College Guide to Cannabis

By Cori Russell on November 30, 2012


Marijuana Lips

Image from Flickr via Vaporizers_

*I am not a medically licensed doctor or a certified scientist on this subject. I have gathered my facts from published studies, testimonials, and general research of published literature. I have cited sources whenever possible. There are many, many angles at which we can view the effects of marijuana. Here, I have tried to establish a basic overview of the plant, its use, and social impacts. This is not a comprehensive guide, but it is intended to spread awareness and promote thoughtfulness in our actions.


From Flickr via Whirling Phoenix


Colorado and Washington state have legalized Cannabis at the state level for recreational use for adults. Marijuana legalization is one of the most controversial issues our nation faces today. Personally, since it doesn’t hurt anyone I think the decision is up to the individual, but not everyone agrees. I think much of the debate can be soothed over with a little more education about what the drug is, how it affects our bodies, and what social impacts may come from its use.


Marijuana Tax from Flickr via startmakingasense

A Brief History

Marijuana has been used medicinally and recreationally in the Eastern part of our world for an estimated 5000 years. If we skip ahead a few thousand years, in the 1600s the crop was brought to America by the Jamestown, VA settlers. George Washington grew it, and it was even used in medicine in US pharmacies. Ironically, California was the first state to pass a prohibition law against its use in the early 1900s. Throughout the 90′s there was a progression of limitations put on its use until it was made illegal everywhere in the United States. The US government patented marijuana as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant in 2003 (which makes little sense to me considering it has been used since before the US was even formed, but anyway…). In 2005, it was declared illegal at the federal level, even to be used as medicine. So, even though adults in Colorado and Washington can freely enjoy its use, they are still at risk for arrest if the federal government decides they want to restrict them.

Principle Source: Marijuana History Timeline

For a Cool Infographic visit: Hazy History of Marijuana


From Flickr via Rafaellduartee

Is it Intoxicating?

An intoxicant is a substance that poisons the body, or is harmful to it in any dose, like alcohol. Although the term is frequently used to describe bud, it is not often explained how it is intoxicating. The “intoxication” is described as euphoric and relaxing with the possibility for anxiety and possible paranoia. Where it is legal, marijuana is often used to treat anxiety and may even help with fear extinction (possibly for PTSD). Generally, though, it is a nontoxic substance because it does not poison the body in any dose.


From Flickr via TMartin_33


Marijuana is a mind-altering drug. It changes the way you think about some things. More specifically it can affect your  mood, memory, appetite, pain sensations, cognition, and emotions. The chemicals that affect your brain alter your perception. They do not cause hallucinations. However very high doses, especially of “edibles” may cause vivid imaginations.

Much of the drug’s possible negative effects, such as anxiety and paranoia, may be attributed to excess consumption in a short period of time, causing the user to feel overwhelmed and confused about her or his internal and external surroundings.

The strength of the effect is really based on the individual: their tolerance, personal preference, and why they are using it. It is up to the user to decide when enough is enough. For inexperienced users it is recommended that they start with a small amount (one bite of brownie or one “hit” or “puff”) and then see how they feel. It is impossible to overdose on marijuana.

Primary Source: Expert’s Recommendations


From Flickr via Liz Henry

Your Brain on Cannabinoids

Naturally, your brain cells (neurons) produce endogenous forms of cannabinoids called endocannabinoids (more specifically, anandamide). They are released and bind to cannabinoid receptors on presynaptic neurons. (Basically, they bind to preexisting “doors” on your neurons that allow chemicals to enter/exit.) This sends a signal to the firing cell to release less of a neurotransmitter, helping to reduce pain (<- click for a video).

Exocannabinoids, from the cannabis plant, affect cells in the same way, but come from outside the cell. Cannabinoid receptors are one of the most abundant G-protein coupled receptors in the brain; called CB1 they are present almost everywhere. CB2 receptors also allow cannabinoids to bind and are primarily located in the body and the immune system. The active ingredient in cannabis is called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When THC binds to a receptor, it causes less of the neurotransmitter (cell information) to be released and passed on to the next cell, except for dopamine (reward feeling) which is released more abundantly, possibly explaining the euphoria. This “calming of the nerves” may impair short term memory and memory recall. There is still a lot unknown to the public about THC’s affect on our brains and bodies, but the empirical evidence up to this point suggests that the results are mostly beneficial when used moderately and in a controlled setting (i.e. not while driving).

Psychologically, it is common for a user to experience heightened sensations – meaning tastes, smells, sounds, sights, and feelings are intensified. This phenomenon may be similar to the heightened sense of happiness or anxiety.


From Flickr via narconon


Marijuana can be addictive. Especially for younger or under-educated users. But it can only be as addictive as you let it be, like an addiction to cheeseburgers.

Basically, there are two types of addictions – physical and psychological. Physical addictions are for substances, or behaviors, that your body craves, and without them will have withdrawal symptoms. For example, a person who smokes cigarettes becomes physically addicted when the receptors in their brain for nicotine desensitize, and then want more nicotine.

A person who smokes marijuana may become addicted in the sense they continue using it when it negatively impacts  their personal life, school and/or job. But there is nothing about the plant itself that will make you need it. Like with most things, it requires the user to have self control.

Some withdrawal symptoms may include:  insomnia, restlessness, loss of appetite, depression, irritability, and anger. Keep in mind though, that many reasons people use marijuana in the first place is to regulate sleep, appetite, and mood, so it is not too surprising that they may be less regulated once use stops.


From Flickr via miriyaparino


The Marijuana, or hemp, plant has a multitude of uses not even associated with getting “high.” It is biodegradable and a cleaner source than petroleum fuels. Currently it is illegal to grow in the US for industrial use, but it can be imported as for the cases of hemp seeds and clothing. And because hemp is one of the fastest growing crops we can plant, we don’t have to worry about running low as we do with other natural resources. It can be used to make:

  • concrete
  • energy (fuel)
  • hemp seeds (protein!)
  • rope (Thanks, Columbus!) Hemp is the most durable natural vegetable fiber.
  • clothing (& it softens with each wash)
  • cosmetics
  • animal food
  • carpeting
  • platic-molded products
  • insect repellent
  • building construction

Primary Sources:



From Flickr via BrooklynSheWrote

Gateway Drug

Blaming Marijuana for the harmful use of other drugs is understandable since legally they are in the same category. However, there is nothing inherent about the plant that will cause you to crave it or any other drug. I think that where it is legal there is less of a risk for criminal drug dealers to push other types of drugs, but that seems to be uncommon even in areas where it is still illegal. Once again, it comes back to self control.


From Flickr via jcamilobernal

Method & Use

The media often portrays marijuana as a party drug or reserved only for those terminally ill. These are only two types of users out of many. It has potential for physiological and psychological benefits, when used with care. There is still a lot not known, mostly because of it’s illegality.

Smoking vs Eating: When used for health benefits, it is probably best to eat it because you avoid the smoke. There are studies that say smoking will lead to lung cancer, and there are studies that say smoking will strengthen lungs against cancer. It is important to remember that a study’s conclusions are only as strong as their methods, so when drawing conclusions we should think critically about the whole picture. Cooking with the plant will reduce any risks associated with smoking. The doses will likely be more potent, though.

Some reasons for use include:

  • Help with exercising
  • Help with meditating
  • Concentration (remember your dosage or this can backfire)
  • As an Anti-inflammatory
  • For PMS (mood regulation)
  • Immune system booster, homeostasis
  • Hormone regulation
  • Spirituality
  • Glaucoma
  • Social anxiety
  • Treatment of Cancer (Lung Cancer Cell Death)
  • Reducing nausea & diarrhea

There’s more. I encourage you to do your own research, but if you insist, here is another non-comprehensive list: Click 


From Flickr via Rafaellduartee


While it is legally in some states medicinally and/or recreationally, the federal government still bans its use for personal, medicinal, or scientific reasons. Know your rights.


Facts & Statistics

Marijuana is used in very small doses to treat some children with ADHD and autism.

Number of annual deaths (approximated as of 2009)  in the US from:

  • Heart Disease: 599,413
  • Cancer: 567,628
  • Alochol (not including accidents, add about 1,000 more for those): 24,518
  • Diabetes: 68,705
  • Tobacco: 443,000 (5 million globally)
  • Second-hand smoke: 49,400
  • Prescription Medications: 783,936
  • Marijuana: 0 (zero)


420 Party

From Flickr via [jono]

Other Resources and Further Reading


From Flickr via Gerry Dincher

 The Bottom Line

Like with any other substance, users of cannabis should be responsible for their own behaviors and learn the truth before they toke.


Thoughts, opinions, and advice are always welcome.

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