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Article Summary

Marijuana- What Is It Made Of?

Marijuana comes from two plants that are so closely related they are probably the same species. The plants are Cannabis sativa (marijuana/hemp), and Cannabis indica, a bushier variety grown simply for its psychoactive (brain-altering) qualities. Cannabis produces male and female plants, and both of them contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the main mind-altering chemical in marijuana. Female plants, especially those that are not allowed to pollinate, or fertilize another plant, contain the highest concentrations of THC.


Marijuana smoke contains sixty-one different chemical compounds, called CANNABINOIDS, ?that are unique to the plant. Scientists are not sure exactly how these compounds interact with THC to produce the effects associated with a marijuana high. They do know that the most important mind-altering compound in cannabis is THC.

The cannabinoid compounds in marijuana can be found throughout the plant—in the leaves and stems, for instance. But the strongest concentrations of THC and other cannabinoids are found in the buds and flowering tops of the female plants. The time of harvest determines the amount of THC in the buds. Female plants that are kept away from male plants will not pollinate and produce seeds. Instead they keep producing flowers that contain a powerful resin—the plant's signal that it wants to pollinate. These resinous buds are the strongest form of marijuana, called SINSEMILLA (the Spanish term for "without seeds").

Purchased on the street, marijuana and sinsemilla are green or brown buds, leaves, or stems. The leaves and stems do not contain the concentrations of THC found in the buds and flowers, but people smoke them to get high.


Hashish is another product of the cannabis plant. It consists of the dried resin from the flower buds and is also very high in THC content. The resin is gathered by hand from the cannabis buds and rolled into gummy balls. Once a quantity of the balls has been collected, they are pressed together into larger cakes or sheets that resemble dark-colored dough. A highly powerful product, hash oil, is produced by boiling hashish or marijuana in a liquid that absorbs THC, such as alcohol, gasoline, or kerosene. The remaining plant material is filtered out, leaving behind thick oil. The color varies from clear to black, with yellows and browns in between. Hash oil contains the highest concentrations of THC. Just a drop or two on an ordinary tobacco cigarette will have an effect similar to smoking a whole dose of marijuana.

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