A beginner’s guide to marijuana

The United States has come a long way since the days of “Reefer Madness,” with 10 states legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and several more working toward the same goal — including New York.

While marijuana remains illegal on the federal, state and local levels (despite what your nose may tell you on a walk down many NYC streets), a shift in social consciousness in recent years has resulted in a state-level push to decriminalize the drug.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed in his budget address to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. It was later dropped from the 2019-20 budget, but lawmakers say marijuana legalization remains a top legislative priority for them this year. Although discourse over how to ensure communities of color, which have been disproportionately targeted by the enforcement of marijuana laws, benefit from legalization could further stall negotiations.

While you wait for lawmakers to hammer out the details, scroll down to learn more about marijuana, its benefits, side effects and more.

What is marijuana?

Weed, pot, reefer, cheeba — marijuana has many nicknames and comes in many forms.

On a basic level, marijuana is made up of the dried leaves and flowers from a cannabis plant, which grows naturally but can also be cultivated in a controlled indoor environment.

Marijuana contains psychoactive compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC, that have a mind-altering effect on the user. THC, which is found in resin that the leaves and buds produce, is just one of over 500 chemicals that have been identified in marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).