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Introduction

Cannabis sativa
Common hemp

Cannabis (/ˈkænəbɪs/) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. The number of species within the genus is disputed. Three species may be recognized: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis; C. ruderalis may be included within C. sativa; all three may be treated as subspecies of a single species, C. sativa; or C. sativa may be accepted as a single undivided species. The genus is widely accepted as being indigenous to and originating from Central Asia, with some researchers also including upper South Asia in its origin.

The plant is also known as hemp, although this term is often used to refer only to varieties of Cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. Cannabis has long been used for hemp fibre, hemp seeds and their oils, hemp leaves for use as vegetables and as juice, medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some cannabis strains have been bred to produce minimal levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent. Some strains have been selectively bred to produce a maximum of THC (a cannabinoid), the strength of which is enhanced by curing the flowers. Various compounds, including hashish and hash oil, are extracted from the plant.

Globally, in 2013, 60,400 kilograms of cannabis was produced legally. In 2014 there were an estimated 182.5 million cannabis users (3.8% of the population aged 15–64). This percentage did not change significantly between 1998 and 2014.

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Mary Jane Rathbun(December 22, 1922 – April 10, 1999), popularly known as Brownie Mary, was an American medical cannabis activist. As a hospital volunteer at San Francisco General Hospital, she became known for illegally baking and distributing cannabis brownies to AIDS patients. Along with activist Dennis Peron, Rathbun lobbied for the legalization of cannabis for medical use, and she helped pass San Francisco Proposition P (1991) and California Proposition 215 (1996) to achieve those goals. She also contributed to the establishment of the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, the first medical cannabis dispensary in the United States. Rathbun was arrested on three occasions, with each arrest bringing increased local, national, and international media attention to the medical cannabis movement. Her grandmotherly appearance generated public sympathy for her cause and undermined attempts by the district attorney's office to prosecute her for possession. The City of San Francisco eventually gave Rathbun permission to distribute cannabis brownies to people with AIDS. Her arrests generated interest in the medical community and motivated researchers to propose one of the first clinical trials to study the effects of cannabinoids in HIV-infected adults.

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Then legal hashish-shop in Kathmandu (Nepal) on 27 Jun 1973
Credit: Roger McLassus

Hashish (often shortened to hash, and also referred to by countless slang terms such as chocolate) is a psychoactive drug derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. It is solid, of varying hardness and pliability, softening under heat. Its colour can vary from reddish brown to black, and can also be greenish or golden. It is usually smoked in pipes, and sometimes in joints mixed with tobacco or Cannabis buds. It can also be added to cookies or other food and ingested. Hash is used for its relaxing and mind-altering effects. Many people have claimed that using it gives them great insights.

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Carl Sagan

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Cannabis in the news

4 April 2019 – Cannabis in Guam
Governor Lou Leon Guerrero signs a bill into law, legalizing the recreational use of cannabis. (The Hill)

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