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Cannabis is described as the flowering tops in a cannabis plant. Cannabis was first discovered in 5000BC in central Asia. Since its discovery, the plant has been used for medicinal purposes, oil production and for its fiber. Cannabis is known to contain terpenoids, flavonoids, and alkaloids amongst other important medicinal compounds.

The cannabis plant also has unique terpenophenolic compounds known as cannabinoids, which further contribute to its medicinal value.  The three cannabinoid compounds include Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabinol, and cannabidiol. Nevertheless, THC is the primary psychoactive compound while the rest are non-psychoactive compounds. Presently, breeding and cultivation of cannabis is illegal in most nations except in isolated cases where countries allow the use of cannabis for research and its medicinal value.

Cannabis is derived from a plant which has three related species; Cannabis sativa L., Cannabis ruderalis, and Cannabis indicia with the first species being non-psychoactive (Warf). THC was first discovered in 1964 by an Israelite biochemist. The biochemist discovered that this compound was responsible for increased sensory awareness, euphoria, drowsiness, and increased appetite among other effects of using cannabis.

The discovery of THC has been a reason for cannabis use to date. In ancient times, cannabis was used due to its psychoactive purposes where people ate it, heated the oil and rubbed it on the skin or inhaled smoke from burning cannabis. Some other names used for cannabis in different countries are ganja in India, Ma in China and Cannabis in Greek (Warf). In central Asia, the origins of cannabis date back to the 7th century where it was used in the Scythian cult of the dead to honor their memory (Spicer).  On the other hand, the Sumerians used it for religious purposes because of its ability to allow a person to transit into self-reflection. In China, cannabis fiber commonly known as hemp was used in making ropes, clothes, fishing nets and paper. After the Chinese discovered resin, they used the plant for its medicinal purposes and during rituals.

The different forms which cannabis is prepared for human use include marijuana, hash oil and hashish. Marijuana is prepared and smoked as a hand rolled cigarette. The potency of marijuana is affected by the growing conditions, THC ratio and the genetic characteristics. As such, cannabis growers grow female plants together in a technique known as ‘sinsemilla’ in order to maximize the plant’s production of THC. Cannabis is also administered using vaporizers which are seen as a safer way of smoking (World Health Organization). Some parts of India and South Asia cook stalks and leaves of the plants and the residue is used as drink for religious ceremonies and rituals.

Cannabis is used majorly used for recreation, but its use has both short term and long-term health effects. The short-term effects include disturbances in cognition, perception, level of consciousness and may alter psychophysiology responses. Nevertheless, the magnitude of these effects depends on the dosage, route of administration and the user’s mindset (World Health Organization). Using cannabis over a long time period predisposes an individual to develop long-term health problems. These include cognitive impairment, mental disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment. The early use of cannabis may cause early signs of schizophrenia and increase the risk of psychosis in young adults (Madras).

This is due to its effect on cognitive functioning where it affects decision making, short-term memory and increases the risk of impulsivity. Abstinent cannabis users show signs of impaired attention and impulsivity. Additionally, cannabis has societal effects such as causes impaired driving and unproductivity in the workplace. Academic achievement is hampered, especially among adolescents. A study conducted among college students postulated that use of cannabis was responsible for lower grades, poor class attendance and taking longer periods in school. (Madras).

Nevertheless, despite the negative effects, cannabis is used for its medical purposes. Currently, medical cannabis use is permitted in Canada, the Netherlands, Israel and 23 states in the United States. Cannabis has since been used for neuropathic pain, appetite enhancement, and in managing cancer symptoms.  As such, cancer patients have started to use cannabis to reduce chemotherapy-induced nausea, reduced appetite and also reduce the progression of the disease. Cannabis’ medical benefits have been a cause of debate globally since it has been used for more than 150 years.

In conclusion, in Britain and the United States, cannabis extracts were used as sedatives and for their anticonvulsant effects, but they were withdrawn for some time a century later after their use started. However, medical practitioners have moved to ensure that the use of cannabis for its medicinal purposes prevails. This is owed to the inadequacy of current medicine and the need to reinforce it. Owing to its recreational and medicinal use, cannabis growers have developed new varieties. Examples include super-sativa which has been produced through crossbreeding. Companies such as GW Pharmaceuticals Ltd have since been licensed to perform indoor breeding to create hybrid varieties. Cannabis hybrid cultivators have capitalized in partnering with private companies for commercial purposes (Farag and Oliver). For example, in the Netherlands, this has resulted in the production of more than 20 strains of cannabis.

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