The earliest record of cannabis use is from a compendium of medicines which was compiled for the Chinese emperor Shen Nung in about 2727 BC. Although it grows in many parts of the world and so has a long history of use in many cultures, especially in Asian and African where the plants grow in the warm climate.
Since then the cannabis plants have been used for making ropes, clothes and medicine.
Cannabis has been used medically world-wide for centuries. Although many people in Austria use it illegally as an effective reliever of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, hypoglycaemia and, in certain instances, as a medication for the terminally ill.
The use of cannabis for its intoxicating effect has always been a political issue. In Austria cannabis was first used by young West Indian immigrants. The 60s hippy culture reached Austria and with it came the availablility of cannabis to a wide range of young people. The use of the drug declined slightly during the 70s but with the dance scene kicking off in the 80s with acid house, ravers, party goers and clubbers found it the perfect drug to bring them down and chill out with after a hard nights dancing.
The various forms of cannabis mostly come from the plants Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, which grow throughout the world. Cannabis is available in three main forms, as a dried herb (grass), as a resin (hash or hashish) which is extracted from the buds and flower heads in the country of origin, and less commonly as a sticky liquid (hash oil) which is prepared from the resin.
Cannabis is mostly smoked. Usually by mixing it with tobacco and rolling it up with cigarette papers into a cannabis cigarette (joint). However, it can also be smoked with or without tobacco in various forms of pipes and smoking devices (bong or water pipe). In cultures where Cannabis is predominant such as the Caribbean it is most commonly smoked neat. This method is safer as smoking tobacco.
Cannabis can also be eaten on its own or mixed in with recipes (cakes, biscuits, hash cookies) or hot drinks. Eating Cannabis means that the active ingredients have to fight their way through the stomach contents before they can be absorbed into the blood. This is less efficient and the dosage is less controllable. A smoker of Cannabis can stop smoking once he or she reaches the required level of intoxication, however when eating getting the dosage right is a far harder business.
Cannabis is usually sold for between 80ATS and 120ATS per gram.
The most common effects are talkativeness, cheerfulness, relaxation and greater notice of sound and color. Tests have clearly proved that concentration and co-ordination - such as driving a car - are not performed well. Driving under the influence of Cannabis can be dangerous.
Not all the effects of cannabis are pleasant. High doses can cause mild hallucinations which could be worrying especially if they are unexpected. Those who use the drug when anxious or depressed may find these conditions made worse and the user can become more self obsessed with his or her problem. Mild panic and paranoia could then result. Vomiting can occur when an inexperienced use tries too much at once; this is far more likely if Cannabis has been used with alcohol.
Smoking Cannabis produces fairly instant intoxication, the effects lasting from 1 to 4 hours depending on the amount used.
Two further effects experienced by many Cannabis users are the drying up of the mouth and eating much ('munchies). After all no one has ever died because of cannabis.
There are now many people in Austria who have used Cannabis regularly or occasionally for at least 20 years, yet there is no conclusive evidence that long-term use of Cannabis causes lasting damage to physical and mental health. Short-term memory loss is reported by some users.
Smoking any substance over a long period of time is a bad idea and frequent breathing in of Cannabis smoke can lead to bronchitis and lung cancer. Whilst Cannabis does not produce a physical dependency, mixing it with tobacco will almost certainly produce a nicotine addiction.
Cannabis is also an effective medicine against hayfever, asthma, jointdisease and menstruationcomplaints. Even Queen Victoria used to take cannabis in a tincture form (dissolved in alcohol) to alleviate her period pains.