The buzz surrounding marijuana has become more of a roar since the U.S. state of Colorado legalised the drug earlier this year. Marijuana, a drug already deeply ingrained in modern culture, has seen its popularity rise like never before. No longer simply the lifeblood of 60's hippies and Rastafarians, or a subject for Kid Cudi to rap about incessantly, marijuana usage is now incredibly common, despite it's varying legality.
Opinion regarding the legalisation of marijuana, for medical or recreational use, is fiercely divided. Despite the rallying of those who oppose marijuana usage it's undeniable that many countries, particularly the United States, are slowly accepting the cultivation and usage of this plant. Last December, Uruguay made headlines when the country's president José “Pepe” Mujica completely legalised the cultivation, sale and usage of marijuana - the production and sale of the product will be completely government-controlled within Uruguay. The actions of the president were praised by many agencies, such as Dutch NGO The Drugs Peace Institute, who stated that his actions are a "symbol of a hand outstretched, of a new era in a divided world." His decision to legalise marijuana was so influential that Mujica has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Mujica is certainly brave, but he seems to have confidence in his decision recently stating that "the path of repression doesn’t work" in a recent interview.
Whatever stance we choose to take, it's undeniable that marijuana has pros and cons. It is certainly a subject on which opinion will always be divided. If you're still unsure about your position on the legalisation of the drug, or if you're just interested in learning a bit more about the little plant that's forever shrouded with controversy, you'll be intrigued by these 10 Shocking Facts about Marijuana.
10 It Reduces Suicide Rates
After the introduction of medical marijuana, a study was done in Denver in order to analyse whether or not suicide rates had been affected as a result. And they had been, quite significantly. The study showed that overall, the introduction of medical marijuana correlated with a 5% reduction in suicides. The reduction was highest amongst young males aged 20-29: this category showed a staggering reduction of over 11%. One of the researchers who carried out the study equates this massive reduction with the fact that many young men had begun to smoke marijuana instead of drinking alcohol on a regular basis.
9 Marijuana Still Grows Wild
The marijuana plant is heavily controlled these days, with the majority of marijuana plants growing in large plantations. However, there are many areas around the world where wild marijuana still grows without human intervention. Anyone who goes exploring through Northern India, Nepal, Southern China or the Himalayas is likely to stumble across a naturally occurring marijuana field. Marijuana also grows wild in Siberia and Russia. In order to produce a potent substance, though, the plant must be cultivated extremely carefully so plantations are found worldwide, despite the fact that the plant is only indigenous to certain regions. Afghanistan produces the most marijuana of any country on earth.
8 Hemp is a Hero
Any health food store worth it's salt will stock hemp-based products. Hemp - the cannabis plant - comes in a range of forms, such as hemp seeds, hemp flour, hemp cereals and hemp milk. All of these products are incredibly good for you. Hemp is extremely high in protein, and thus it is used in the production of special diet foods such as meat-free burgers and tofu. Many vegetarians and vegans choose hemp milk over soy milk as the production of hemp is more economical and environmentally sustainable. As hemp is 100% non-toxic, it can also be used to make other items such as clothing, rope, fuel, paper and ethanol. It isn't just vegans and vegetarians that should be concerned about how eco-friendly hemp is - one acre of hemp produces the same amount of paper as over four acres of trees.
7 Marijuana Goes By MANY Names
You obviously know that marijuana has more than one nickname, but are you actually aware of how many there are? In fact, there are over 2,000 recorded names for marijuana in the United States alone! Cannabis, weed, pot, ganja, green, smoke and spliff are amongst the most common. Some less common names include salad, magic dragon, joy stick, butter flower and babysitter. Different names have colloquially evolved, or have been chosen by growers or dealers to name a new strain of the plant.
6 Legal Loopholes
Laws regarding the possession and usage of marijuana are quite varied, but many legal loopholes exist. For example, in Oregon, it is completely illegal to buy or sell marijuana. However, you are legally allowed to smoke marijuana in your own home. While the state of Colorado has legalised recreational use of marijuana, those travelling to the state are not permitted to use marijuana in hotels, which has bothered many visitors to the area.
5 Robert Randall: The Medical Marijuana Trailblazer
The momentum behind the legalisation of medical marijuana is growing steadily. As of this month, 15 more US states are pending the legalisation of medical marijuana, with New York and Florida amongst them. The first ever legalisation of medical marijuana, however, was thanks to Robert Randall. Randall took the US Food and Drug Administration to court back in 1976 after being charged with marijuana cultivation. Randall had glaucoma, and battled the courts with the Common Law doctrine of necessity. Randall managed to win the case, and became the first person in the history of the United States to be supplied with marijuana from the government.
4 Possession Penalties Vary Enormously Worldwide
Around the world, as with so many issues, laws concerning marijuana use and possession vary from one extreme to the other - but not always in the way you'd expect. In the militarised state of North Korea, for example, marijuana use is completely legal. Moreover, use of marijuana is not even classified as drug use. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Southeast Asia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. In these parts of the world, drug laws are extremely tough, and quite often severe penalties are handed out to those caught with marijuana. In Malaysia, if you are found with more than 200 grams of marijuana, you will be automatically sentenced to death. While it certainly makes the situation in the United States seem much more tame, it is important to remember that 800,000 marijuana-related arrests are made in the US every year.
3 Marijuana Causes Brain Cell Growth...
After many years of researchers stating that marijuana causes brain cells to be destroyed, recent research may actually suggest the opposite. It has been suggested that marijuana use can trigger neurogenesis: the growth of brain cells. Neurogenesis is most active when the human foetus is growing during pregnancy. Studies have shown that marijuana use can trigger neurogenesis in the hippocampus region of the human brain, which controls elements of our moods and our memory. Studies have also shown that marijuana use can be a great aid to people who suffer from bi-polar disorder, as it helps with mental functions as well as anxiety issues.
2 ...But Long Term Effects Are Still Unverified
However, it is important to understand that despite the positive results of many studies, the long term effects of marijuana usage are still indefinite. Marijuana usage worldwide is extremely common but its legality is not, so accurate, global studies of the effects of marijuana usage are all fairly recent. Indeed, long-term research projects are impeded by the laws in certain countries, as well as by the fact that funding for such projects is not readily available. Therefore, the studies which have suggested the negative effects of marijuana usage shouldn't be discounted. Such studies suggest that heavy usage could result in a decreased sperm count, depression, paranoia and schizophrenia.
1 Legal Marijuana Would Make Governments Rich
The irrefutable fact remains that the marijuana industry is extremely lucrative. According to the Cato Institute, the legalised sale of marijuana in North America alone would create nearly $9 billion in federal and state tax revenues annually! This remains the primary argument for those who lobby for the legalisation of marijuana. The proposition to legalise marijuana is not concerned with making it more available, as the drug is already readily accessible; the movement seeks to remove penalties for use and to eliminate the 'black market' element. According to Norml.org, marijuana is already the third most popular recreational drug in the United States after tobacco and alcohol. In 2013, the Pew Research Centre reported that over 50% of Americans support the proposed legalisation of marijuana. As well as this, 42% of Americans have tried marijuana at least once. With such definitive popularity, the legalisation of the marijuana industry would be a lucrative move.