Marijuana, also known as cannabis or pot, has an extended history of human consumption. In earlier generations, the ancient cultures did not grow pot as a means to get high but instead viewed it as herbal medicine, a process that began in Asia around 500 B.C. The roots of cannabis in the United States date back to the early colonists who grew hemp for textiles and rope. In the 20th century, political and even racial factors led to the criminalization of marijuana in the United States. During the past decade, however, its legality and the way it is viewed has changed dramatically.
Cannabis is a fast-growing plant, which makes it easy to cultivate. It also has many uses and was grown throughout colonial America and at Spanish missions. In the 1600s, the Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut colonies ensured their farmers grew hemp. These plants had very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for the plant’s effects.
Over the years, different forms of marijuana presented themselves throughout the country and around the world. They all still contain the active ingredient, THC, but the way in which they are synthesized is entirely different. The two most common forms of the drug are traditional leaves and hashish. States throughout the U.S. have been considering legalization, and famously, states like Colorado implemented legalization on a state level. This means anyone over the age of 21 can purchase the drug legally from a pot store that is similar to a liquor store for alcohol.
Since then, 11 more states have legalized pot with the governor of New York asking for legalization of the drug by early 2019. The move could generate $1.7 billion in sales annually and put New York in line with several neighboring states. But are these moves helping or hurting people who would have access to different forms of strong marijuana that could only add to an ever-growing drug crisis? The nation is dealing with a drug problem that is now out of control, and although marijuana is not as dangerous as illicit heroin or prescription benzodiazepine drugs, the new versions are registering at record THC levels.
The two most widely known forms of marijuana are the traditional leaves and hashish. However, as the drug has evolved, there are new forms that boast unusually high levels of the active drug THC. Marijuana itself refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants containing the mind-altering chemical THC. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world and its use is widespread among young people. Studies show that more than 11 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 used the drug in the past year.
Typically, it has been smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes known as joints or in pipes or water pipes known as bongs. There is also a method called a “blunt,” which is when the tobacco in a cigar is removed and replaced with marijuana. Another method of consumption is food that contains marijuana. These are called edibles, and marijuana is an ingredient in brownies, cookies, candy, or even tea. The newest form of marijuana, however, is called wax (shatter), and it has been sending people to the emergency room due to its strength. We will go over how strong the different forms of marijuana are.
The level of the active ingredient THC will vary from strain to strain and will not always be the same. Many factors can influence this including how the particular marijuana is grown. Today, a majority of the substance found in legal states is grown hydroponically, meaning it is grown indoors and under non-natural lighting.
This process has increased the strength, and those who haven’t smoked since the 1960s would notice a significant difference in power. Marijuana strength has increased two to seven times according to Learn About Marijuana. The same article highlights that regular young users are at the highest risk for adverse side effects including mental health problems and dependence.
When smoking marijuana, you can feel the effects almost instantly, but consuming an edible could take up to 90 minutes to feel the drug in its entirety. Edibles have a much stronger effect than the traditional route of administration, which is smoking, and they last several hours longer than taking a “hit.” When you smoke the drug, you actually absorb more THC than edibles, so why are edibles more potent and last longer?
It is the way marijuana breaks down in your system and in the different organs. When taking the oral route, your body absorbs more of a different cannabinoid present in pot, 11-hydroxy-THC, that is distinctly different than Delta-9-THC. There is not enough information that pertains to 11-hydroxy-THC other than it can produce hallucinogenic effects and be much more intense than the traditional route of consumption.
There is a dangerous new product that has recently emerged in the marijuana market called wax. It is also known as shatter. Not only is consuming the product dangerous, but the process of making wax can also be deadly. There have been stories not just about marijuana users blowing up their houses while trying to make hash oil, but there are other stories of marijuana overdoses attributed to this dangerous new drug. In 2015, the first death from marijuana wax went on record.
No drug is safe, but in comparison to other drugs on the market, marijuana posed the least immediate dangers. However, this trend of potent marijuana wax that can register anywhere from 80 percent to 99 percent purity is becoming increasingly common. The method of consumption is known as dabbing, and it has become very popular in the marijuana community. With such a high potency, it allows users to consume far less and achieve incredibly strong and immediate effects.
During the past several years, there have been numerous occasions where 911 teams had to answer calls linked to a cannabis overdose. There is another story about a man becoming so intoxicated from wax that he passed out, hit his head, and later died from his injuries. This new form of marijuana has proven to be a lot more than marijuana advocates could have ever hoped.
Marijuana has always posed the risk of physical dependence, but marijuana wax, which is growing in popularity, runs its chances of being addictive. Those who abuse wax have been found to have lung conditions that are similar to black lung.
The numbers show that 10 percent to 30 percent of chronic cannabis users will develop symptoms severe enough to qualify for a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder. Marijuana does have medicinal uses, but that does not disqualify it from being a drug that can lead to addiction. The chronic use marijuana can lead to the development of physical dependence due to the ability to develop a tolerance and withdrawal symptoms upon cessation.
When the drug is regularly misused, a substance use disorder can be developed, which is a condition listed a mental health disorder requiring formal treatment. A majority of users will not form a disorder, but as mentioned above, a significant amount can become severely dependent on marijuana. If you struggle with marijuana addiction but don’t know where to turn, it might be time to reach out for treatment.
Roberts, C. (2018, October 19). Thanks to "Dabbing," It Is Possible to Overdose on Marijuana. from https://archives.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2013/03/13/thanks-to-dabbing-it-is-possible-to-overdose-on-marijuana
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Marijuana. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
Wang, V. (2018, December 17). Cuomo to Push Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in New York by Early 2019. from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/nyregion/marijuana-legalization-cuomo.html