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Cannabis is the generic term denoting any of various psychoactive preparations of two subspecies of the same plant - Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Each subspecies has different physical characteristics, with indica-dominant strains producing short plants with broad, dark green leaves, and sativa-dominant strains being taller with thinner leaves of a pale green colour. In addition to these external characteristics, the pharmacological constitution of the plants differs, too: sativa strains naturally contain a higher content of ∆-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the primary psychoactive compound- than indica strains. Consequently, for centuries sativa strains were preferred by cannabis users as they produced a greater ‘high’ than indica strains. However, years of cultivation have made this difference essentially negligible.
The most ‘widely cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug’ in the world, cannabis has been used and cultivated by humans for over 6,000 years. Known by numerous names,cannabis makes up over half of all worldwide drug seizures. It is estimated that in any one year, about 147 million people (2.5% of the world’s population) consume cannabis compared with the 0.4% who consume cocaine and opiates combined. The greatest growth since the 1960s has been in developed countries in North America, Western Europe and Australia, with the present decade seeing cannabis use grow more rapidly than that of any other psychoactive substance. More than any other substance, cannabis is the one most closely linked to youth culture.
Consumed by either smoking or eating, cannabis produces short-term effects such as dry mouth and red eyes, and various mental and physical effects including euphoria, relaxation, altered mental states and an elastic sense of time. Concentration difficulties, an increase in appetite and temporary impairment of both body movement and short-term memory are also common. At high or chronic doses, anxiety, panic, paranoia and even psychosis is possible, though this latter outcome is controversial as there is no agreement on the causal direction of this claim.
Cannabis is generally consumed recreationally for its production of euphoria, relaxation, and changes in perception. The degree of these effects varies depending on dosage, with low doses producing a general ‘sense of well-being, mild enhancement of senses (smell, taste, hearing), subtle changes in thought and expression, talkativeness, giggling, increased appreciation of music, increased appetite, and mild closed-eye visuals.’ Cannabis consumption is also thought to enhance the ‘appreciation of sensory experiences without substantially changing the perceptual experience.’ Many cannabis users past and present credit their love of music - especially an ‘appreciation for new forms of music’ - and other art forms to their use of the substance.
Recent years have seen an intense interest in the medical use of cannabis and cannabis-related compounds. Therapeutic effects of the substance have been proven to control and relieve ‘nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and AIDS,’ and other studies have seen cannabis being investigated and used in controlled studies for the treatment of illnesses as varied as asthma and glaucoma, depression, appetite disorders, and for its ‘anticonvulsant and anti-spasmodic’ properties.
Legally, cannabis remains in a grey area in most parts of the world. Though legal or decriminalised in many places for medicinal and/or recreational use,users of the substance must be sure to follow local laws. Cannabis possession for adults is perfectly legal in Canada, but crossing the border into the United States with it is an offence. Similarly, it’s recreationally legal in New Mexico, but don’t drive over the border into Texas because it most definitely is not. The issue becomes even greater in other parts of the world, where in some countries - Singapore and Dubai, for example - possession alone can result in lengthy prison sentences and, in some cases, the death penalty.
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Today’s Detour is to Reefer Madness, the 1936 American propaganda film about what happens when a group of high school students are lured by pushers to try cannabis. Directed by Louis J. Gasnierand intended to be a cautionary morality tale, the melodramatic result is considered one of the worst films ever made - but it's worth a look just to see how far things have come. I certainly wouldn't spend my time watching the entire thing - the 45 second trailer at the start gives a good enough idea - though skimming through the YouTube version wouldn't hurt!
Today’s Recommendation is Martin Booth’s Cannabis: A History. An in-depth, study of the controversial and most widely-used drug in the world today, it’s eye-opening in every respect. Highly recommended.
From the back:
To some it’s antisocial anathema, to others it is a harmless way to relax, or provides relief from crippling pain. Some fear it is a dangerous drug that leads to ‘reefer madness’ and addiction; to others till it is a legal anomaly and should be decriminalised. Whatever the viewpoint, and by whatever name it is known, cannabis - or marijuana, hashish, pot, dope, kif, weed, dagga, grass, ganja - incites debate at every level.
In this definitive study, Martin Booth - author of the acclaimed Opium: A History - charts the history of cannabis from the Neolithic period to the present day. It is a fascinating, colourful tale of medical advance, religious enlightenment and customs officers, smugglers, street pushers, gang warfare, writers, artists, musicians, hippies and pot-heads.
Booth chronicles the remarkable and often mystifying process through which cannabis, a relatively harmless substance, became outlawed throughout the Western world, and the devastating effect such legislation has had on the global economy. Above all, he demonstrates how the case for decriminalisation remains one of the twenty-first century’s hottest topics.
A review from The Independent can be found here: Cannabis: A History (The Independent)
Remember: You can always buy Cannabis: A History from Amazon, but you can also get it from your local new or used bookstores - or check it out from the library. And those options are better for everyone.
Today’s playlist is a selection of five tracks inspired in no small part by cannabis: ‘Champagne & Reefer’ (Muddy Waters, 1980), ‘Bowl for Two’ (The Expendables, 2004), ‘High Times’ (Cypress Hill, 1998), ‘Wrap Sumden’ (Nelly, 2000) and ‘Burn One Down - Live’ (Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, 2001).Enjoy!
Today’s Thought is from the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.A landowner and farmer (amongst many other things), Jefferson grew hemp - but there is no evidence that he used it recreationally. However, George Washington noted in his diaries about his practice of separating the male and female plants - essential if you're cultivating cannabis for recreational purposes. Just saying.
‘Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth & protection of the country.’
If you have a thought on this Thought - or any part of today’s issue - please leave a comment below:
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Until the next Stop …
THC is the chemical that produces the ‘high’.
In today’s issue - Cannabis (I) - I’m sticking to general information about the drug, and not the phenomenally complicated cultural impact it has had worldwide - but especially in Western countries - since the mid-20th century. It’s just too big a topic, so - not dissimilar to my Basic Buddhism Stops (Issues 1.39, 2.3 and 2.27 (some for paid subscribers only)) - I’ve decided to do an occasional series looking at all things cannabis. I’ve no idea when the next one will be, but - hey - that’s the fun of The Bus! Sources for today’s Stop include: Cannabis (WHO), Cannabis (NIH), Cannabis (Erowid) and Worst Places To Be Caught With Weed (VICE).
So, some names: marijuana, herb, rope, ganja, tree, kif, grass, draw, cheeba, pot, reefer, kind, chronic, dagga, Mary Jane, lye, draw, 420 … there are thousands of names for cannabis out there, constantly changing.
We’ll be looking at this in a future Stop.
It is legal for one or both uses in 21 states, 3 territories and the District of Columbia in the US, but still illegal under federal law.
Though in some ways, it might be argued, not far enough.
There are, of course, an untold number of cannabis-related songs - these are just five that immediately came to mind. I have a particular fondness for the Nelly and Cypress Hill tracks - some brilliant lines in those two.
It’s understatement to say Jefferson was a complicated person - among other things, the author of the Declaration of Independence and champion of freedom and rights saw no problem with owning over 500 slaves - and fathering at least one child with his favourite. For more information about him, see: Thomas Jefferson (Britannica) and Thomas Jefferson (Monticello). He was also a topic of an earlier issue of The Bus (1.26): Monticello (paid subscribers only).