By Mohamed Jaffer (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
‘Why drink and drive, when you can smoke and fly.’– Bob Marley
The above quote gives us a glimpse of the outcome of smoking Marijuana, and according to Bob Marley, it sure as hell seem like an enthralling ride up in the clouds. Famous pop stars, such as Bob Marley, have occupied their lives with marijuana. It has been used, as a vehicle for achieving euphoria since ancient times and now, the drug has become a heated topic in the US, where sooner or later, the drug will be legalized nationwide. With this being a historic moment we shall look into the good, the bad and the unknown of Marijuana.
History shows that the famous drug was first discovered in China in 2737 BC, where it was used as a powerful medication for rheumatism, gout, malaria and quite ironically, absent-mindedness. The drug then passed on to India, where the local Muslims consumed it for recreational purposes, oddly enough when the Qur’an had banned such items to be consumed.
Further along the way, the drug finally laid rest on to the hands of the English in 1611, and by 1890, hemp, the plant from which Marijuana is produced, was a major cash crop in the southern states. During its first years of fame, the drug’s recreational use was restricted to jazz musicians and Hollywood stars. Slowly with time, the drug became more common amongst low-income earners due to mass production and low prices charged. By the 1960s, it was commonly used by college students and hippies who looked at it as being a symbol of rebellion against authority.
Marijuana – also called weed, ganja, banji, cannabis, blunt, comes from the Indian hemp plant. While most of produces of any plant usually come from the seeds, leaves or stems of a plant, the drug for marijuana on the other hand comes from the flowers of the plant. As a final product, marijuana is usually green, brown or gray in colour. It can be smoked just like a cigarette – where its usually called a joint, or it can be inhaled using a dry pipe or a water pipe called a bong. These two are the most common of the ways Marijuana is consumed.
So what is so extraordinary about Marijuana that’s got the whole world talking about it? While marijuana contains over 400 chemicals in its final produce, it also incorporates a chemical in it that causes the intoxication, or the highness that Bob Marley was talking about, and this is called THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol.
When a person smokes Marijuana, the chemical talked of above, called THC, passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries it to the brain. Up in the brain, the chemical acts on specific brain cell receptors and over activates some parts of the brain, hence giving the high feeling that’s got the whole world going crazy for it. Seems fun right? If this was the only feeling it gave, then it definitely would be. Along with this short term high feeling, Marijuana effects a smoker by changes in mood, difficulty with thinking, impaired memory, hallucinations and so on. One could say that he/she could take a stronger grip of Marijuana after taking a few puffs for a long time. However, the effects are numerous in number, some still unknown to mankind.
Long-term effects of Marijuana vary from person to person. The most common long-term effect witnessed among people is the effect on brain development. A researcher from Duke University conducted a study and proved that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 IQ points between the ages 13 and 38. That’s a worrying statistic considering a rise in Marijuana usage amongst teens in the US.
Despite these effects, there is a loud roar by the public of the US for the drug to be legalized nationwide. As of now, the drug is legalized in some states, with stores being available on every other road that sell legalized marijuana. The main reasoning for this call is the medical aspect of the drug.
Marijuana’s characteristic as a medicine is talked quite a lot about in the news lately and that’s cause it works as a treatment. Proven by scientists, marijuana helps patients who suffer from Glaucoma- a condition where the eye suffers great pressure, which leads the patient to become blind, if left unattended. Marijuana effectively lowers this pressure by increasing blood flow. It could be argued that the cure is not sustainable and lasts for a few hours only, but so long as scientists do not find an alternative cure, patients will continue using Marijuana as it benefits them.
Furthermore, marijuana is also used to decrease the symptoms of a severe seizure disorder called Dravet’s syndrome. A medical study on a 5-year-old girl suffering from the syndrome showed that the drug use had decreased her seizures from 300 a week to just one every seven days. Despite this impressive statistic, it is important to note that not all cases are the same; some have used the drug to no avail. Other benefits that the drug may have include; it may stop cancer from spreading, may decrease anxiety and may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list; various scientists are still testing the drug to see where else could it be beneficial.
It is fair to say that Marijuana has encompassed the three areas quite remarkably. The recreational side of the drug could still be argued as being harmful to the human body, but so long as the drug is of use as a medicine, be it significantly or not, the drug will continue to be in the midst of the common man to be used for pleasure. As time goes by, with mindsets evolving, discoveries being made, cultures becoming more acceptable and people becoming more cautious with the drug, Marijuana could be used for its positive side to cure diseases and save numerous lives of people.