What is Marijuana?

What is marijuana? What is weed? What is cannabis?

You have heard about weed, pot, dope, cannabis, Mary Jane, grass, and marijuana. What’s the deal with these jazz cigarettes? You ask. Why do the kids love them? And why is the government suddenly ok with this formerly unacceptable blight on society?

There is a lot more than meets the eye with this plant. On the surface, it is a naturally occurring plant used and carried as medicine as far back as 8000 years ago. However, many modern societies shun the plant. But the question remains.

What is marijuana?

Cannabis, weed, bud, dank, sticky icky, and herb are all pseudonyms for the dried flowers and leaves from the cannabis plant. Containing compounds and cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol or THC: the main psychoactive (mind-altering) one, and other active compounds like cannabidiol or CBD: the main not psychoactive one.

That’s it. That is what all the fuss is about.

But what is it about weed that scares suburban bible thumpers? “It’s the Devil’s lettuce!” They say as they sip their wine or beer, trying not to pass out from the Xanax.

Personally, I have no problem with pill-popping house-husbands and whiskey-drinking workaholic wives. But don’t tell me weed is bad because that’s what they told you growing up.

If you’re reading this on the fence about whether marijuana is good or bad, keep this in mind. Remember, it is just a plant that when you set it on fire and inhale the smoke, you feel something, not unlike smoking a cigarette. It is no worse than alcohol, and many would argue it’s better. The long-term effects are still heavily debated, but it can’t be that bad if Canada legalized it.

What is weed?

It is a plant with compounds that can get you high, relax you, and even promote focus. However, 40% of drug arrests in 2018 across the US were for marijuana, 92% of those cases were for possession. Though the legislation is changing, weed is still why many black and brown men remain behind bars or have a criminal record, likely impeding employment.

Throughout recent history, this simple plant has had many mischaracterizations.

Gateway drug was possibly the most damning title it ever received. This sent fear through the hearts of parents worried the big bad marijuana would ruin their children, turning them into deviants and miscreant hellbent on getting wasted.

Personally, alcohol is more of a gateway drug. I have tried way more drugs while drinking than smoking. But I digress.

Thanks to the War on Drugs, weed has been used to interrupt and drastically alter countless lives of mainly black and brown families. The excuse of fighting the scourge of drugs gave authorities virtual carte blanch when searching for violent criminals, users, and dealers alike, as perfectly exemplified by New York Cities malevolent Stop and Frisk program.

“In 2016, a reported 12,404 stops were made under the stop-and-frisk program. The stop-and-frisk program has previously taken place on a much wider scale. Between 2003 and 2013, over 100,000 stops were made per year, with 685,724 people being stopped at the height of the program in 2011. The program became the subject of a racial-profiling controversy. Ninety percent of those stopped in 2017 were African-American or Latino, mostly aged 14–24. Seventy percent of those stopped were later found to be innocent. By contrast, 54.1% of the population of New York City in 2010 was African-American or Latino; however, 74.4% of individuals arrested overall were of those two racial groups.

Research shows that ‘persons of African and Hispanic descent were stopped more frequently than whites, even after controlling for precinct variability and race-specific estimates of crime participation.’” — Wikipedia

Stop, and Frisk represented much more than just the racial inequities that eventually lead to its dismantling. It showed just how much race played a role in policing. True, the Stop and Frisk program was not implemented to stop drug-related crime purely, but it was a part of the larger picture.

Before marijuana was a pretext to ruining someone’s life, it was a big cash crop throughout the developing world before 1925. Hemp, the fibrous stalks of the marijuana plant, was grown around the world and used to make ropes, cloth, feed animals, and more.

In 1619, King James I decreed that the American colonists of Jamestown needed to step up hemp growing efforts to support England better. We all know how the US supporting England turned out. George Washington even grew hemp as one of his three main crops. This magic plant did tons for the world before it all changed.

The tipping point for many countries was the 1925 Geneva Convention, aka the International Opium Convention, which imposed global controls over a wider range of drugs, including, for the first time, cannabis, referred to as “Indian hemp” (marijuana) in Article 11. Before this convention, weed wasn’t regulated or even considered a drug in many countries.

Marijuana went from being a fundamental crop to an illicit substance. This lead to the all-but global prohibition that persists in many countries today.

Prohibition (of alcohol) in the US went on for 13 years, but they at least had weed. Weed Prohibition lasted almost 100 years in Canada and is pushing 90 in the US. But changing the laws is not enough. Unfortunately, there is no way to give people who served time the years back, but a good place to start is expunging all possession charges and reevaluating the cases of sellers.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is an attempt to pasteurize marijuana for “suburban” consumption. “It’s ok Karen, cannabis is nothing like the brain melt marijuana you grew up hearing about.”

Cannabis is here to be the new face of an old friend. I understand the industry’s need to distance itself from the criminal and polarizing past. Attempting to make something more palatable to those with money, who likened weed to dirty hippies, burnouts, and rapey negros in alleys makes sense. It would help drive sales with older clientele and drive down stigma. I get it. I don’t like it. But it is still progress.

I’m legitimately happy to see so much happening in the expanding world of legal cannabis. I love the edibles, transparency, and increased quality and selection. But you won’t catch me talking about cannabis and chemovars in my free time.

Cannabis is fine for a board meeting, but I want to buy weed, bud, mary-jane, nugs, or dank, whether from a shady guy in his apartment or a government-regulated & licensed entity. Luckily, as a consumer, no one really cares what I call it. So, I’ll be enjoying Giggle Bush on my own time.

One of my biggest problems with the current laws around legal cannabis is how few people of color are benefitting from the budding industry. The people whose music and culture popularized and lead the expanding wave of understanding are often excluded from the business. Many jurisdictions implemented various laws intended to keep smaller growers, sellers, and producers from entering the market. States have stringent laws around who is allowed to apply to open a dispensary or grow-op. Most states do not allow anyone with a criminal record to work for a dispensary in any capacity, far more restrictive than alcohol or tobacco sales (neither require a background check) in most states.

Many states are adding laws like Florida’s requiring a diversity plan promoting and ensuring the involvement of minority persons and business enterprises or veteran business enterprises in ownership, management, and employment. License renewal also requires that owners show the effectiveness of your diversity plan. I don’t know how they will prove it and have very little faith it means much.

But legislation like this will help attempt to include minorities in the industry, just maybe not as owners.

The industry is still young. Maybe Method Man & Red Man will launch their own How High dispensaries across New York & New Jersey. We both know it won’t happen, though.

I hope this article has helped you answer the question, “what is marijuana?”

Published by Danton Lamar

I grew up in a country that thinks it is better than it is and left because I wanted to know if the rest of the world was as crazy. These are the writings of a man trying to stay sane I'll post a story or poem every Wednesday

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