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Hemp grows easily throughout the tropics, sub-tropics, and temperate regions, varying from a few feet to 15 feet (4.6 m) in height. Once established, it reseeds itself and spreads to neighboring areas; when birds eat the seeds, the defecated seeds may be scattered over considerable distances and produce new plants.
Two genetic strains of hemp are recognized: one produces plants excellent for fiber with very little drug material; the other produces plants with weak fibers but much drug content (TETRAHYDROCANNABINOL, THC). To harvest the drug-laden plant, it is simply cut down and usually chopped into small pieces with all parts included. These clippings resemble lawn cuttings, so one of the slang terms is "grass." The major use of this form in the United States is for illegal marijuana cigarettes, often called reefers.
Since the early 1900s, marijuana has been considered the one drug that might introduce the susceptible to hard drugs, drug abuse, and drug dealing. In the United States until 1937, Cannabis had been used in medical practice for a number of conditions but marijuana use for its euphoric effect was relatively uncommon. By 1937, forty-six of the then forty-eight states had laws against the use of marijuana, and its use had already been made a criminal offense under federal law. Until the 1960s, it was smoked largely by African Americans and Hispanics in the United States but was generally shunned by the white majority. During the social and political protests of the 1960s, a change in attitudes allowed widespread but illegal marijuana use into all levels of society, along with an increase in the use of several other illegal drugs and a boom in the drug trade that continued into the 1990s.