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How is Marijuana / Cannabis Used?

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By Paul Armentano of NORML.

Historically, humans have used various parts of the cannabis plant for a multitude of purposes. Most people today are readily aware that cannabis is consumed socially as a mood-enhancer. By contrast, certain varieties of cannabis – as well as most parts of the plant, including the seeds and the stalk – contain virtually no psychoactive properties but may be utilized in other ways. For example, ground seeds from the cannabis plant contain high and balanced levels of essential amino acids and essential fatty acids and may be baked into a variety of nutritional food-stuffs, such as bread, butter, and salad dressing. Oil can also be processed from cannabis seeds and used for sautéing or consumed as a nutritional supplement.[4] Since the seeds contain negligible amounts of the plant’s primary psychoactive agent, the importation and domestic sale of certain cannabis-based foods, oils, and sterilized seeds is permitted in the United States under federal law.

The stalk of the marijuana plant, primarily of the cannabis sativa variety – which can grow as high as 20 feet in height – can also be harvested for best fiber content. This renewable resource is a common source of paper, rope, and clothing. Most industrialized nations, including Canada, Japan, Australia, and the European Union, regulate the commercial production of low THC varieties of cannabis for industrial purposes.[5] During World War II the U.S. government commissioned tens of thousands of domestic farmers to grow cannabis to assist with America’s wartime needs. Following the War’s conclusion, however, the United State’s government imposed a complete ban on the domestic production of the plant, including the cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis sativa varieties. That ban continues today.

The plant’s cannabinoids are largely responsible for cannabis’ physiological, mood-altering, and therapeutic effects. THC, the most studied of all the plant’s cannabinoids, is psychoactive and is primarily responsible for the plant’s influence on mood and behavior. It also possesses various therapeutic effects. Most acknowledged among these are pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea and vomiting mitigation, anti-spasticity and anti-spasmodic effects, and intraocular pressure reduction in patients with glaucoma. An isolated stereoisomer of THC is presently available as an FDA-approved product Dronabinol, which is classified under federal law as a Schedule III substance. It is FDA-approved as an appetite stimulant and as an anti-emetic in patients with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy treatment. A number of additional, non-psychotropic cannabinoids such as CBD also possess numerous therapeutic properties. To learn more, please see a summary of many of these cannabinoids and their potential therapeutic applications.

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