Does Marijuana Act on the Brain for Weeks?

The active ingredient of marijuana is THC, which stands for Tetra-Hydro-Cannabinol. THC enters the bloodstream through the lungs if marijuana is smoked and then a small proportion (about 1%) then enters the brain. There are specific receptors in the brain for the THC, and the psychoactive effects are achieved within 10 to 30 minutes after smoking.

In addition to reaching the brain, THC also travels to the rest of the body. After a few hours, the THC levels in the brain fall below that needed to be psychoactive. THC is lipid soluble so it is taken up by fat cells, sits there for a while, and then is slowly released. Most of THC along with its metabolites get excreted in urine, sweat, and feces.

As the deposited THC gets slowly released from the fat cells, some active THC re-enters the bloodstream. It is not enough, however, to produce psychoactive effects. That myth is therefore debunked.

Even in those persons who are chronic heavy pot smokers, bloodstream levels go beneath psychoactive levels within a few hours every time. The THC from previous use is released slowly from fat cells and mixes with the THC from the current use. However, the amount of THC released from the fat cells is not enough to make a significant contribution.

THC receptors do not exist in fat cells. Therefore no effect is produced but fat cells simply store the THC and slowly release it. Eventually, the THC is slowly transformed into inactive metabolites. Excretion may take weeks before completion. Subsequently, when individuals take a drug test the inactive metabolites may show usage at some previous point, potentially weeks, however not current psychoactivity. What’s being evaluated is one of the cannabinoid metabolites that is non-psychoactive called THC-COOH. It is produced by the liver, and indicates significant metabolic degradation having already taken place. There is no correlation between a positive test and a current state of marijuana intoxication.

Testing the blood is the best indicator of current active marijuana usage. This looks for active metabolities and gives a better indication of current psychoactivity.

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