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Marijuana/Medical Marijuana

This guide provides sources to learn more about the ethical, legal and moral aspects of marijuana use, medical marijuana and marijuana legalization.


What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mix of dried, crumbled parts from the marijuana plant. The plant contains chemicals which act on your brain and can change your mood or consciousness.

What is Medical Marijuana?

The marijuana plant has chemicals that can help with some health problems. More states are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain medical conditions. But there isn't enough research to show that the whole plant works to treat or cure these conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the marijuana plant as a medicine. Marijuana is still illegal at the national level. However, there have been scientific studies of cannabinoids, the chemicals in marijuana. The two main cannabinoids that are of medical interest are THC and CBD. The FDA has approved two drugs that contain THC. These drugs treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and increase appetite in patients who have severe weight loss from AIDS. There is also a liquid drug that contains CBD. It treats two forms of severe childhood epilepsy. Scientists are doing more research with marijuana and its ingredients to treat many diseases and conditions.

Medline Plus

See: United States map of where marijuana is legal for recreational or medical use. Also includes where marijuana is illegal.






















Map Source: Business Insider

How do people use marijuana?

There are many different ways that people use marijuana, including

  • Rolling it up and smoking it like a cigarette or cigar

  • Smoking it in a pipe

  • Mixing it in food and eating it

  • Brewing it as a tea

  • Smoking oils from the plant ("dabbing")

  • Using electronic vaporizers ("vaping")

What are the effects of marijuana?

Marijuana can cause both short-term and long-term effects.

Short term:

While you are high, you may experience

  • Altered senses, such as seeing brighter colors

  • Altered sense of time, such as minutes seeming like hours

  • Changes in mood

  • Problems with body movement

  • Trouble with thinking, problem-solving, and memory

  • Increased appetite

Long term:

In the long term, marijuana can cause health problems, such as

  • Problems with brain development. People who started using marijuana as teenagers may have trouble with thinking, memory, and learning.

  • Coughing and breathing problems, if you smoke marijuana frequently

  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy, if a woman smokes marijuana while pregnant

Medline Plus

Can you overdose on marijuana?

It is possible to overdose on marijuana, if you take a very high dose. Symptoms of an overdose include anxiety, panic, and a rapid heartbeat. In rare cases, an overdose can cause paranoia and hallucinations. There are no reports of people dying from using just marijuana.

Is marijuana addictive?

After using marijuana for a while, it is possible to get addicted to it. You are more likely to become addicted if you use marijuana every day or you started using it when you were a teenager. If you are addicted, you will have a strong need to take the drug. You may also need to smoke more and more of it to get the same high. When you try to quit, you may have mild withdrawal symptoms such as

  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings

Medline Plus

August 22, 2022

A pair of medical marijuana legalization initiatives will not appear on Nebraska’s ballot in November, the state announced on Monday. But while advocates are disappointed, they’re already turning their attention to 2024 for another push. While activists with Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana (NMM) had held out hope that they turned in enough raw signatures to qualify, the verification process showed that they came up short by about 10,000 signatures for each measure. In order to qualify, the campaign needed to submit at least 86,776 valid signatures statewide per measure, including at least five percent of registered voters in 38 of the state’s 93 counties. They ended up with 77,843 signatures for one measure and 77,119 for the other, while also failing to meet the county-level signature threshold for both.

Marijuana Moment



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Suggested Websites


Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)

The United States' primary source for criminal justice statistics.

Medline Plus: Marijuana

The world's largest medical library with information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand.

National Conference of State Legislatures

State Medical Marijuana Laws

Office of National Drug Control Policy

 Answers to frequently asked questions about marijuana.


The leading source for pros & cons of controversial issues.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency

Drug Fact Sheet - Marijuana



Americans for Safe Access

Our mission is to ensure the safe access to marijuana for therapeutic uses and research.


A public policy research organization dedicated to the principles of liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.

Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance is the leading organization advancing drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

MPP (Marijuana Policy Project)

This organization has been instrumental in a number of changes in cannabis policy at the state level and aims to have the same effect on a national scale.

NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)

Working to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high quality marijuana that is safe, convenient and affordable.



Films on Demand Service

There are a number of videos available on this subject, both on the internet and through our available databases. This page features some useful examples. For more, we recommend accessing the Films on Demand database.


This documentary explores the longstanding relationship of human beings and cannabis, from its use in ancient Asia to its ban in 20th century America.

As state-legalized cannabis spreads, NOVA investigates the latest scientific evidence for its potential benefits and risks, and how criminalization has disproportionately harmed communities of color. Distributed by PBS Distribution.

Despite predictions of doom, legalization of cannabis has been a boon to Colorado financially with an expected one billion in sales by 2016 and $40 million in excise taxes to be placed in state coffers. There have been some problems with the roll out of the new law, but issues are being addressed through regulation and new ballot measures.

Lenny and Amy’s 5-year-old son has epilepsy. When conventional medications caused terrible side effects, they started giving him a daily drop of cannabis oil, with dramatic results. But it’s a calculated risk: While there is anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ effectiveness, scientists face research roadblocks because it’s a schedule 1 controlled substance. Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports.