What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a popular drug which is mainly used for recreational purposes although there are people who use it for medical reasons, e.g. to relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Marijuana is considered to be a mixture of the following three states:

  • Stimulant
  • Depressant
  • Hallucinogen


It is used for its mood enhancing effects: it boosts confidence and esteem and causes feelings of elation.

People who use marijuana often find that they become lively, talkative and ecstatic as a result.


For some people marijuana has the effect of a mild sedative and causes feelings of drowsiness and a state of relaxation. It is often used as a ‘chilling out’drug.

Some people find that they become silent and withdrawn.


Marijuana is also a hallucinogen in that it causes the person using it to experience an alternative reality. Everything around them is distorted; colours and sounds are heightened and time appears to have slowed down.

Slang names for marijuana

There are a wide variety of slang or street names for marijuana which include:

  • Wacky backy
  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Dope
  • Draw
  • Blow
  • Puff
  • Hash
  • Grass
  • Ganja

There are many others but these are the most commonly used names.

What does marijuana look like?

The marijuana plant grows in many parts of the world such Afghanistan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Morocco and Nepal.

However it flourishes in any type of mild climate which includes the UK.

This plant is dark green in colour and is comprised of stalks, flowers and characteristic spiky shaped leaves. It contains a fibre known as hemp which is used in a variety of products which include rope, cosmetics, herbal remedies and clothing.

There are 3 species of this plant:

  • Cannabis sativa
  • Cannabis indica
  • Cannabis ruderalis

Cannabis sativa

This plant is tall with long, thin leaves and widely spaced branches. It is the most common form of marijuana grown here in the UK and is mainly used for recreational and medicinal purposes. Hemp fibre is harvested for a range of products and services which include health foods, textiles and construction.

Cannabis indica

This is a short, dense type of plant with short, stubbly leaves which is well suited to climates such as the UK’s. It too is used for recreational and medicinal purposes.

Cannabis ruderalis

This plant has short, broad leaves and contains fewer cannabinoids than sativa and indica. As a result of this it is less likely to be used as a drug although it is often combined with sativa or indica to boost cannabinoid levels.


The marijuana plant contains a range of ingredients but the main ingredient is ‘tetrahydrocannabinols’ or ‘THCs’ for short.

The full name for this is ‘delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’.

(Source: The Journal of Neuroscience)

There are male and female versions of the marijuana plant. Both of these contain THC’s although the female plant has a stronger concentration of these.

Tetrahydrocannabinols are largely contained within the flowers of the female plant and to a lesser extent in the leaves of the male plant.

The seeds and stalks of these plants contain the least amount of THC’s.

Tetrahydrocannabinols along with the other cannabinoids are chemicals which directly affect the brain. They cause a range of effects which include euphoria, dry mouth, swollen eyelids and hunger pangs which are more commonly known as ‘the munchies’.

The greater the amount of THC’s the stronger the effects of the marijuana.

So, if you smoke a cigarette (or ‘joint’) which contains 3 times the amount of THC’s then you can expect this to have a much stronger effect than the traditional imported version. This is often a feature of the herbal variety or ‘herbal cannabis’ which is grown in the UK.

Herbal cannabis is discussed further in our types of marijuana section.

How do THC’s affect the brain?

There are certain nerve cells within the brain which contain ‘protein receptors’. These receptors enable THC’s to connect very easily which then triggers off a series of reactions which include the ‘high’that people experience when using marijuana.

This is discussed in more detail in our effects of marijuana section.

Are some forms of marijuana stronger than others?

The answer to this is yes. There are certain forms such as ‘skunk’ or ‘sinsemilla’ which have a stronger effect on the mind and body than the usual varieties.

Plus there is herbal cannabis, grown in the UK and Holland, which is known to have a greater amount of THC’s (‘tetrahydrocannabinols’) than the standard forms of marijuana.

There are different types of marijuana and some are stronger than others.

What are the different types of marijuana?

There are different forms of marijuana according to which part of the plant they come from. These versions vary in strength depending upon which part of the plant they are harvested from.

These include resin, herbal cannabis and cannabis oil.


The most common form of marijuana is resin which is scraped and then compressed into small black or brown blocks. These blocks have a soft texture and are mixed with tobacco and smoked or added to food, e.g. ‘hash cakes’.

Herbal cannabis

Chopped, dried leaves and flowers of the plant are used to make herbal cannabis. This has the appearance of dried herbs and is usually imported into the UK although many people choose to grow their own.

This is not usually as strong as resin but there are exceptions to this. There has been an increased use of strong forms of herbal cannabis such as sinsemilla and skunk which are known for causing hallucinogenic effects.

Herbal cannabis is smoked in a cigarette, pipe or ‘bong’, or added to food or tea.

Cannabis oil

This is the least common form of marijuana which has the appearance of honey and is produced by using solvents to separate resin from the plant.

All of these are discussed in more detail in our types of marijuana section.

How much does marijuana cost?

The cost of marijuana varies around the UK.

As a rough guide an eighth of an ounce of resin may cost £16 and an ounce £80.

Herbal cannabis may cost from £60/70 an ounce right through to £120 or more for the stronger forms such as skunk.

(Source: www.drugscope.co.uk)

People who use marijuana on a regular basis will get through an eighth of an ounce in a day compared to a light user. Some people choose to use it on an occasional basis such as having the odd joint or two.


Marijuana has been categorised as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

This means that it is against the law to possess, supply or sell marijuana.

Anyone caught with marijuana on their person will be prosecuted by the police.

Find out more in the law and marijuana section.

Purity of marijuana

Many drugs are ‘cut’or mixed with other ingredients which can have serious or even fatal consequences.

This tends to be less of a problem with marijuana although chemical substances are added in order to fool people into thinking that they are purchasing a high quality drug.

Examples of these substances include glass fragments and chalk but other substances have found their way into marijuana which even includes Viagra.

This can happen with large blocks of resin which are bulked out with these substances to increase the profit margin for the supplier. Turpentine, boot polish, glue, henna, even tranquilisers have been found in resin which can cause a range of health risks.

It is very difficult to tell if marijuana has been mixed with other substances which mean this is an ongoing risk.

Marijuana along with alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, is one of the most popular drugs used in the UK.

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