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Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil all come from the hemp plant, Cannabis Sativa. It is a strong vigorous plant which grows in sunny climates in many parts of the world.

Marijuana is made from the dried flowers and leaves of the plant. It looks like chopped, dried greyish green to greenish brown grass - hence its slang name. It is usually smoked in hand rolled cigarettes or joints, and is the weakest of the cannabis preparations (comparable to beer or perhaps table wines).

Hashish is made from the resin of the cannabis plant, dried and pressed into small light brown to black blocks. It is usually mixed with tabacco and smoked, and can be compared in strength to fortified wines or spirits. Hashish oil is a thick and oily liquid, ranging in colour from golden brown to nearly black. It is often spread on the tip or paper of cigarettes and smoked. this is the strongest cannabis product.

The main ingredient in cannabis which produces a “high” and which affects the mood and perception of the user is called THC (Delta-9 tectrahydrocannabinol). THC is a depressant drug, not a stimulant as many people think.

Recent surveys have shown that about 30% of young people (14 -19 years), 48% of 20-39 year olds, and 8% of over 40 year olds have tried marijuana at some time. This makes it the most widely used illegal drug in Australia.

The effects of taking marijuana vary according to the individual’s body type, mood and experience, the circumstances in which it is taken, and the amount consumed. However, people usually feel a sense of well being or euphoria, loss of inhibitions, a tendency to talk and laugh more, impaired balance and co-ordination, loss of concentration, increased appetite, increased pulse and heart rate, and reddened eyes. These effects may last 2 to 3 hours, and lead later to calm, reflective feelings and drowsiness.

Other short term effects from using the drug can include altered perceptions of time, sound, colour and other sensations, restlessness, anxiety or excitement, and impaired short term memory, movement skills, and ability to perform complex tasks. These effects can affect a person’s ability to drive safely.

Currently, there is no evidence that occasional use of small doses of cannabis causes any permanent health damage. However, researchers have observed some long term effects in some regular cannabis users. These include : -

Increased risk of bronchitis, lung cancer and respiratory diseases, which are associated with smoking. Marijuana ‘joints’ have 50% to 100% more tar than tobacco and smokers tend to draw the smoke more deeply into their lungs than with tobacco, so damaging health effects can result.

A change of motivation. Many regular users of cannabis find they begin to lose energy and drive. These symptoms tend to gradually disappear when cannabis use stops.

Decreased concentration, memory and learning abilities.

Interference with sexual and hormone production.

An accumulation of THC in the body’s fatty tissues.

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