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Marijuana has been around for a long while. Its source, the hemp plant (cannabis sativa), was being cultivated for psychoactive properties more than 2,000 years ago. Although cannabis contains at least 400 different chemicals, its main mind-altering ingredient is THC. The amount of THC in marijuana determines the drug’s strength, and THC levels are affected by a many factors, including plant type, weather, soil, and time of harvest. Sophisticated cannabis cultivation of today produces high levels of THC and marijuana that is far more potent than pot of the past. THC content of marijuana, which averaged less than 1 percent in 1974, rose to an average 4 percent by 1994.

Marijuana and other cannabis products are usually smoked, sometimes in a pipe or water pipe, but most often in loosely rolled cigarettes known as "joints." Some users will slice open and hollow out cigars, replacing the tobacco with marijuana, to make what are called "blunts." Joints and blunts may be laced with other substances, including crack cocaine and the potent hallucinogen phencyclidine (PCP), substantially altering effects of the drug. Smoking, however, is not the sole route of administration. Marijuana can be brewed into tea or mixed in baked products like cookies or brownies.

The affects of the drug is a mild hallucinogen, marijuana has some of alcohol’s depressant and disinherit properties. User reaction, however, is heavily influenced by expectations and past experience, and many first-time users feel nothing at all. Effects of smoking are generally felt within a few minutes and peak in 10 to 30 minutes. They include dry mouth and throat, increased heart rate, impaired coordination and balance, delayed reaction time, and diminished short-term memory. Moderate doses tend to induce a sense of well being and a dreamy state of relaxation that encourages fantasies, renders some users highly suggestible, and distorts perception (making



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