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Marijuana 101

It’s illegal in some states, legal in others. There’s a lot of disinformation out there, so let’s outline some facts.

It goes by many names: marijuana, cannabis, weed, or pot. No matter what you call it, it seems to be everywhere these days, so it’s a good idea to know what people are talking about when they talk about weed.

Picture of the cannabis plant.

Marijuana commonly refers to the flower of the cannabis plant. Although you’re probably familiar with the infamous “pot leaf” imagery, it’s actually the flower of the plant located inside of the leaves that’s used as a drug. These flowers – or buds – are picked and dried and sold as marijuana. However, concentrated forms of marijuana – often called wax or dabs – have recently begun to be sold and used to achieve the same desired effect.

A picture of concentrated marijuana - often called wax or dabs.

No matter what form it’s found in, the cannabis plant contains many chemical compounds that impair or alter the brain, most notably the compounds THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These chemical compounds have different effects on your brain’s neurotransmitters. THC is the psychoactive chemical that produces the “high” and euphoria many relate with marijuana. CBD is also psychoactive, but it has a weaker bond with your brain’s receptors than THC. This means it doesn’t have the same euphoric effect, but it still impacts your brain’s chemistry.

While marijuana has traditionally been combusted and smoked similarly to tobacco, marijuana can also be inhaled through a vape, incorporated into food – called edibles – as well as taken as a pill, drank as a beverage, and more. Even though these products are sold in flashy packaging, the dosage of these products can vary greatly and it is extremely easy to take too much at once. Even a small amount of edibles can cause psychoactive effects that are much more debilitating than traditional methods of consuming marijuana.

A photo of marijuana edibles sold in flashy packaging at a store..

No matter the form that it takes, one thing is for certain: no amount of marijuana is safe for teenage brains! Based on everything we know about the brain and its development, any marijuana use can dramatically affect how the brain matures. Do you really want to risk screwing up your future for a short-term high?

Many states in the United States have begun to legalize marijuana products for medical or recreational use. While there are research studies that have found that medical use of marijuana is beneficial to those going through treatments for cancer and AIDS, there are many studies that state that recreational use of marijuana is not safe. Marijuana use can cause physical and psychological problems, including lung issues, heart problems, and problems retaining information – even after not using the drug for long periods. The world is changing rapidly and there’s plenty of messages about marijuana from everyone, including advertisers, the government, and your friends. Approaching these issues with the facts is the most important way to make the right decision about how to live your life to the fullest and live the future that you deserve.

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