Cannabis, Hashish and Marijuana: the use of Cannabis and its derivatives as narcotic substances has very ancient origins and is dominated by the Middle Eastern peoples where they were used mainly for therapeutic purposes or for religious practices.


This article contains information that can generate situations of danger and harm as it deals with hallucinogenic substances. The data present are for informational purposes only, not exhortative and in no case medical.

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There are two ways they can take hashish and marijuana:

  1. by inhalation, i.e. by smoking in the form of manually rolled cigarettes (joint) or in special pipes (chillums);
  2. ingested.

In the first case, the effects are more immediate and occur a few minutes after inhalation, reaching their peak after about ten minutes and then disappearing completely within two to three hours. In case it is ingested mixed with food, the effects manifest themselves after 45-120 minutes and have a longer duration.


There Cannabis contains about 460 chemical compounds of which 60 are cannabinoids, compounds of the class of terpenoids (very different from the chemical compounds called alkaloids that we find in coca or opium as they do not contain nitrogen and are obtained from addition reactions between phenols and terpenes, becoming molecular molecules characterized by low solubility in water) which are nonpolar molecules and in the fresh plant they are weakly acid while with drying, aging and heating they are converted into neutral substances, much more active.

Cannabinoids are mainly concentrated in the resin that is produced by glandular hairs (trichomes) which are mostly located in the calyxes of female flowers and in the surrounding leaves.

From the plant these substances are produced continuously as they are replaced as they sidegrade until their production ends because the plant has reached maturity. This is noticeable as the clear and transparent / amber resin becomes opaque, brown or white in color.

The most important cannabinoids are:

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), main responsible of the psychoactive properties, mainly contained in the resin that covers the female inflorescences.

CBD, which is a non-psychoactive cannabidiol capable of modulating the action of THC in the brain, prolonging its duration of action and limiting its side effects. Returns a more sedating effect as an anticonvulsant and analgesic.

CBN is a cannabinol

CBG cannabigerol

Cannabinoids manifest their action through two receptors present in the human body: the CB1 and the CB2. In particular, the stimulation of CB1 (located in various areas of the brain) explains most of the pharmacological effects. CB2 receptors are peripheral with an uncertain role.

Cannabinoids can be chemically synthesized and used for clinical therapeutic purposes.

The concentration of THC is different depending on the final product that is obtained

  1. HASHISH, its concentration can fluctuate between 2 and 10%;
  2. MARIJUANA, varies from 0.5 to 7%, depending on the species even if they are appearing on the market for varieties such as Super skunk (variety of C. indicates derived from crosses between the variety Skunkand Afghan varieties) with a THC amount that can vary from 8 to 15%;
  3. HASHISH OIL 10 to 30% and sometimes even more.

In the plant, cannabinoids are synthesized as inactive substances which, however, are transformed quickly with heating and combustion into cannabinols (including THC). That is why the active ingredients of the C. sativa are three times more potent if the drug is smoked rather than ingested.

The concentration of the active ingredient increases with the altitude of the cultivation areas and the more the climate is dry and dry, the greater the concentration of active ingredients.


Cannabinoids have been synthesized by the pharmaceutical industry in the laboratory and several have been registered and are marketed for therapeutic use in different countries.

However, it has been observed that the synthetic products obtained are less effective than natural products. It is thought that this is due to the fact that natural THC does not act alone but in synergy with the other cannabinoids that modulate its effect (absent in synthetic preparations).


The final effect of marijuana and hashish is given by the combination and interaction of all the substances that make up the resin.

At the metabolic level

When smoked, the symptoms are reached after about 15-20 minutes (the THC level in the blood reaches its peak after the total period) and reaches its maximum level in about 15-30 minutes. Thereafter the period of euphoria slowly subsides over a period of 3-4 hours.

When ingested with food, the effects are slowed as there is less THC absorption.

After this time, THC is almost completely metabolized into an active product (11 - hydroxy - delta - 9 - THC) which is converted into an inactive metabolite and then eliminated from the body. The times of total elimination from the organism of inactive THC derivatives are variable as its metabolism is very slow. There are those who claim that it also takes a month for the total elimination while others claim about 4-7 days.

Regardless of the time taken for its elimination this fact is important because it explains why those who take this drug regularly perceive its effect much more quickly with a smaller amount than those who use it occasionally. In fact, THC is fat-soluble, that is to say that it is fat-soluble so that during its absorption by the body, it is deposited in adipose tissues. As a result, THC is released slowly, which only decreases the level of THC in the blood in the long term, also allowing it to be detected in the blood for a long period of time.

The same goes for the metabolites of THC that are found in the urine for weeks in consumers who use it regularly, even if they have been consuming more for some time.

On a physical level

The effects are mood and perception alteration but varying from person to person.

The immediate effects of the use of derivatives of Cannabis are tachycardia, vasodilation, irritation of the conjunctiva of the eyes with the classic "red eyes", wandering attitude, increased salivation, increased appetite especially towards high sugar content cibiad, loss of balance, hypersensitivity to light and music, ache head and cough. From the testimonies it is denoted that people, from a psychic point of view, have an altered perception of time, euphoria, a pleasant feeling of well-being where phases of joy alternate with phases of meditative silence, greater sociability, relaxation, greater sensory perception, greater creativity.

Obviously the effects can be different from person to person depending on their individuality and mood, depending on whether it is smoked or ingested, the intensity of the aspiration and the conditions of consumption. In fact, there are people who testify that it has caused depression, irritability, confusion, fear, anxiety in them.

In the case of a prolonged intake, alterations in the sleep cycle, bronchitis, persecution mania, anxiety, confusion, conjunctivitis as well as mood instability, passivity, apathy, memory problems occur. In any case they are manifestations that vary from subject to subject.

From a strictly physical point of view, the use of derivatives produces alterations in the immune and respiratory systems, in cellular metabolism and in blood circulation.

Difference between Cannabis for agro-industrial use and for use as a drug or medicine

Normally, it is considered as a plant for agro-industrial use, therefore for the production of fiber the one that has a THC content of less than 0.3%.


We do not enter into whether the use of this drug is / is not ethical, social or political. We simply want to point out how, since ancient times, it has been used as a medicine so that in recent years, in almost all countries of the world, research in this sense is very active.

There is no doubt now that this plant has beneficial effects in relation to pain control, in particular against neuropathic and spastic pain, in tumor pain and for the painful symptoms in multiple sclerosis (spasticity, bladder symptoms, quality of sleep).

It now seems established that it acts positively with regard to: nausea and vomiting, anorexia and cachexia, spasticity, painful conditions (in particular neurogenic pain), movement disorders, asthma and glaucoma


In most countries of the world the use of Cannabis is considered illegal.Here is the list of legislative status in some countries of the world:

Argentina: totally illegal and it cannot even be talked about impartially

Australia: illegal

Belgium: illegal even though the Belgian government has started a research program aimed at establishing the medical efficacy of marijuana

Brazil: illegal. The law punishes with arrest the possession of even small quantities as well as consumption in public places.

Cameroon: illegal to grow while it can be used as a pain reliever for those suffering from cancer or AIDS

Canada: illegal, legal for therapeutic use

China: both personal use and possession of even small quantities are illegal. It seems that possession of more than 50 g can lead to the death penalty.

Egypt: legal. It is very easy to find it in big cities especially in Cairo and Alexandria and in the rural areas, especially in the Nile Delta.

France: illegal. For the consumer, penalties of up to one year in prison are envisaged, but the Ministry of Justice (to which the magistrates of the public prosecutor are subordinate) recommends not to initiate criminal proceedings against occasional consumers.

Finland: Possession and consumption are considered illegal

Germany: legal use, possession of small quantities (up to 10 mg) not prosecuted

Jamaica: illegal even if in fact it is socially accepted

Japan: All THC-containing preparations have been banned since 1948, following a law introduced by the US Occupation Forces at the end of World War II.

Honduras: It is considered illegal to own and consume it

Israel: illegal, medical use is authorized only by the ministry of health which evaluates each individual case.

Kenya: illegal

India: In almost all regions, consumption is legal.

Italy: included in the same heroin and cocaine tables. The legislation currently in force (Decree Fini-Giovanardidel 2006) establishes quantitative limits of the active ingredient contained within which it incurs administrative sanctions (suspension of the driving license, of the valid identity document for expatriation, of the firearms license or of the permit). of stay for reasons of tourism, or prohibition of obtaining such authorizations) and beyond which the crime of drug dealing is prefigured. Crime punished with 1-6 years of imprisonment for small quantities and 6-20 years of imprisonment in the case of large quantities or cultivation. However, a sentence of the Supreme Court of 18 January 2007 had established that "it was not a criminal offense to grow some marijuana plants in the garden because this is equivalent to detention for personal use". On the other hand, a sentence of 10 January 2008 was of the opposite opinion, in which the Criminal Section found cultivation in any case a criminal offense. The therapeutic use of medicinal preparations based on marijuana duly prescribed according to treatment needs is allowed.

Luxembourg: legal possession and use for medical purposes, provided that the consumer is an adult and does not involve minors

Mexico: it is considered illegal and the dissemination of information on how to use it is also prohibited

New Zealand: illegal (the health ministry has stated that a medical use is not to be excluded, but further studies and a method for proper regulation are needed)

Netherlands: Legal

Portugal: legal possession since 2001 while the sale is a crime

United Kingdom: illegal (in 1998 the House of Lords recommended that it be made available for medical use by prescription. After some clinical tests, the government did not accept the recommendation). Recently, domestic personal use has been decriminalized

Spain: legal in authorized places

United States: illegal use at federal level for any reason, however 11 states and the District of Columbia have approved regulations providing for exemption from the prohibition for medical use

Switzerland: illegal possession and cultivation (legalization experiments have been conducted in some cantons)



According to the estimates of the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) in the "2008 Annual Report: Evolution of the Drug Phenomenon in Europe"there Cannabis it is the most consumed drug in Europe followed by amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine. The UN also states “marijuana has changed. There are genetically enhanced varieties on the market that are very dangerous for mental health ", the so-called" skunk "(which would be 75% C. sativa and 25% C. indica and which was among the first to reconcile the high THC rate of C. sativas and the rapid growth cycle and yield of C. indicas), with a THC amount that can vary from 8 to 15%.

Twelve million Europeans between the ages of 15 and 64 have used cocaine at least once in their lives, about 11 million amphetamines and 9.5 million ecstasy while the consumption ofCannabis is around 71 million people between the ages of 15-64, i.e. 22% of the population (the total European population of this age group is 328 million) of which 42 million aged between 15-34 years, i.e. say 31% of the population (the total European population of this age group is 134 million) with maximum levels in the 15-24 age group. It was also observed that consumption is higher in men than in women.

Despite the variations between country and country, between 20 and 40% have tried it at least once. Furthermore, still among young people, 13% consumed Cannabis over the last twelve months, while 7% have used it in the last month. As regards consumption among adults, it is noted that over the last twelve months Italy ranks at the top of the list with 11.2% together with Spain, followed by the Czech Republic (9.3%) and Great Britain. (8.7%). Italy is also at the top of the ranking of use in the last month. The highest percentages were in fact recorded in Spain (8.7%), Italy (5.8%) and Great Britain (5.2%).

Consumption in the nineties and at the beginning of the new millennium increased, albeit with differences between the different European countries and at the same time, however, the demand for health treatment for problems connected with its use also increased, which suggests that a new phase is underway even if consumption remains high.

However, the estimates made indicate that in some countries overall consumption is stabilizing or even decreasing, this figure must also be considered from a global perspective, with considerable variations between country and country (increasing or decreasing) and in each case it is a statement that must be taken with great caution as consumption is always high.

The resin in many countries of the European Union is the historically dominant product and the main consumers worldwide are the European countries. Despite this, an increase in the production of clandestine leaves has been highlighted, partly for personal use and partly for commercial purposes.


It is difficult to estimate the total production of Cannabis in consideration of the fact that as a plant, it grows spontaneously in many countries and it is thought that it is present in approximately 172 countries of the world.

In any case, according to the latest UNODC statistics, world production of leaves would be around 41,600 tons in 2006, more than half produced in America (North and Latin) and almost a quarter in Africa. Local productions must be added to these productions (and official sources in this regard say that they are no longer to be considered a marginal figure) and the entry of new countries such as the Low Countries and Albania.

In 2006, world resin production was estimated at around 6000t (7500t in 2004), with Morocco being the first producer in the world. Other countries that appear to be large producers are Pakistan, India, Nepal. In Europe, the resin produced in Morocco essentially arrives and is smuggled into Europe via the Iberian Peninsula, while a part is distributed by the Netherlands.

An interesting fact highlighted is that both local production is increasing as small-scale crops for personal use are increasing which are beyond control and the online sales of the so-called "legal high", even if this seems more focused on Salvia divinorum, on the kratom(Mitragyna speciosa), onArgyreia nervosa (known as rosahawaiana), on hallucinogenic mushrooms and on a wide range of "party drugs" proposed as an alternative to ecstasy (MDMA).

This trend towards self-production seems to be dictated by the fact that a decrease in quality has been observed, especially in the imported resin and therefore, in response, consumers have provided for the "do it yourself" made even easier both by greater technological knowledge and by the diffusion of all information possible through the web (in this regard it is interesting to read the study by Hough, M., Warburton, H., Few, B., et al. 2003, A growing market: the domestic cultivation of cannabis, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York) .

It should be noted that the drug problem in general is particularly felt by the United Nations who have been addressing the problem globally for years. In New York in 1998 (in the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on the world drug problem -Ungass-) goals were (have) been set for achieving a significant and measurable reduction in the supply and demand of illicit drugs in the ten years after 1998. In the meeting held in March 2008 to take stock of the situation, it was realized, however, that the results obtained worldwide were quite disappointing, therefore a Commission was set up to review the world policies of the fight against drugs and whose results will be presented in Vienna in March 2009 for further decisions.


The origin of the word hashishit is quite controversial: some argue that it derives from hashashinof Syria, an Ismaili sect of criminals, active between the eighth and fourteenth centuries in the Middle East, especially in Persia and Syria, headed by Hasan-i-Sabbac(Also known as the old man of the mountain) who massacred people.When any of them were captured, the serenity with which they let themselves be killed hence the nickname of hashashin "Grass eaters" (as it was thought to make extensive use of them) from which the term "assassins" was born.

It is not known for sure where the term comes frommarijuana. Some argue that it derives from Mexican words Marías y Juanas"because the curators (las curanderas or yerberas) used the plants as a medicine. Others believe it would derive from the Portuguese word marigu-ano which means "intoxicating." Others think the word marijuan derives from the word of the Nahuatl people marijuana, formed by wordsmallin "Prisoner" e hua "Ownership" e ana «To choose, to take, to grasp» for which the word «malihuana» was used to indicate the plant that «took possession of the person». The Americans say instead that the word marijuana I scribbled names Marj and Jane which then became marijuana. Other scholars argue that it could derive from Maria (the Mother of Jesus) and from John (Jesus' favorite apostle).

In Count of Montecristo (Volume I, Chap. 31) by Alexandre Dumas father, it is said, speaking of hashish «It seemed that the body acquired a lightness outside the material, the spirit was illuminated in an unprecedented way; the senses seemed to double their faculties. The horizon widened, but not the gloomy horizon on which a vague terror hovers, as he had observed it before sleep, but a blue, transparent, vast horizon with all that the sea has of beauty, that the sun has rays, that the breeze has perfume: therefore, in the midst of the song of its sailors, a song so limpid and clear, that it would have made a celestial harmony if it had been possible, he saw the island of Montecristo appear no longer as a threatening rock on the waves , but like a lost oasis in the desert; then as the boat approached, the songs became more numerous, as an enchanting and mysterious harmony salivated this island to the sky, as if some fairy like Lorelay, or some magician like Amphion had wanted to attract some spirit to you, or make you a city".

Beyond any opinion on the use or non-use of this drug we want to conclude this article both by quoting the words of the famous Californian psychiatrist Tod Mikuriy who wrote in 1969: «For farmers, cannabis is a plant fiber; to the physician, it is an enigma; for people a euphoria; for the police, a threat; for the trafficker, a lucrative source of danger; for the prisoner and his family a source of pain ».

Dr. M.G. Davoli

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Online bibliographic sources:
  • (it) 2008 Annual report: the state of the drugs problem in Europee
  • (it) UN Italy
  • (en) 2008 World Drug Report - United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime
  • (en) European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction
  • (en) European Commission
  • (en, es) UNGLASS
  • (various) Other bibliographic sources

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