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Marijuana

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a shredded, green-brown mix of dried flowers, stems, and leaves from the plant Cannabis sativa. A stronger form of marijuana, called hashish (hash), looks like brown or black cakes or balls. The amount of THC (the active ingredient) in marijuana and marijuana products has increased greatly over the years.

Marijuana is usually rolled and smoked like a cigarette (joints or doobies), or put in hollowed-out cigars (blunts), pipes (bowls), or water pipes (bongs). Recently, it has become increasingly popular for people to inhale marijuana or stronger marijuana extracts using a vaporizer (called “vaping” or “dabbing”). Some people mix it into food or brew it as a tea.

There is also “synthetic marijuana” — manmade drugs that are chemically similar to THC — that can be dangerously strong. Names for these drugs include “K2,” “Spice,” and “Herbal Incense.” They can be so potent that overdose deaths have happened.

Short-Term Effects

The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). When someone smokes marijuana, THC goes from the lungs into the bloodstream. From there, it ends up in the brain and other organs.

THC connects with a receptor on nerve cells in the brain. The marijuana “high” results from THC’s effects on the nerve cells that control sensory perception and pleasure.

THC also connects with receptors on nerve cells in other parts of the brain that affect thinking, memory, coordination, and concentration. This can cause unwanted side effects, including:

  • trouble thinking and problem solving
  • problems with memory and learning
  • loss of coordination
  • distorted perception

These side effects are temporary, but they can make it dangerous to do things like drive while under the influence of marijuana.

People also might notice other short-term side effects of using marijuana, such as:

  • an increased appetite
  • feeling lightheaded or drowsy
  • a decrease in inhibitions

Long-Term Effects

Research has found that people who use marijuana over a long period of time can have more lasting side effects. For example:

Changes in the brain. Marijuana can affect the parts of the brain that play a role in our ability to remember, multitask, and pay attention.

Fertility issues. Animal studies suggest that using a lot of marijuana might be linked to decreased sperm count in men and delayed ovulation in women. Pregnant women who use marijuana might be more likely to have babies with developmental and behavioral problems.

Respiratory problems. People who smoke marijuana a lot can develop problems with the respiratory system — like more mucus, a chronic cough, and bronchitis.

Immune system problems. Using marijuana a lot might make it harder for the body to fight off infections.

Emotional problems. People who use a lot of marijuana are more likely to say they notice signs of depression or anxiety. If someone has a condition like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, marijuana can sometimes make symptoms worse.

Other Problems

Here are a few ways marijuana use could affect you:

Criminal charges. Marijuana laws can be confusing. Some states are changing their laws to make it legal to have small amounts of marijuana in some situations (like when it’s prescribed for medical use). Some have even made recreational use of marijuana by adults (over 21) legal. But there are conflicting federal laws against using, growing, or selling marijuana — and people caught with it could face charges, including jail time.

Career problems. People charged under marijuana laws may end up with criminal records that hurt their plans for college or finding a job.

Drug testing. These days, employers often test for drug use as part of the hiring process. Marijuana can show up on a drug test for several weeks after it was last used. So people who use marijuana may find they don’t get a job they want. Some companies do routine drug tests on employees, so people who use marijuana can lose their jobs.

Medical Use of Marijuana

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved pills containing THC or other cannabinoids (chemicals similar to THC) as a way to help relieve pain, nausea, muscle stiffness, or problems with movement. There’s still a lot of discussion about the medical use of marijuana, though. THC and other cannabinoid pills are only available in some states and require a doctor’s prescription.

At the moment, there’s not enough research to say for sure if smoking marijuana is any more helpful than taking THC or other cannabinoids as a pill. Scientists are still studying this.

What If I Want to Quit?

People who use marijuana for a while can have withdrawal symptoms when they try to give it up. They may feel irritable, anxious, or depressed; have trouble sleeping; or not feel like eating.

Marijuana withdrawal can be a bit like caffeine withdrawal: It’s usually worse a day or two after someone stops using marijuana. After that, withdrawal symptoms gradually decrease. They’re usually gone a week or two after the person no longer uses the drug.

Marijuana can be addictive. About 1 in 10 people who use the drug regularly can develop a “marijuana use disorder.” These people can’t stop using marijuana even though it causing problems in their lives. This is much more likely to happen in people who start using marijuana before age 18.

If you or someone you know wants to stop using marijuana but has trouble quitting, it can help to talk to a counselor. Studies suggest that a combination of individual counseling and group therapy sessions is the best approach for stopping marijuana use.

You’ve probably heard a lot of conflicting information about marijuana. Here’s what recent research has found.

The Lost Art of Temple Balls

Hash Cannoli photo by Gracie Malley

A hashish master and his student explore the preservation of resin

Charas, or hand rolled resin, is the original concentrate. Alluring and aromatic, charas was born from the first contact between humanity and the cannabis plant, as a layering of this sticky THC-rich substance is unavoidable when handling marijuana. Innovations in cannabis concentrates, utilizing newer methods of extraction such as BHO and CO2, will soon transform the face of modern day medicine. Still, the act of gently rubbing cannabis flowers will remain the easiest and most effective method of collecting fresh resin from wild plants at the peak of their life cycle and creations like the Temple Ball will continue to elevate what could be construed as mere collection into an artisanal craft.

The process of collecting live resin in the palm of one’s hands is simple in its methodology, but challenging in its implementation. While no longer widely-practiced, this method remains the sole cannabis resin collecting methodology in tropical countries with a humid climates like Bhutan, Nepal and Northern India. To collect resin, take the fan leaves off the plant and gently caress the flowers between your palms using a light back-and-forth rubbing motion. Thoroughly clean your hands of any leaf material after each flower and start again until a layer of resin builds up on your palms and fingers. Then snap the substance off your hands and voila! You have created hand-pressed resin.

The feeling of the resin slowly collecting, plant after plant, is a unique tactile communion and an unbelievable olfactory experience

There is an indescribable intimacy and closeness that is born from such a synergy, a communion that goes beyond the plant and connects to the terroir that gave birth to the magic. But the relation between a master gatherer and the resin also extends beyond the realm of collecting. In tropical countries preservation and aging are essential to quality and longevity. To this end, a Royal Nepalese Temple Ball was the ultimate manifestation of resin optimization and preservation. The origins of such a cutting-edge approach to packaging and long-term conservation may never be discovered, but the art should not be lost.

The Royal Nepalese Temple Balls were stuff of mythology already in the late ’70s and early ’80s, a fairytale for many and the Holy Grail of concentrates for a few. Imagine a sphere of resin hand pressed to an absolutely unflawed dark and hard surface polished to a mirror-like quality — a ball that resembles more of a glossy stone or black marble rather than resin. Picture an outside protective layer of resin fused into a crust so perfect that it can stand the depredations of time and nurture the aging evolution at its core. Visualize cracking open a 10-year-old resin ball like you would break a big egg, the center revealing itself slowly in all its glorious creaminess.

Envision a spicy tropical fruit cocktail with subtle earthy undertones taking over your olfactory senses as the resin breaks apart reluctantly exposing its dark red melted caviar like texture, the long contained aromas bursting out with an explosive force.

Imagine creating such a wonder!

A modern interpretation of the Temple Ball by The Dank Duchess

Frenchy Cannoli photo by Gracie Malley

Frenchy’s eyes twinkle as he tells me stories of hashish around the world and indulges in nostalgia as he details his rich experiences of Malana cream and Nepalese Temple Balls. With true Nepalese Temple Balls no longer anywhere to be found, I can only imagine the creamy inner goodness of which he spoke so lovingly. Perhaps I can create something for which he will be equally fond.

I start with well-dried Jah Goo resin; known for its potency and intense flavor. I place a thick glass bottle filled with boiling water on top of the resin, which has been wrapped in a plastic steam pouch. It begins to melt almost immediately. I can see the yellowish color of the resin darkening as the heads fuse together, as if becoming more saturated with life. It is tempting to hurry the process along, but the resin moves at its own pace. I simply hold the glass bottle as a guide, slowly rolling it forward and turn the resin, gently rolling the bottle away from me. Flipping it, I see that the resin has begun to melt on the other side as the heat has easily penetrated. I pick it up and squeeze softly through the plastic. It feels completely melted through. With a swift flick of the wrist, I snap the plastic open and the aroma of plump, ripe, wild berries wafts upwards. Jah Goo’s dirty blonde color has transformed into golden amber.

The resin gleams with oil and expectation. Its satiny surface reflects like a mirror. Folding the resin in half, I snap one side of the plastic; and then the other, grabbing the resin simultaneously. Folding it one more time, I notice that the interior of the resin has retained its pre-melted color and rather than hold-ing firm, it separates like bread dough that is not fully kneaded. I place the resin between the plastic and begin rolling the bottle again. This time, the resin reacts even faster, spreading across the plastic as if running from the heat.

Hash Cannoli photo by Gracie Malley

I begin shaping the Jah Goo hashish when the entire resin softens like warm marshmallows. Removing it from the plastic, I fold the resin in my hand twice, feeling the warmth radiating through my palm, and enjoying the fruity and spicy scents that tickle my nostrils. Using my first two fingers and my thumb, I begin shaping the resin into a cube. I squeeze firmly and squeeze again, before rotating, repeating the cycle until there are no wrinkles on the surface. Squeezing has removed the air pockets, leaving a dense block with sunken concave sides. I start pushing the corners in slightly, massaging the hashish into a juicy dumpling. I clasp my palms together and slowly roll my palms back and forth.

After getting a rhythm going I pause every 10 seconds to look at the progress of the ball of hashish. It has become as smooth as an egg and a similar oval shape. I love touching the resin, but hashish must not be overworked. The hashish is almost ready, and I roll faster smaller circles as it cools in my hand. Finally, it is a shimmering ball of Jah Goo hashish. It has become a taut, shiny marble glimmering in the light.

Hash rolls photo by Gracie Malley

Traditionally, Temple Balls were rolled on a ceramic plate creating an impenetrable crust. Now, it’s often left with a stain sheer. I place the Temple Ball on a sheet of parchment paper. Oil continues to express itself more and it flattens on the bottom under its own weight. It is gorgeous and smells like sheer happiness. This is not the perfect Temple Ball of Frenchy’s memory, but I hope with a bit of aging, my offering to him will warm his heart even more.

Charas, or hand rolled resin, is the original cannabis concentrate. The hashish master Frenchy Cannoli and The Dank Duchess explore the preservation of resin.