Marijuana’s (Cannabis Sativa, Pot) known existence dates back to at least 500BC (history).

It’s public perception has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs over time. Beginning in the 1930’s, it was viewed as a drug that could cause serious harm. A common held belief was presented in a documentary called Reefer Madness.  This film, portrayed users of marijuana succumbing to acts of crime, delusional episodes, and suicide under the influence of marijuana. In the 60’s and 70’s, pot was a large part of the counterculture movement. In the 80’s public opinion changed. The government initiative, Just Say No, had a negative impact on its popularity. In the 90’s , with a decrease in government anti-drug funding, tougher sentencing, and popular media perception of marijuana influenced its popularity. Since 2002 there has been a “rise in marijuana use and decline in perception of its risk.”.  Today, there has been a significant discussion for legalization or decriminalization of marijuana. Many states have decriminalized marijuana and have approved it for medical use. It is important to note that there is a difference between approving marijuana for medical use versus recreational use. Approval for medical purposes does not necessarily mean it is permissible in that state to use recreationally.

Information and knowledge about marijuana has increased over time as more research has been devoted towards it, improved methods of data collection, scientific advancements, and our ability to get information out to the public.  Earlier studies that suggested  information about the harmful effects of marijuana that were not all scientifically sound (study).  Sample sizes for studies, reliability and accuracy of information gathered were factors that led to some inaccuracies. Another challenge that has made it difficult is advancements in the cultivation of marijuana has increased its potency.  In the early seventies, THC (chemical ingredient in marijuana that creates the euphoric feeling) levels ranged from 3% to 10%. Today’s levels have been tested as high as 30%. Ironically, Cannabidiol (CBD) levels in marijuana have decreased. CBD is one the chemicals in marijuana that has been connected to numerous health benefits(study) as well as helping in countering or balancing the psychoactive effects of THC (study). This makes identifying long term effects of marijuana more difficult to measure as the nature and makeup of pot is constantly changing.

Another challenge in testing for benefits/costs of marijuana is the method it is consumed.

Historically, marijuana was mostly smoked in a pipe or cigarette paper. Today, methods of ingestion include the above as well as: edibles, oils, vaporization, and pill form. Apparatus used to smoke marijuana have also been engineered over time to create more intense experiences in using.

Lastly, for the average reader, the sheer volume of research makes it difficult to gain an accurate assessment of the benefits and/or consequences of marijuana. Earlier government approaches to research led to some credibility issues regarding the concerns associated with use. Currently, there appears to a be a trend toward the opposite direction. Articles appear supporting benefits of marijuana but do not base it on sound scientific research. It can be labor-intensive in examining the validity and reliability of studies on both the pro and anti-marijuana sides of the argument.

This article presented information on understanding the evolution of society perspective on marijuana.Our next article will look at what current research is on the medical application of marijuana. We will examine what Medical Marijuana has been approved for and if there is scientific data to support the medical benefits.  Our last article in this three-part series will focus more on the consequences of marijuana use. It will also include a guide for parents in discussing marijuana use with their children.