Basic Facts About Marijuana

Marijuana Buds
Marijuana Buds. DEA

Marijuana is a green or gray mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). The membranes of certain nerve cells contain protein receptors that bind THC, kicking off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana.

Street Names

There are over 200 slang terms for marijuana, including pot, herb, weed, grass, widow, boom, ganja, hash, Mary Jane, cannabis, bubble gum, northern lights, fruity juice, gangster, afghani #1, skunk and chronic.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a mind-altering drug which ranks as the most popular illegal drug used in the U.S. It is a mix of dried flowers, leaves and stems from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. The main active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol). 

What Does Marijuana Look Like?

Marijuana looks like a mixture of dried leaves, sticks and flowers. It can range in color from green to brown.

How Is It Taken?

The most common way to take Marijuana is to smoke it. Users will roll it into a cigarette "joint," put into an emptied cigar casing "blunts" and smoke it in a pipe or a water pipe "bong." It can also be baked into food and eaten or mixed in tea.


It is the most common illegal drug used in the U.S. At least one-third of Americans have used marijuana sometime in their lives.


People smoke marijuana because it elevates their mood and relaxes them. Depending on the level of THC, users may also experience euphoria, hallucinations, and paranoia.


Some of the common discomforts found when using marijuana include dry mouth, swollen eyelids, bloodshot eyes, loss of coordination and an accelerated heart rate.

Short-term Hazards include:

  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty in thinking
  • Learning difficulties
  • Lack of attention and focus
  • Poor driving skills

Long-Term Hazards Include:

  • Respiratory problems
  • Heightened risk of infections, especially the lungs
  • Poor short-term recall
  • Inability to shift attention normally
  • Inability to understand complex information
  • An increased risk of developing lung, head and neck cancers
  • Lack of motivation
  • Decreased sperm count in men
  • Irregular menstruation in women

Chronic marijuana smokers may have many of the same respiratory problems that tobacco smokers have. These individuals may have a daily cough and phlegm, symptoms of chronic bronchitis, and more frequent chest colds. Continuing to smoke marijuana can lead to abnormal functioning of lung tissue injured or destroyed by marijuana smoke.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction for some people. Drug craving and withdrawal symptoms can make it hard for long-term marijuana smokers to stop abusing the drug. People trying to quit report irritability, sleeplessness, and anxiety. They also display increased aggression.

A drug is addicting if it causes compulsive, often uncontrollable drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences. Marijuana meets this criterion.

Treating Marijuana Problems

There is no medication to directly treat marijuana abuse. Most abusers seeking professional treatment receive behavioral treatment in either group or individual sessions or both.

Has smoking weed become a problem for you? Then you should take the marijuana screening quiz.