What is Marijuana?

Marijuana (grass, pot, weed) is the common name for a crude drug made from the plant Cannabis.

The main mind-altering (psychoactive) ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), but more than 400 other chemicals also are in the plant. A marijuana “joint” (cigarette) is made from the dried particles of the plant. The amount of THC in the marijuana determines how strong its effects will be. The type of plant, the weather, the soil, the time of harvest, and other factors determine the strength of marijuana.

The strength of today’s marijuana is as much as 10 times greater than the marijuana used in the early 1970s. This more potent marijuana increases physical and mental effects and the possibility of health problems for the user.

Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of the dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of Cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. The main active chemical present in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). Apart from this it contains around 400 other dangerous chemicals.

Marijuana is a drug of convenience; for a relatively small amount of money, a person can buy enough that can be shared with several people but still transports easily in a pocket or bag. Pot can be purchased in almost any neighborhood in any city or state in the country. It is easily concealed, both for transport and use.

This is why it has become widely popular with adolescents or young adults who have a lot of authority figures involved in their lives. Unlike alcohol, where the signs of use are often overt and overwhelming, a marijuana user can often conceal their use in the event that they are under scrutiny, often with such simple remedies as a quick shower or a few drops of Visine.

Among the more important findings from the 2011 Monitoring the Future survey of U.S. secondary school students is the following:

  • Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline that had occurred in the preceding decade. Daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors.

Marijuana use continued to rise among 10th and 12th graders this year for all prevalence periods (lifetime, past year, past 30-days, and daily use in the past 30-days).

Of perhaps greater importance is the rise in daily or near-daily marijuana use, defined as use on 20 or more occasions in the prior 30 days. The rates of current daily marijuana use rose significantly in all three grades last year, and they rose slightly higher in all three grades again this year, the increases since 2007 are highly significant at every grade level. Current daily prevalence levels in 2011 are 1.3%, 3.6%, and 6.6% in grades 8, 10, and 12.

“Put another way, one in every fifteen high school seniors today is smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis,” said Lloyd Johnston, the principal investigator of the study at University of Michigan, “And that’s the highest rate that we have seen over the past thirty years—since 1981.”

Behavioral Signs of Use

  • Lack of motivation or ambition for activities that once excited the user.
  • In many cases, participation in sports, social groups, or other pursuits will wane or even cease entirely.
    Performance in school or in the workplace will begin to decline, coupled with a sense of apathy towards this decline.
  • Withdrawal from the family system – This is most often the case with adolescents and young adults, but can be a warning sign for adults as well.
  • Drastic change in peer group – An addict will often abandon peer groups in favor of those who share similar desires and behaviors, namely those engaging in drug use.
  • Personal hygiene may begin to suffer as he or she is less concerned with their public appearance.
  • Depressive style of mood. Marijuana addicts manifest many of the same characteristics as those suffering from depression. An addict will have a flat affect and mood; he or she will appear lazy and day-to-day functioning will start to deteriorate on every major life level.
  • Aversive, avoidant behavior.

Physical Signs of Use:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Slowed speech or reactions
  • Averting eye contact or an unsteady gaze
  • rapid heart rate
  • increased blood pressure
  • increased rate of breathing
  • dry mouth
  • increased appetite, or “the munchies”

These effects are reduced after three or four hours. However, marijuana hangs around in your system for as long as 24 hours after smoking. The lingering effects mean you’re impaired for several hours after the high wears off.

Street Names

Marijuana is often referred to as “weed” and “pot.” Aside from “weed” and “pot,” if you’re familiar with Tom Petty, you probably know it’s also called “Mary Jane.” In addition, fans of the drug may refer to it as “bud,” “ganja,” “herb,” “chronic,” “grass,” “dope,” “hash,” “trees,” and “hemp.” After rolling a joint, users may refer to the joint as a “doobie” or a “fatty.”.


Presentations from June 24, 2015 Marijuana Conference

Dr Paula Riggs PowerPoint
Ken Stecker’s power point is too large to load on the website. Please email Heidi to obtain a copy. hdenton@accmhs.org

Other Resources

Marijuana: Common Myths as Reported by Youth
Pending Marijuana legislation
Marijuana Talk Kit for Parents with Teens
It’s Just a Vape Pen, Right? by Jermaine Galloway
Marijuana infographic for parents
Marijuana infographic for youth
Marijuana infographic for lawmakers
Marijuana infographic for Educators
Sources cited for infographics