Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 17, 2023

The marijuana plant has been used both recreationally and medically for thousands of years. Initially, people didn’t use it to get high, but instead used cannabis for its medicinal properties. As the use of cannabis spread around the world and people started using it for the purposes of getting high, it started to get banned. 

In the United States, cannabis became an illegal drug as a result of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Under the act, cannabis was listed as a Schedule I drug with no medical use and a high potential for abuse. Therefore, cannabis was illegal under federal law, so both medical and recreational use of cannabis stopped.

That all changed in 1996 when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. Marijuana legalization gained traction even more as a result of the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized hemp production in the US which enabled growers to grow the hemp plant and produce CBD products with THC levels lower than 0.3%.

But where did the cannabis plant originate from? To get the answer to this question, keep on reading.  

The Origin of Cannabis

Marijuana, also known as ganja, cannabis, pot, weed, hashish, is a species of the Cannabaceae family of plants and has been around for ages. Research has shown that weed was consumed as early as 5000 years ago in the Middle East.

At first, cannabis grew on its own in the steppe regions in Central Asia where people used hemp fiber to make clothes, ropes, etc. (they also used the seeds as food). From there it spread all around the world, as people adopted cannabis cultivation and started using this versatile plant. (McPartland et al, 2019)

The Main Cannabinoids in the Cannabis Plant

The marijuana plant is a complex plant that contains cannabinoid compounds which affect the cannabinoid receptors in the body. However, the main cannabinoids that weed is known for are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC produces the psychoactive effects one experiences when consuming weed, while CBD has the anti-inflammatory and sedative effects on users.

The amount of THC found in weed varies from strain to strain, and in recent years, people are also cultivating strains that don’t contain any THC, (mainly used for medical marijuana patients and treating certain conditions).

Indica vs Sativa

There are two main types of cannabis from which all other cannabis strains and hybrids come from – Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica.

Cannabis Sativa comes from Eastern Asia and has been smoked in religious ceremonies, used as a source of industrial fiber, hemp oil, as medicine, and has had other uses throughout the years. Depending on the purpose of the use, different parts of the plant are harvested differently. Sativas produce “head high” effects and are known to increase creativity and focus, while also decreasing anxiety and stress.

Cannabis Indica originated from the Hindu Kush mountain range and its plant fibers have been used throughout history to make cloth, and it has also been taken recreationally and medicinally. Indicas give users a “body high” which promotes deep relaxation and sleepiness.

Recent research into these species has shown that they may have more in common than what was previously thought. (Watts G. (2006))

How Is Cannabis Used?

We all know that cannabis is primarily used recreationally due to its psychoactive effects, and medicinally due to its anti-inflammatory (and other medicinal) properties. But in case you didn’t know, almost all of the parts of the cannabis plant can be used to make various products like clothes and food, and even the weed trim which gets removed during the harvesting phase doesn’t go to waste

THC needs to be decarboxylated in order to have psychoactive effects on users, though not all of the components of cannabis are psychoactive. For example, the fiber of the cannabis plant (more precisely – the male cannabis plant) is used in textile manufacturing as industrial hemp.

Moreover, the cannabis flower has male and female plants and both are used differently. While the female plants create buds, the male plants pollinate the female ones in order to produce seeds, and they’re the ones that are most commonly used for producing textile.

Hemp Products and Cannabis Extracts

Today, cannabis is used in a number of ways, and no part of the plant goes to waste. The marijuana plant’s fibrous stalk is used to make ship ropes and sails, and also paper products. 

The dried leaves and flowers are used to make a whole variety of cannabis products like cannabis extracts, concentrates, hemp oil, THC pills, tinctures, and other products which can be smoked through a bong, rolled into a joint, consumed with a dab rig, or consumed in the form of edibles

Hashish and hash oil are also products of the cannabis plant that are made from the resin of the cannabis flower and are even more potent than marijuana.

Effects of Cannabis on Users

The effects of cannabis depend on the frequency of use, the dose, one’s BMI and overall health, as well as other drug use. Users may experience:

The effects of marijuana use will also differ from strain to strain. So, if weed is legal where you live, make sure that you ask your budtender at your local dispensary to give you further information on the strain you’re thinking of purchasing.

Medical Marijuana and the Effects of Marijuana on Medical Conditions

After the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, medical use of cannabis has been pretty common for conditions like chronic pain and epilepsy. The bill enabled the use of medical marijuana with THC levels lower than 0.3% on a federal level, meaning patients can get marijuana prescriptions for medical purposes. Medical marijuana can help patients who struggle with weight loss as it increases appetite; it can be used for treating inflammation, and also as an aid in treating other conditions. 

As of now, medical marijuana is legal in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, including states like New Jersey, Nevada, Colorado, New York, and others. People who need to use cannabis for medical purposes should have a medical marijuana card which will enable them to get their prescribed dose of cannabis.

Apart from the natural THC found in cannabis, scientists have created synthetic THC which can be found in Marinol and Syndros – pills approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for patients who suffer from nausea and loss of appetite as a result of chemotherapy.

Side Effects of Cannabis Use

Since marijuana has been listed as a gateway drug for opioids and other drugs, it can have long-term effects on users, especially the younger population. The use of marijuana can affect brain development in young adults and also influence one’s educational attainment and employment status.

Heavy marijuana smoking can increase the production of sputum, coughing, and other symptoms which can lead to chronic bronchitis and other respiratory diseases (it may also worsen coronavirus cases). Moreover, marijuana may even trigger conditions like schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.


Today, weed is considered to be one of the most commonly abused drugs in the United States according to a review published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (NIDA, 2020)

As a result of that, cannabis cultivation is at an all-time high with growers cultivating the cannabis plant for both personal and commercial use. Each grower has different CBD and THC content in their cannabis strain, which provides users with a huge online supply to choose from.

Additional Sources

McPartland, J.M., Hegman, W. & Long, T. Cannabis in Asia: its center of origin and early cultivation, based on a synthesis of subfossil pollen and archaeobotanical studies. Veget Hist Archaeobot 28, 691–702 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00334-019-00731-8

Watts G. (2006). Cannabis confusions. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 332(7534), 175–176. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7534.175

NIDA. 2020, April 8. What is the scope of marijuana use in the United States?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states on 2021, February 8

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


The information presented on this page is provided as a public service to aid in education and is derived from sources believed to be reliable. Readers are responsible for making their own assessment of the topics discussed here. In no event shall Leaf Nation be held reliable for any injury, loss or damage that could happen if using or abusing drugs.