Marijuana - Ganja

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Suraj (real name withheld for privacy) never thought he would be addicted to marijuana when his seniors first introduced him to it in a dark corner of his hostel. In his high school, marijuana was the buzzword amongst the seniors, the magical things called weed that got people stoned. Only the ones who tried the magic plant could share the escalating feelings that they derived from the grass.

His inquisitiveness about marijuana had peaked. The music that he listened to only further fueled the blazing curiosity. Living in a hostel, music was the only link to the outer world and means of entertainment. Suraj and his friends tried to relate themselves to the outside in every way possible. The Rock genre that intrigued them mostly comprised lyric about sex, drugs and violence.

Suraj confided, “It was the songs, smoking joint to the sublime song, and “getting stoned” at 9:30 in the morning by the Monkey Temple at Swayambhu that really triggered it,” and added, “We love GGG, we love G (ganja), and that was what echoed in my mind and it really started haunting me. The curiosity wouldn’t just go away, it needed a vaccine. Then I and my friends went for the kill.”

He shares his intimacy with marijuana, “The world seemed to be wavy, my mouth couldn’t help splitting open,” and added, “It makes you break into to an endless laughter and end up laughing at the most stupidest things like someone reading a book. You lose touch with your brain and all your actions are stupendous. You lose sense of what you utter; your eyes go red and your face swells up all purple. You lie down and your head feels like it is shoved in a whirlpool.”

Pot, herb, grass, weed, boom, Mary Jane, skunk, reefer, gangster, ganja or G, the killer cannabis plant has more than 200 slang terms for it which vary from country to country.

A dry, shredded green and brown mix of flowers, stems, seeds and leaves of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, it is usually smoked as a cigarette (joint, nail), or a pipe (bong). It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with pulverized marijuana, often in combination with another drug. Use also might include mixing marijuana in food or brewing it as tea. As a more concentrated, resinous form, it is called hashish and as a sticky black liquid called hash oil. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor and is smoked to experience the state of being ‘high’.

It is also smoked by rolling inside a paper, commonly known as rizla in Nepal. Ganja is readily available even in the remote areas of Nepal where farmers use it as a remedy for their cattle’s constipation. For Kathmandu residents, the hot pot spots are Naubise, Budanilkantha, Dakshinkali and Dhulikhel. The best weed is said to be available in Lamjung where it is professionally cultivated. Local farmers supply a pouch for a meager Rs. 100 which can make as many as 30 joints.

Thamel is another place where marijuana business is carried openly. Just slip in a pair of baggy pants, faded or worn-out t-shirt and sandals, and the venders flock to sell G, mistaking you for a foreigner. They are constantly eying for foreigners who can be ripped off Rs. 1,500 for a pouch as small as a Wai Wai noodle packet. They even trade in hashish, and in extreme cases opium as well.

The illicit drug is openly supplied by babajis at the Pashupatinath in the name of Shivaratri.

Talking about availability, Nepal is sometimes referred to as the Jamaica of the East when it comes to marijuana. Rock stars like Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and even the Beatles are said to have popped up here to smoke weed in the then “Zone of Peace”.

Cannabis use is legalized in the Netherlands, the party capital of Europe, where millions of people flock to experience unobstructed use of marijuana.

Marijuana has a malignant effect on the health of its users. Dr. U.N. Pathak, professor of medicine at the Nepal Medical College and a senior consultant at Om Hospital revealed, “The constituents of marijuana mix with the blood and have a detrimental effects on the lungs.”

The main active chemical in marijuana is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The membrances of certain nerve cells in the brain contain protein receptors that bind to THC. Once securely in place, THC kicks off a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users experience when they smoke marijuana. When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to organs throughout the body, including the brain.

The short-term effects of marijuana can include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, and bronchitis. Some people feel nothing at all when they smoke marijuana. Others may feel relaxed or high. Sometimes, marijuana makes users feel thirsty and very hungry – an effect called “the munchies”. Research findings for long-term marijuana use indicate some changes in the brain similar to those seen after long-term use of other major drugs of abuse.

According to Dr. Pathak, marijuana smokers are 700 times likely to suffer from cancer than non-smokers.

Marijuana has the potential to promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract because it contains irritants and carcinogens. In fact, marijuana smoke contains 50 to 70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than does tobacco smoke. It also produces high levels of an enzyme that converts certain hydrocarbons into carcinogenic form-levels that may accelerate the changes that ultimately produce malignant cells. Marijuana users usually inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco smokers do, which increases the lungs’ exposure to carcinogenic smoke. These facts suggest that, puff for puff, smoking marijuana may increase the risk of cancer more than smoking tobacco.

Most people smoke marijuana, thinking they won’t get hooked to it. But after smoking once, the person pines for the ‘trip’ that he gets from marijuana and it is very hard to control the longings and temptation. Some plan to stop it after a certain period and think they can balance it with good exercise.

“One a person is addicted to marijuana, his lungs will not regain its primary condition. The harm cannot be compensated,” said Dr. Pathak, and added, “But it is certainly better to leave than to continue as it prevents further deterioration.”

Today, an increasing number of teenagers and youngsters are being trapped into marijuana, mostly because of peer pressure, influenced by the music icons, escape from depression, or simply because they want to! It is described as a fashion icon and a culture that they are compelled to embrace.

The band, Green Day, coined its name from the obsession with marijuana. They are intrigued by how the musicians can endlessly go on creating songs about marijuana. Marilyn Manson is another rock star whose lyric are pervaded with the thrilling experience of marijuana and describes his utopia as the island made of cocaine and trees of marijuana.

Talking about movies, Training Day, in which Ethan Hawke gets stoned, or Blow, wherein Val Kilmer stars as a drug trafficker, provide enough urges to youngsters too try smoking pot.

Today, it has become very important to nudge the authorities concerned to check the rampant trade in marijuana. Parents have to be more alert and supervise their children because most parents are unaware that their child has already taken the first step towards the drugs universe.

Youths also have to realize that just because many popular film stars, musicians or friends smoke weed doesn’t mean they have to embrace it too. A momentary pleasure is likely to snatch away a few precious moments from their life. Added, these moments amounts to minutes, days, weeks, months and years- a large chunk of one’s life indeed.


Source: The Kathmandu Post, October 12, 2004

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