on the cannabis plant and they flower from June to October. (King, 2001)

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Cannabis contains a group of chemically similar compounds called cannabinoids, which relate most to the drug effects of the plant. The most important cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) (on left), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) (center), and cannabinol (CBN) (on right).

The relative content of these three cannabinoids can identify the maturity of a plant. CBD is found in immature plants while CBN is found solely in old plants, and plants at their peak position contain THC. Most scientific evidence indicates that virtually all of the psychic effects of marijuana are attributable to the THC content. THC content varies greatly depending on the genetic strain of the plant. Plants that are grown in the Midwest that are used for hemp production contain zero percent THC. While, marijuana plants produced for drug consumption, sensemilla, may contain two to four percent THC. Hashish, which is the ultimate genetic strain of the plant, can contain four to eight percent THC. (Earlywine, 2002)

Cannabis is native to the Caucasus region of far eastern Europe, North India, and Persia, which is modern day Iran. Society saw cannabis as a five purpose plant: as a source of hempen fibers; for its oil; for its narcotic properties’ and therapeutically to treat a wide spectrum of ills in folk medicine and in modern pharmacopoeias (Schultes and Hoffman, 1992). Europe discovered cannabis sativa when Marco Polo visited the near east in 1297 (King, 2001). Tradition in India maintains that the gods sent man the hemp plant so that he might attain delight, courage, and have heightened sexual desires (Schultes and Hoffman, 1992). The Chinese documented the medicinal values of hemp over 4,000 years ago. They used hemp seeds to treat pain, fevers, ulcers, and nausea. The Spaniards introduced South America to cannabis sativa in 1545 and the British grew hemp in Jamaica and the colonies in the 1800s.  Today marijuana is illegal unless prescribed by a doctor in the United States. (King, 2000)

There are many therapeutic uses for the hemp plant that early cultivators discovered. Cannabis was reported to be effective in treating tetanus, convulsive disorders, neuralgia, migraine, dysmenorrhea, postpartum psychoses, senile insomnia, depression, and gonorrhea as well as opium or chloral hydrate addiction. Modern medicine uses hemp for treatment for cancer chemotherapy patients and glaucoma. Cancer chemotherapy causes severe nausea and vomiting in patients, which causes most cancer sufferers to forgo treatment (Earlywine, 2002). In 1972 a synthetic homolog of THC, narbilone, was developed, which suppresses nausea in patients (Schultes and Hoffman, 1992). Glaucoma is another disease that uses cannabis to alleviate symptoms. It is a disease that causes pressure in the eyeballs, and the patients use cannabis to lower pressure in the eyeball from smoking cannabis. This treatment for the disease usually takes about thirty minuets to start working after smoking marijuana. Cannabis has also shown to have pain-reliving effects, which are now being used in muscle relaxants, for treating asthma, and being used for anticonvulsants. Medical uses for marijuana are legal, however, it is still not an acceptable drug. (Earlywine, 2002)

Many places around the world have laws against marijuana possession, sale, and use. In some places there are regulations as to how many plants a person can grow. Some laws state that marijuana is only a civil crime for small amounts of the drug and is punishable by a small fine. Abroad, in Europe, drug laws are much more lenient. The European Drug Policies in most countries see marijuana as no longer being an offence punishable by law and other countries have completely decriminalized marijuana and other illicit substances. However, in the United States, marijuana is still illegal and an offence punishable by law. (King 2000)

Marijuana has many unique qualities to it and has a long interesting history. It is also a useful plant medically and a highly controversial substance here in the United States. There are many different names for marijuana and it is used in a variety of different cultures all over the world.

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