What it is:

Marijuana is dried leaves and flowers from the hemp plant. Marijuana can also be concentrated into a resin (hashish), or hash oil, which are more potent. It’s commonly referred to as a pot, weed, hash, and Mary Jane.1

Once illegal nationwide, marijuana is beginning to be legalized and regulated on a state by state basis, both for medicinal and recreational purposes.

How it's taken:

For recreational use, It is most commonly smoked in joints (hand rolled cigarettes), pipes, or water pipes (bongs). Marijuana can also be included in food (edibles), most commonly brownies, cakes, and candy.2

For medicinal use, patients can take pills manufactured from cannabis. They can also smoke marijuana, or eat marijuana edibles, as well.

What it does:

The hemp plant, cannabis sativa, contains the active ingredient delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

For a recreational user, THC results in a high that includes altered senses and euphoria. It can also include difficulty thinking or remembering things, paranoia, and temporary hallucinations.

Marijuana's medicinal benefits also come from THC, plus other cannabinoids contained in the drug. THC increases appetite and reduces nausea, which can be helpful for cancer patients in chemotherapy. THC may also reduce pain and inflammation. Other cannabinoids found in marijuana have been shown to be effective at treating epileptic seizures, as well as mental disorders like anxiety.3

Marijuana is currently unregulated by the FDA. More research and clinical trials are required for marijuana to receive FDA approval. Scientists are conducting trials right now that investigate marijuana's efficacy at treating a range of diseases, from substance use disorders and mental disorders, to Alzheimer's, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

Signs someone could be misusing:

Bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, and increased appetite and heart rate are physical signs of marijuana use. Marijuana can make the user feel silly and lethargic, or nervous and scared.4

Research has shown that early and continued use of substances, including marijuana, can make a person more at-risk for developing addiction.5 So it’s important to remember that even if marijuana becomes legalized, any use for young people or teenagers can be dangerous, just like alcohol or other substances.

Someone who is smoking marijuana may use incense or room sprays to attempt to mask the smell. A user will also often keep paraphernalia around, like pipes, bongs, and rolling papers.

1. NIDA. Marijuana. March 2016.
2. NIDA. Marijuana. March 2016.
3. NIDA. What is Medical Marijuana? July 2015.
4. NIH. Marijuana Facts. 5. “Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2014.