9 Weird Facts About Marijuana

1Marijuana is NOT Hemp!

Can you tell the difference? (Hemp is on the right.)

Although both marijuana and hemp are weeds, have a similar leaf shape, and are subspecies of the Cannabis sativa plant, they are in fact very different. Marijuana has flowering buds with a high content of THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) the stuff that makes you feel “high”. Hemp, on the other hand, has a very low THC content, can be grown closely together, and it can be used to make a variety of useful products. (You cannot get high from smoking hemp.) Hemp and marijuana were once considered separate entities. The 1937 Marihuana Tax act was focused on the THC-producing variety. It wasn't until 1970, when the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act took over lumping hemp and marijuana in the same category, making both illegal, and creating confusion in people's minds to this day.

2It Used To Be Patriotic To Grow Hemp

While America was still just 13 colonies, a 1619 law REQUIRED farmers to grow it. Hemp was used to make rope, clothing, and sails. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned hemp farms, and Jefferson wrote a draft of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Also, what about the flag Betsy Ross sewed? You guessed it: made of hemp.

3The US Government Used It To Fight The Nazis

During the height of World War II, the US produced a film entitled “Hemp for Victory” praising the many uses of hemp, and encouraging farmers to grow it to help with the war effort. The existence of the film was denied by the Government for many years until 1989, when marijuana advocate Jack Herrer donated a VHS copy to the Library of Congress. It is now in the Public Domain, and can be seen on YouTube – watch below!

4Medical Marijuana Has Been Around For Thousands of Years

Chinese symbol for marijuana (Ma)

In Ancient China, the plant, known as Ma, was used for food, fuel, clothing, and medicine going back to 6,000 B.C. But the oldest existing reference to medical marijuana dates to 2737 B.C. when the Red Emperor Shen Nung is credited with writing The Herbal, a listing of medicinal properties of various herbs, including Ma, to alleviate rheumatism and gout pain. In 2 A.D. Hua T'o is recorded as having used Ma-yo (the female plant) and red wine as an anesthesia while he performed painful surgeries including organ grafts and loin incisions. Yeah, you'd probably want to be high for that.

5Marijuana is actually GOOD for your lungs!

Brazilian artist Fernando de la Rocque uses pot smoke to make art

That's right, a recent study of 5,000 pot smokers by UCSF and University of Alabama showed that those who only smoke a few joints a week actually had stronger lung capacity and external blowing force than non-users. A 2005 UCLA paper also shows that marijuana smoke might actually help to PREVENT lung cancer. Unlike tobacco, which contains nicotine and is a known carcinigen, marijuana contains cannibinoids and THC, which seem to discourage cancer. It is also impossible to die of an overdose. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

6The Indian Government Declared Marijuana Harmless in 1894

While use of cannabis was primarily medicinal in Ancient China, over in India they liked to party with it. It was a common substance, used in religious ceremonies and to help people chill out. It was often ingested as a drink, boiled with nuts and milk called Bhang. It made people happy, so much so that the British Colonial Government was concerned it might be driving the population insane. They commissioned a study and issued a report entitled The Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report of 1894. It not only concluded that mainstream usage was harmless, but also that a ban on it might actually prove more detrimental.

7Why Do They Call It Dope? 14.4 Million Americans Smoke

A 2007 Government report estimated that 14.4 million Americans smoked pot during a one month testing period. One study in 2006 suggested that marijuana is the largest cash crop in the US at $35.8 Billion, but that number has recently been disputed, with a contrasting report putting it as low as $2.1 Billion. (Either way, it's still a large, essentially unknowable number.) The largest producer of marijuana in the world is Mexico, followed by Paraguay. But who are the biggest users of the drug? The Good ol' USA. According to a study in Time, 42% of Americans have tried it. Even President Obama has smoked it.

8Where Did The Name Marijuana Come From? No One Knows

There is a lot of speculation when it comes to the origin of the name marijuana. Folklore has it that it is a hybrid of the names Maria and Juana, slang terms for a prostitute. Another theory is that it is derived from the word maraguanquo, which means “intoxicating plant.” While a variant of the word appeared as early as 1873, the plant was known mostly as cannabis. It wasn't until the demonization of the drug in the 1930's and 40's (used to suppress minorities) that the word Marihuana was associated with “Reefer Madness.” Over the years, hundreds of nicknames have been coined, including grass, weed, dope, pot, and kush. What's your favorite?

9The Use of Hemp Could Save Our Planet

Uses of the hemp plant fiber itself are numerous. It can be made into rope, paper, clothing, canvas, eaten as a food, and its seeds can be used for fuel. It's also good for the planet. A study by McGill University in Canada estimated that 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 million acres of industrial hemp would take care of all of our oil needs. In addition, unlike tobacco, which destroys the soil after every crop, planting cannabis actually improves it. It is legal in Uruguay, Peru, India, and even in Iran for it to be grown for food/fuel. Legalization of both hemp and marijuana would produce thousands of jobs, take care of world hunger, cut back on greenhouse gases, and help people cope with the pain of AIDs, glaucoma, and cancer. It turns out that getting “high” from it is just an added bonus.