Essay by Andy AllenHigh School, 11th gradeA-, March 1997

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Wether you call it Hemp, Mary Jane, Pot, Weed; it doesn't matter. It is still Cannabis Sativa, or cannabis for short. And it is still illegal. The use of marijuana as an intoxicant in the United States became a problem of public concern in the 1930s. Regulatory laws were passed in 1937, and criminal penalties were instituted for possession and sale of the drug. 'Marijuana' refers to the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant, which contains the non-narcotic chemical THC at various potencies. It is smoked or eaten to produce the feeling of being 'high.' The different strains of this herb produce different sensual effects, ranging from a sedative to a stimulant.

The term 'marijuana' is a word with indistinct origins. Some believe it is derived from the Mexican words for 'Mary Jane'; others hold that the name comes from the Portuguese word marigu-ano, which means 'intoxicant'.

The use of marijuana in the 1960's might lead one to surmise that marihuana use spread explosively. The chronicle of its 3,000 year history, however, shows that this 'explosion' has been characteristic only of the contemporary scene. The plant has been grown for fiber and as a source of medicine for several thousand years, but until 500~ AD its use as a mind-altering drug was almost solely confined in India. The drug and its uses reached the Middle and Near East during the next several centuries, and then moved across North Africa, appeared in Latin America and the Caribbean, and finally entered the United States in the early decades of this century. Marijuana can even be used as 'Biomass' fuel, where the pulp (hurd) of the hemp plant can be burned as is or processed into charcoal, methanol, methane, or gasoline. This process is called destructive distillation, or...