The cannabis plant contains more than a hundred chemicals (cannabinoids) that can affect our brain and body. When using cannabis, THC and other cannabinoids make their way through the bloodstream to our brain and body.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in particular, the main active ingredient of the cannabis plant has a chemical structure similar to anandamide. Anandamide is a brain chemical naturally produced by our body. The similarity in the structure of THC to anandamide allows it to be recognized by our body, which then alters our normal brain communication.
THC can function as a neurotransmitter, allowing it to send chemical messages between neurons and throughout our nervous system. It can attach itself to cannabinoid receptors (Endocannabinoid system) on neurons in parts of our brain. THC can then activate these neurons, which can lead to disruption in our mental and physical functions.
This cannabinoid can affect our brain by influencing the areas in charge with memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, sensory, time perception, and pleasure.
When smoking marijuana, the THC will go directly to the lungs. The alveoli (air sacs where gas exchange in the lungs occurs), allows THC to easily enter the body. Inhaling smoke from marijuana is the most expedient way to get this chemical into the bloodstream.
In the case where cannabis is ingested, it enters the stomach and subsequently absorbed by the blood. The blood then carries the cannabis contents to the liver and later to the entire body. However, the THC is not easily absorbed when ingested compared to inhalation.
Recreational Usage of THC
The onset of marijuana legalization has given rise to its popularity of purchasing it not only for medical use, but also for recreational consumption. Although, until now not all States in the US recognizes the beneficial effects of marijuana. Thereby, only 10 States have legalized the recreational use of it.
Much of the resistance comes down to the CBD versus THC debate. Both of these chemicals can affect our brain and body. However, THC is known to have psychoactive properties thus having a high probability of usage abuse.
The recreational use of THC, particularly high dosage of marijuana strains, can lead to addiction. The constant marijuana use can create dependency, which can tremendously alter the brain chemistry.
Recreational usage of THC usually comes in different ways. It can be consumed through food (baked into foods or brewed as a tea), or as a supplement. It can also be smoked as a cigarette/cigar, pipe or through vape.
Medicinal Effects of THC
The general public’s negative connotation is probably caused by the irresponsible use and selling of marijuana. Some cannabis strains (especially those with high THC content) are potentially addictive and can result in severe negative effects on the human body. When using cannabis for recreational or medical purposes, choosing and researching about the right marijuana strain is essential.
Conversely, substantial research findings show that cannabis has medicinal and wellness effects. Cannabis has been known to relieve or suppress the following symptoms:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Inflammation of joints and organs
Medical cannabis has also been used in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis.
THC Legality in the US
There’s still an ongoing debate about the legalization of marijuana (also its THC content) in the United States. Much of this debate stems from the addictive capacity of cannabis. Some argue that the negative effects of cannabis use outweigh the positive.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical (cannabinoids) in marijuana is primarily responsible for the feeling of being “high.” While CBD, on the other hand, has a non-psychoactive effect. Fourteen States have passed laws limiting the THC content in aim of allowing access to products rich in CBD.
On a Federal level, the use and possession of marijuana for any purpose is illegal. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance. And the Drug Enforcement Agency still list cannabis as Schedule 1, a dangerous drug with probability of severe psychological or physical dependence, high potential for abuse; and no currently accepted medical use.
However, despite its classification as a Schedule 1 substance and being federally illegal, some of cannabis derivative compounds were approved by the FDA for prescription use. Also, the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment have prohibited federal prosecution of those that complies with state medical cannabis laws.
The following States, Federal district, inhabited territory, and Native-American reservation, have legalized the recreational and medical use of cannabis. To see the corresponding legality in cannabis transportation, as well as household and commercial cultivation check this Wikipedia guide.
- District of Columbia
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
- Suquamish Tribe
- Squaxin Island Tribe
These States and inhabited territory, have only legalized cannabis for medical use:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- Puerto Rico
- US Virgin Islands
While these States have legalized the medical use of marijuana, with strictly limited THC content.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
And these are the States and inhabited territory where cannabis is prohibited for any use.
- South Dakota
- American Samoa