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What are the signs and symptoms of Marijuana abuse?

Cannabis Sativa contains the psychoactive drug THC (delta, 9, Tetrahydrocannabinol). Cannabis Sativa grows in almost any climate. The bud is the most abundant source of THC in the plant, although the leaves, stems, and seeds all contain varying amounts of THC. Wild cannabis is typically .5 to 2% THC content. Some cultivated varieties contain up to 18% THC. There are anecdotal reports of up to 28% THC strains of cannabis. 

What is marijuana?

Cannabis is a leafy green plant, with serrated leaflets. The leaflets have prominent veins on the underside. It can grow anywhere from a few inches to over six feet high. When dried, the color may be a duller green, or brown, or it may retain its bright green color. This will depend on the variety. The dried cannabis may be all bud, in the case of high grade cannabis, or may be dull brown, with stems and seeds mixed in if it is lower grade and poor quality. The dried cannabis may be smoked in a metal or glass pipe commonly referred to as a bowl, or rolled in a cigarette paper, or a cigar wrapper, in which case it is referred to as a joint or blunt respectively. Small thin joints are referred to as skinny’s, while large, thick joints are referred to as fatty’s.  Smoked cannabis has a distinctive sweet, burnt smell. 

How marijuana is used?

The method of administration of THC is typically either PO, (oral) or inhalation, smoked in a joint, blunt, pipe, or through a water filter pipe called a Bong. THC is taken orally in the form of Hash brownies, Hash chocolate chip cookies and a variety of cannabis edibles, such as gummy candies. Majoun, which are Moroccan hash balls (Ground nuts, dried fruit, spices and hash) are another form of edible. Residue (resin) which builds up inside pipes contains THC. Cannabis users typically smoke residue when Cannabis is unavailable.

What are the effects of THC on a user?

  • Relaxation and silliness
  • Perceptual distortion
  • Time dilation
  • Over-focus on irrelevancies
  • Hunger
  • Ocular vasodilation (reddening of the eyes as blood vessels become engorged)
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartrate). 
  • In some individuals, panic and paranoia

Short-term and long-term risks of using marijuana

The toxicity of THC is apparently negligible or absent. One could not OD on THC from smoking, as an attempt to smoke a huge volume of cannabis would result in hypoxia and smoke inhalation. There are no apparent ill effects from consumption of large quantities of oral THC in adults. The first reported case of an overdose of THC was sadly reported when an infant consumed their parent’s THC oil. Otherwise, the most dangerous aspect of THC use is the method of administration; smoking. 

The long term effects of regular THC use include:

  • Apathy
  • Indifference
  • Amotivation
  • Anergia
  • Memory impairment
  • Learning impairment
  • Smoker’s cough
  • Increased incidence of bacterial upper-respiratory infections
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) 
  • Emphysema

THC does produce a characteristic withdrawal syndrome, marked by: 

  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced appetite

Conclusion

While it could be argued THC is one of the most benign chemical substances abused, and has become not only increasingly culturally acceptable throughout the US, but also decriminalized in many jurisdictions, the long term use is not without risk.