cover bar Title: Marijuana: Stuff You Might Not Know You Don't Know
Author: Jennifer James
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: February 2011
Catalog Number: 151

..This just in...

Sometimes, all the talk about marijuana can start to sound like old news, or seem like a television rerun. And it's easy to think that you've heard it all before.

That's where we come in. Because this pamphlet isn't a rerun. It's more like a "This just in" bulletin or a special report on one of the channels we usually channel-surf past on cable, or a really high-number UHF station on regular TV.

Call us THC-TV. Or the Mystery Channel.

Because it does take a lot of detective work to sort out the facts and the fictions about pot today. And it is a real mystery why so few people even bother to try.

In this program -- er, pamphlet -- we'll look closely at the latest facts about marijuana, and consider what those facts could mean for you.

Then, when we're finished, you'll be better able to make up your own mind about marijuana, and have a better idea what to do about it in your life. Because, like it or not, you will have to do something about it -- one way or another, sooner or later, if you haven't had to choose already.

Sound fair? Cool.

So stick around. We'll be right back after these words...

..Meet Marijuana

Over the years, marijuana has made quite a name for itself -- several of them, in fact.

It's been called everything from "killer weed" to plain old "weed," "pot," "grass," "bud," and "reefer."

Still, no matter what you call it, all the names and nicknames refer to the same thing: the flowering tops and leaves of a plant known scientifically as cannabis.

It grows naturally all over the world (except places like Death Valley and the North Pole), and it's been used for centuries to make everything from bird seed to rope.

But that's not the reason it's so well-known.

The reason that marijuana is so talked-about today (and the reason we're talking about it at all) is because it contains a mind-altering drug known as tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

In fact, marijuana plants are like little green factories that churn out THC all day, every day.

And if they didn't, nothing else would. Because THC is produced in only one place in all of nature: in the flowers and leaves of cannabis.

Still, just because THC is the chemical that causes most of the drug effects of marijuana, that doesn't mean it's the only one. In fact, marijuana smoke is made up of at least 420 different chemicals.

Even scientists who study it full-time aren't sure of all the ways all those chemicals affect the mind and body. Still, they keep at it, anyway.

In the process, they've blown away a lot of the myths (and the smoke) that's swirled around marijuana for centuries.

And now that things are finally starting to clear, we're ready to move in for a closer look -- after this break.

Just don't touch that dial! (Or even this remote!)

..Tricks & THC

If you want to imagine THC in action, you have to start by thinking small.

That's the way it is, anyway, when it enters the body as tiny particles in marijuana smoke, mixing with oxygen in the lungs, where tiny blood vessels (called capillaries) pull it into the bloodstream.

From there, THC gets shuttled to more places than a Salesman-of-the-Year with frequent-flyer miles -- moving to every part of the body, doing different things in different places.

In the brain, THC hooks up with some of the electrochemical circuits that direct the way we think and feel.

Some people like these changes, but others -- especially inexperienced users and older people -- sometimes find being stoned confusing or scary.

Why? No one knows for sure. It probably has a lot to do with how fast THC goes to work and how different people experience and interpret all the effects it produces in all of the body systems it works on.

Still, there are universal effects, things that happen to everyone who smokes marijuana.

One effect that seems to hit everyone equally is a distorted sense of time perception.Things that ordinarily seem to pass by in a couple of minutes may seem to take hours.That may be one of the reasons why pot smokers sometimes find it hard to concentrate.

Memory is also affected, which means that doing even simple things, like following instructions (or the plot of a "Gilligan's Island" rerun on good old THC-TV), can start to seem awfully complicated.

And if remembering simple things gets complicated, just imagine how hard it gets remembering seriously complex stuff -- like the answers to the exam or quiz you thought you studied for the night before.

No big deal, though, of course -- not to the serious stoner, caught up in the throws of true, pot-assisted pretzel logic.

Because, hey -- you know, even if you fail all your exams this year, you can still take them all over again next year.

True? True?

Hey, you gonna eat those chips?

..Pot Luck

As it trucks around the bloodstream, THC does more than play tricks on the brain. It puts the body through a lot of changes, too -- and they may last a lot longer than you might think.

That's because some of the chemicals in pot stay inside the body and brain long after drug effects wear off. In fact, some hang around for weeks after use.

Nobody's sure how big a deal that is, but we do know that some measurable problems have been noted in physical and mental skills as long as 24 hours after smoking.

Still, a lot is known about some immediate effects in the body, including increases in both heart rate and breathing.

And although these changes don't seem particularly risky for healthy people, they can be a bigger problem for those with heart or lung disease.

There may be even more problems in other parts of the body -- the immune system, for example. Problems here could make it tougher to fight off colds and infections.

There are also changes in body chemicals called hormones, which direct how fast and how much your body changes and develops as you grow up.

And the latest news from the lungs seems even worse.

In fact, marijuana seems just as harmful to the lungs as tobacco. And for people who smoke pot and cigarettes, the chances of getting cancer later in life are higher, still.

Why did you think they called it getting high, anyway?

..Sign Off

In spite of all the new facts we've bumped up against in preparing this report, one old fact about marijuana hasn't changed much, at all: It's still against the law in most places -- especially at school.

When you add that to its other risks, you may just come to the same conclusion that millions of other people have come to: that pot's more of a risk than it's worth.

And while we still don't know everything there is to know about it (Heck, we don't know everything about air or water, for that matter), we know enough to safely say that a lot of people -- including kids, pregnant women, and people with emotional problems -- are better off as far away from it as possible.

That's the word from our sponsor that we promised a while back. Because the fact is you really do only have one body -- and the healthier you keep it, the better it'll take care of you and the happier you'll be.

And when you stop and think about it, isn't happiness what it's all supposed to be about in the first place?

This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation.
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