Marijuana Facts

Marie Law Alphabiolabs

By Marie Law, Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 02/01/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at marijuana, what it is, how it is used, the side effects of marijuana use and more.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a drug derived from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant, a bushy plant that grows wild in many parts of the world.

The main active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that can make the user feel happy or relaxed.

However, it can also have more serious side effects with continued use, causing a person to become paranoid or experience hallucinations.

Other forms of marijuana/cannabis products include:

  • Cannabinol (CBN) – a cannabinoid (compound found in the cannabis plant).

Unlike THC, CBN produces few, if any, psychoactive effects.

  • Cannabidiol (CBD) – a cannabinoid that is commonly sold online and in select shops in the form of CBD oil.

CBD produces few, if any, psychoactive effects. The purchase and sale of CBD products is legal at a federal level, provided products are hemp-derived and contain less than 0.3% THC. However, this varies from state-to-state, with some states considering the use or possession of any marijuana (cannabis) product illegal.

Levels of THC, CBN and CBD can vary widely depending on several factors, including the variety of cannabis plant, and how the marijuana has been prepared (e.g. loose leaves, resin, oil etc).

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What are the street names for marijuana?

Some of the most common street names for marijuana include:

  • Mary Jane
  • Dope
  • Chronic
  • Hash
  • Grass
  • Joint
  • Herb
  • Skunk
  • Reefer
  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Ganja

What does marijuana look like?

Marijuana can take several forms including:

  • Herbal, grass, weed, cannabis – composed of the dried leaves and flowering parts of the female cannabis plant, this form resembles compressed, dried herbs. When smoked it has a distinct, musky smell
  • Marijuana or cannabis resin – a black or brown lump
  • Cannabis oil – a light yellow or amber liquid

How is marijuana used?

Marijuana is most commonly inhaled, either by smoking or vaping, or ingested in hash or resin form.It is also used in food and drink products known as weed or marijuana edibles, mixed in with cakes and candies, or brewed as a tea.

How do people behave when they use marijuana?

How a person feels and behaves after using marijuana can vary, depending on the person. Some people report feeling ‘chilled out’ and happy after using it.

However, it can also make people feel lethargic, unmotivated, paranoid, confused or anxious.

What are the side effects of marijuana?

The physical side effects of marijuana/cannabis can vary and depend on several factors, including how the drug is ingested, frequency of use, and the metabolism and weight of the person.Some common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of concentration
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

Long-term cannabis use can also impact fertility and lower a person’s chances of conceiving.

Read more about the effects of Marijuana use

What happens when you use marijuana with other drugs?

Below is an overview of the side effects of using marijuana with other drugs.

Alcohol

Using alcohol and marijuana together can heighten the effects of marijuana, causing depressive effects.

Cocaine

Mixing marijuana and cocaine can elevate both heart rate and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Heroin

Using marijuana alongside depressants, also known as downers, like heroin can be dangerous and can inhibit the proper functioning of the central nervous system.

When both substances are used together, this can significantly lower a person’s blood pressure and cause breathing to become labored – or stop altogether.

What is the legal status of marijuana in the US?

Marijuana is a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it remains illegal at a federal level due to its potential for abuse and dependency.

However, some states have legalized marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.

Can marijuana be used in medicine?

Although some states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes, it remains illegal at a federal level, and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in clinical treatments.

However, certain drugs containing small amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive compound in marijuana/cannabis – are prescribed in medical settings for the treatment of certain conditions. These drugs include:

  • Marinol – synthetic THC in a capsule form, which can be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients
  • Epidoloex – an oral solution containing no more than 0.1% THC and used to treat two types of epilepsy
  • Syndros – an oral THC solution used in the treatment of anorexia<

How long does it take for marijuana to show up in a drug test?

Even after the ‘high’ has worn off, and long after the drug was first consumed, marijuana use can be detected by a drug test, depending on the type of test you take.The drug testing detection windows for marijuana are as follows:

  • Oral fluid (saliva) – up to 48 hours
  • Urine – up to 4 days
  • Hair – up to 12 months (depending on the length of hair available)
  • Nails – up to 12 months (up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails)

Oral fluid and urine drug testing are known as ‘narrow-window’ forms of testing and can be used to detect drug use from 30 minutes after consumption, up to a few days.

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This can vary depending on the type of substance and how much was used.

The rate at which hair and nails grow means that both hair drug testing and nail drug testing can provide a ‘wide-window’ of detection for drugs and their metabolites (up to 12 months).

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Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3 – $34.95) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from $99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court or for legal reasons.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can email our Customer Services team at info@alphabiolabsusa.com.

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Marie Law AlphaBiolabs

Marie Law

Head of Toxicology at AlphaBiolabs
A highly-skilled and respected scientist with over 13 years’ experience in the field of forensics, Marie joined AlphaBiolabs in 2022 and oversees the company’s growing toxicology team. As Head of Toxicology, Marie’s day-to-day responsibilities include maintaining the highest quality testing standards for toxicology and further enhancing AlphaBiolabs’ drug and alcohol testing services for members of the public and the legal sector.

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