Is Marijuana a Depressant? Pot Drug Type & Weed Names

Last Updated: December 23, 2020

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Generally, there are four categories of drugs. The types are based on their properties and effects. A drug can either fall into opiates, depressants, hallucinogens, or stimulants. So, is marijuana a depressant or is it a stimulant? Even though it has stimulant, hallucinogenic, and depressant properties, the answer to what type of drug is weed is not tidy as most people think. There is a wide variation in its effect from one person to another. Here we will cover marijuana drug type, as well as different weed names and slang terms for marijuana.

Marijuana Federal Schedule

In the U.S, 16 states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, and 37 states legalized medical marijuana. Regardless, unlike Mexico and Canada, marijuana federal schedule is yet to change in the U.S. Cannabis remains in the list of Schedule I illegal drugs in the U.S. The substance is considered a drug with a high potential of abuse and no health benefits by the U.S government.

Legalization of Cannabis.

Since 1970, marijuana schedule has remained at schedule I, which is made up of tightly restricted and reserved drugs with a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit. With mounting pressure from various corners, this marijuana schedule might change, but no one knows for sure. However, one can obtain legal permission from a medical marijuana doctor and use it to treat certain conditions.

Weed Narcotic Properties

In 1961, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs specifically included Cannabis. Because of this, weed is legally and medically classified as a narcotic for every country that signed it. But scientifically, the substance is classified as a psychoactive agent. When comparing the term narcotics and psychoactive agents, both effects are different on an individual that uses it. Narcotics dull some specific functions of the brain while a psychoactive agent like cannabis alters it.

In Summary:

  • Yes, weed is legally and medically a narcotic because a narcotic is any substance that is illegal and induces sleep
  • From a scientific viewpoint, this marijuana classification is inaccurate

Marijuana As A Depressant Or Stimulant

Marijuana classification as entirely a stimulant or depressant would be partially incorrect. Weed can fall in either category depending on the individual or even the strain. The two major types are: cannabis Sativa and cannabis Indica. Generally, Sativa will mostly produce central nervous stimulation, while Indica will produce central nervous system depression. Different strains will pack different proportions of psychoactive compounds that will produce different effects depending on an individual’s state. More often than not, the strain of weed you are purchasing will not be known. For this reason, the effect you derive from your pot might not be what you are looking for.

Is Marijuana a Depressant?

Weed as a depressant will usually produce slowed mental function with a net effect of sedation.

Users Describing the Depressant Effects Of Weed Usually Report the Following:

  • Sedation
  • Slurred speech
  • Somnolence
  • Slowed breathing
  • Poor concentration

It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to cannabis as a depressant with stimulant qualities. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates fall in this category.

Is Marijuana a Stimulant?

Stimulants will usually produce central nervous system excitation. Users Will Report:

However, it is good to remember that the effects of weed vary from person to person. Take weed wax, for example. It is a very potent weed concentrate with a high amount of THC. Some can use it and experience anxiety, and it might cause feelings of drowsiness and contentment in others. It might even cause delusions when used chronically.

Is Marijuana a Hallucinogen?

In a section of users, hallucinations have been reported. This usually follows ingestion of massive doses or use of the purified THC. It should be noted that hallucinations are not a defining feature of marijuana. Only a small percentage of users will report experiencing audio or visual hallucinations.

Common Weed Names

As one of the most popular recreational drugs, cannabis is popular, more commonly known as marijuana, weed, or pot.

There is probably not another drug with more alternate names than marijuana. Different weed names have made its distribution much more easily worldwide. There is a seemingly endless list of names for marijuana, and they differ based on the country and age group. The list of nicknames for weed includes more than a thousand terms and can be very hard to figure out unless a person is into it. These weed names can relate to several things – the known effects of the drug, the language where the term originated, strain name, quality, form used, and other code words that can help identify a brand.

The Most Common Names For Cannabis Are: 

  • Marijuana
  • Pot
  • Weed
  • Grass
  • Hash
  • Dope
  • Ganja

While many people believe that “ganja” is a term for cannabis that originated from Jamaica, this is a common misconception. This particular nickname is indeed the most widely used one in Jamaica, but it originates from the language called Sanskrit. During the 19th century, the British colonists were looking for a large amount of working power. They found it on the Indian subcontinent, and as a result, over 40,000 Indians were sent to various plantations, including the ones in Jamaica.

Person smoking marijuana joint.

Since cannabis or “ganja” was considered sacred in some parts of Hinduism, many laborers from India brought cannabis smoking with them to the Caribbean plantations. There they were mixed with the local workers, and the practice together with the name was passed on to the Jamaican populace. This was said to be one of the cornerstones of Rastafarian culture, as smoking cannabis in Hinduism had a spiritual meaning, which the Rastafarians inherited.
Names For Weed Based on Preparations:

  • Bhang. Bhang is an edible preparation of cannabis, which originated in the Indian subcontinent. It has long been used in food and drink as early as 1000 BCE by Hindus. It has been part of their tradition and custom
  • Charas. Charas is the term given to a hashish form of cannabis handmade in the Indian subcontinent and Jamaica. It plays a vital role in the culture of the Hindu religion, particularly among the Shai
  • Hash oil. This is also known as cannabis oil, which is obtained by the extraction of cannabis using a solvent like ethanol or butane. Common colors may range from golden to light brown. Others are yellow, black, or tan
  • Kief. Kief refers to the sticky, tiny, white crystals covering a weed flower, otherwise called trichomes or resin glands

How, Where, and When Should You Get Help?

With the increased legalization of cannabis use, the marijuana federal schedule might change. With such actions, cases of addiction to pot are likely to go up. More people will likely seek expert help or attempt to treat their drug abuse problem. Relapse is a huge stumbling block for quite a number of users who attempt to manage their addiction problem alone. For this reason, there are rehabilitation institutions that can help. Such institutions offer different substance abuse recovery options to treat addiction to drugs. For the addicted weed user who is determined to quit but needs a helping hand, reach out to us via our private, secure, and toll-free helpline.


Page Sources

  1. Danielle N Rhyne, Sarah L Anderson, Margaret Gedde, Laura M Borgelt, Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population, 2016. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26749285/
  2. Frederick S. Barrett, Nicolas J. Schlienz, Natalie Lembeck, Muhammad Waqas, and Ryan Vandrey, Hallucinations” Following Acute Cannabis Dosing: A Case Report and Comparison to Other Hallucinogenic Drugs, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Barrett%20FS%5BAuthor%5D&cauthor=true&cauthor_uid=29682608
  3. Healthbeat, The effects of marijuana on your memory, 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/the-effects-of-marijuana-on-your-memory
  4. ProCon.org, "Legal Recreational Marijuana States and DC." ProCon.org. 3 Dec. 2020, https://marijuana.procon.org/legal-recreational-marijuana-states-and-dc/
  5. Murray JB, Marijuana's effects on human cognitive functions, psychomotor functions, and personality, 1986, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3009708/

Published on: November 14th, 2018

Updated on: December 23rd, 2020

About Author

Peter J. Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.