The very fact that mainstream media outlets like The Week are asking the question means we’ve come a long way since the days of Reefer Madness, but needless to say their conclusion is predictable:
How does marijuana get users high?
When marijuana is smoked or eaten, a chemical called tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is absorbed into the bloodstream, activating proteins in the user’s brain and spinal cord. This produces short-term psychoactive effects, including euphoria, a heightened state of awareness, and a sharp appetite. It’s a high many Americans enjoy: One in three admits to having tried marijuana, and 5 million use it almost every day. Already allowed for medical use in 18 states, marijuana has just been legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington state. But even as pot moves toward mainstream acceptance, questions persist about its long-term effects on the mind and body. “We know surprisingly little about marijuana, given its widespread use,” said Jonathan P. Caulkins, a policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University.
Hasn’t pot always been considered harmful?
Not at all. Marijuana, the dried form of the plant Cannabis sativa, was used as an herbal remedy for centuries in China, the Middle East, and Asia. William O’Shaughnessy, a physician for the East India Tea Company, brought it west in the 1830s as a treatment for rheumatism, tetanus, and rabies. It was commonly prescribed as a pain reliever in the U.S. until the 1930s, when its growing popularity caused such concern that the newly founded Federal Bureau of Narcotics reclassified it as a narcotic…
[continues at The Week]