Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding

Marijuana -- Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect - Effect of Pyrolysis on the Cannabinoids

US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

Table of Contents
I. Marihuana and the Problem of Marihuana
Origins of the Marihuana Problem
The Need for Perspective
Formulating Marihuana Policy
The Report
II. Marihuana Use and Its Effects
The Marihuana User
Profiles of Users
Becoming a Marihuana User
Becoming a Multidrug User
Effects of Marihuana on the User
Effects Related to Pattern Use
Immediate Drug Effects
ShortTerm Effects
Long Term Effects
Very Long Term Effects
III. Social Impact of Marihuana Use
IV. Social Response to Marihuana Use
V. Marihuana and Social Policy
Drugs in a Free Society
A Social Control Policy for Marihuana
Implementing the Discouragement Policy
A Final Comment
Ancillary Recommendations
Legal and Law Enforcement Recommendations
Medical Recommendations
Other Recommendations
Letter of Transmittal
Members and Staff
History of Marihuana Use: Medical and Intoxicant
II. Biological Effects of Marihuana
Botanical and Chemical Considerations
Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect
Acute Effects of Marihuana (Delta 9 THC)
Effects of Short-Term or Subacute Use
Effects of Long-Term Cannabis Use
Investigations of Very Heavy Very Long-Term Cannabis Users
III. Marihuana and Public Safety
Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
Marihuana - Public Health and Welfare
Assessment of Perceived Risks
Preventive Public Health Concerns
Marihuana and the Dominant Social Order
The World of Youth
Why Society Feels Threatened
The Changing Social Scene
Problems in Assessing the Effects of Marihuana
Marihuana and Violence
Marihuana and (Non-Violent) Crime
Summary and Conclusions: Marihuana and Crime
Marihuana and Driving
History of Marihuana Legislation
History of Alcohol Prohibition
History of Tobacco Regulation
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Factors Influencing Psychopharmacological Effect


Several investigators have studied the effect of pyrolysis on the cannabinoids. Most have concluded that only negligible changes occur in the original cannabinoid fraction of marihuana except for decarboxylation of the acids to the cannabinoids. No evidence was found for isomerization of Delta 9 THC or Delta 8 THC nor the formation of any new pyrolysis products (Manno et al., 1970; Coutselinis & Miras, 1970; Claussen and Korte, 1968; Foltz et al., 1971; Agurell and Leander, 1971). Mikes and Waser (1971) suggested that a small percentage of cannabidiol was converted to Delta 9 THC, but this observation was not confirmed by the other groups.

Coutselinis and Miras (1970) noted that less THC was destroyed during smoking when Delta 9 THC was the only cannabinoid present rather than when a resin or a mixture of cannabinoids were present. This was believed to be at least partially accounted for by the distribution of THC in the cigarette. More destruction occurred when the THC was evenly distributed in the cigarette than when it was present in a well-defined lump.

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