Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, and is made from the shredded leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Approximately 100 million Americans have tried marijuana at least once, and more than 25 million have smoked it in the last year. The name marijuana comes from a Mexican slang term for cannabis. Marijuana became a popular name for cannabis in the U.S. during the late 1800s. Street names for marijuana include weed, pot, dope, reefer, Mary Jane, hash, herb, grass, ganja, or chronic.
The primary active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. THC is the chemical that causes users to feel high after smoking marijuana, as THC triggers brain cells to release dopamine, a chemical that produces feelings of happiness for the user.
Users often smoke marijuana by rolling it into a cigarette form, where it is called a joint or a blunt. It can also be smoked in a water pipe called a bong, or mixed into food.
Short-term effects of marijuana include a high for the user, a dry mouth and throat, loss of motor coordination (which includes slower reaction times), increased heart rate, and distorted perception. Long-term effects may include an addiction to marijuana, which often comes as a product of chronic use from a young age.
There is a growing movement among Americans that advocate for the legalization and government regulation of the sale of marijuana, stemming from disagreements over what the true health consequences of marijuana are and whether or not marijuana is harmful to the user. To date, twenty-one states and Washington, D.C. have legalized the sale of cannabis for medical purposes, primarily to ease the symptoms of various health problems. However, marijuana has not been FDA-approved as a medication in itself. The states of Colorado and Washington were the first to completely legalize marijuana.
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