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The marijuana plant was cultivated during World War II, when Asian sources of hemp were slowly being cut off. Marijuana is originally derived from the hemp plant, which is referred to as Cannabis Sativa. The main active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol; which is most often referred to as THC. All forms of cannabis are mind-altering (psychoactive) drugs and contain THC (delta-9-trahydrocannabinol), which is the active chemical in marijuana, but cannabis also contains more than 400 other chemicals. Marijuana is a dry, shredded green and brown mix of stems, seeds, and leaves. Most marijuana users roll loose marijuana and smoke it like a cigarette (called a "joint") or smoke it in a pipe or a "bong". Other street names for marijuana may include, pot, ganja, Mary Jane, stick, joint, reefer, roach, doobie, just to name a few.

While scientists are not aware of all of the exact effects of marijuana, much research has established that marijuana interferes with memory and learning and is reported to impair judgment and reaction time. The wide array of side effects of marijuana use can range from mild to severe physical and emotional health problems. Common side effects of marijuana use can include anxiety, panic, paranoia, and feelings of impending doom. People who smoke marijuana regularly may develop a daily cough and are at a heightened risk of lung infections. The effects of chronic marijuana use can weaken the immune system and prevent it from fighting off colds, flu, and various other types of viruses. In women, chronic marijuana use can interfere with ovulation, menstrual cycle, and fertility; in men, the side effects of marijuana use may cause impotence. The loss of motivation is perhaps one of the most serious negative effects that is related to chronic marijuana use.

Contrary to popular belief, using marijuana is as dangerous as using any other illegal street drug. Marijuana use has been reported to affect many of the skills that are required for safe driving, including alertness, coordination, and reaction time; these effects have been reported to last up to 24 hours after using marijuana. People who smoke marijuana regularly may develop many of the same breathing problems that tobacco smokers have, including lung cancer. Most people are unaware that marijuana use often increases an individual's heart rate for up to 4 hours after its use, which can cause acute anxiety; it has been estimated that marijuana users have over 5 times the increased risk of a heart attack for up to a hour after smoking the drug.

The symptoms of marijuana use can include: dilated pupils, bloodshot eyes, sleepy appearance, reduced motivation, or smelling like marijuana. The behavioral signs of marijuana use can include increased appetite, use of eye drops, and difficulty in thinking, comprehending and remembering. The verbal signs of marijuana use may include slowed or slurred responses and difficulty in expressing themselves coherently. The emotional signs of marijuana use can include an elevated mood, giggling or being silly and a laid back attitude towards school or work.