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A herbaceous plant from Old Earth in the genus Cannabis, known as a source of psychoactive chemicals. Although once widely considered a very harmful drug, and outlawed, marijuana was eventually made more legal than tobacco in many polities, though later such laws became either irrelevant or unenforceable due to the rise of DNI mediated drugware and easy 'natural' drug production at home.

The genus Cannabis originally evolved in Central and South Asia. The psychoactive chemicals that were later to make the plants so well known actually evolved for defensive purposes, as these substances were toxic to herbivores, and especially to insects. Human tribes realised it could be used for as a drug for recreational and spiritual uses in the 4000s BT or earlier. Marijuana was used much more by early stationary societies that arose during the Agricultural Age as it grew readily on rubbish tips, and later in fields. From this early stage plants in the Cannabis genus were used to produce hemp, which was then used to create paper and fabrics. For substantial portions of history the production of fibre was the more well-known use of marijuana. However, in the Information Age the plants were solidly established in the public psyche as a recreational drug. Many people considered marijuana to be a very harmful drug in this time, but by the time the effects could be characterised, they could all be rendered negligible by advancing technology.

The plant spread throughout the world, and although it was outlawed in most of Old Earth's polities by the Information Age, was still grown and sold illegally. The primary species in use at this time were Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa, and their hybrids. The third species, Cannabis ruderalis, was used to a much smaller extent.

As the Interplanetary Age progressed changing attitudes meant that many more states legalized the use of marijuana and similar drugs, allowing it to flourish relative to its status in previous centuries. This was due to several factors. Firstly, many pre-existing polities changed their legislation regarding marijuana as views changed on its use. This lead to marijuana being made either legal or less illegal in many countries, sometimes to such an extent that a product such as tobacco was less legal than marijuana. Secondly, the myriad of new polities and microstates developing on the oceans, in orbit and in other areas of the Earth, allowed the expression of a lot of different viewpoints belonging to different groups. Among the wide spectrum of people occupying these habitats were enough groups encouraging marijuana use for whatever reason that the genus had a boost. Some people with close ties to the American medical marijuana manufacture facilities and the South American or European recreational drug production industry moved to these budding marijuana industries, to input their skills. Thirdly, genetic engineering allowed the modification of marijuana into more adaptable, faster-maturing, more potent and stealthier varieties. This was useful both to the illegal home grower and the big industrial facilities. The Cannabis sativa genome had been sequenced in the 30s AT, and the genomes of both other species and hundreds of varieties were also sequenced within the next few decades. One of the most prominent modified varieties was Polar Marijuana, a species designed to thrive in tundra environments. Many other species of plant were also modified to produce THC and other cannabinoids, sometimes as a side-product of agriculture (e.g. Wheat with Buzz, Funky Lettuce). Another popular modification was the Joint Filler Plant, which was a fusion of tobacco and marijuana, and could be put straight into a joint after drying.

Marijuana migrated to the stars as some interstellar or interplanetary colonists took along a few seeds or cuttings, or a copy of the genome, of their favourite plant. Since the desire do do this varied, some colonies, either through chance or design were without marijuana while others had it in various levels of abundance. Some extra-planetary and extra-stellar colonies took along marijuana genomic data but kept it in storage rather than utilising it. This was done largely by vec and ai clades, as well as those bioids who, although able to use marijuana for the most part, objected to it or had a better alternative. As with tobacco, the traditional practice of smoking marijuana never caught on in the restricted spaces of the early off-world habitats, so users more typically ingested it or injected the derived drug.

During the Nanoswarms, marijuana or other THC-producing plants were not too badly affected in the colonies, as almost every little habitat with the desire could afford to keep a few plants, especially if they were Budding Tomatoes or Potato-rooted Marijuana, in which case food was also produced by the plant. However, on Earth every non-natural variety was killed off by GAIA within a few years, with the exception of a few old cultivars preserved for the use of the Children of GAIA. However there were several preservation projects, similar to the well-known Burning Library Project, that maintained data on domestic varieties of marijuana in storage. Some of these were marijuana-specific projects, while others just happened to include it. The marijuana-specific projects usually focused on the various selectively-bred marijuana varieties developed prior to the late Information Age.

In the present day, Marijuana is no longer anywhere near as popular as it was in the late Interplanetary Age, where it achieved a level of acceptance, as it has by now been largely surpassed by various synthetic drugs, DNI and assorted mental manipulation techniques, though the original plant is still used in a few places by some humans and by some clades with compatible neurochemistry, mainly due to its traditional importance as one of the "20 natural drugs" from Old Earth. However, a bewildering complexity of descendants are scattered throughout the Terragen Sphere. Space-adapted Marijuana is cultivated by a few groups of Sailors of the Ebon Sea. Microgravity Marijuana has been developed for cultivation in Dyson trees and other non-rotating habitats, such as the Makrania Orwoods, while there are versions able to survive in the atmosphere of Cytherean worlds, on or within the oceans of habitats and terraformed worlds, as well as in deserts, on ice caps, on EuEuropan type worlds, and even within brown dwarves and gas giants. In many cases these plants are growing wild, while in others they are used by an assortment of clades and sub-clades for their special properties. In the NoCoZo there is a growing retro trend in 'cyber-cannabis' a variety of cannabis containing nanobots that modify the experience according to the user's tastes. There are even rumours of Marijuana provolution experiments in some areas of the Periphery.

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Text by KLS

Initially published on 25 April 2012.