Historically speaking, famous pot smokers have been men: Cheech and Chong, The Dude, Snoop Dogg, Harold and Kumaru2026the list goes on. With a few exceptions, women haven't been blazing Valentino Rockstud Shoes the same stoner trail (at least, not in public). But, these days, women are increasingly likely to talk about toking</strong>. Stars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have nothing to hide about their marijuana use, and barely anyone shrugs u2014 perhaps because, to many women, it's no big deal.

nnnAlthough statistics on gendered use of marijuana are hazy, pot is increasingly seen as a regular, even health-affirming part of Valentino Shoes women's lives. "We see it both in pop culture and in our social circles," Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says of the growing openness. "More women are willing to acknowledge their personal marijuana use, whether for medical uses or adult uses." What's more, with state laws becoming more and more progressive, smoking pot u2014 whether for medicinal or recreational purposes u2014 doesn't automatically carry the go-directly-to-jail risk that it used to. n

nnThe past decade and a half has seen a massive reduction, if not the outright elimination, of many of the social and legal stigmas that have been attached to marijuana use in the U.S. for over a century. So far, 22 states have carved out legal protections for pot users, ranging from decriminalization in some places to medical exemptions in others, to outright legalization in Colorado and Washington. Forty-eight percent of Americans say theyu2019ve used it, and judging by the relative lack of widespread outrage over this wave of drug-law reform, itu2019s safe to say that many more have no problem with adults sparking up a joint in the privacy of their own homes.

nnnDr. Sunil Aggarwal, MD, Ph.D., a resident at a large medical center in New York City, says the national conversation is indeed evolving. "Cannabis is something people use to relieve stress and relax," he says. "The fact that people are talking about it more publicly has a lot to do with the changing political landscape. There's a window of talking about it more normally, without the fear of prosecution or stigma." n

As pot becomes a more broadly accepted part of our lifestyles, the question of how using it can affect our health becomes more relevant. </strong>Itu2019s a question that doctors and scientists are still exploring. Even Dr. Stephen B. Corn, MD, an academic clinician at Harvard Medical School who educates other physicians on medical marijuana, says that it's not as simple as categorizing marijuana into a "good" or "bad" category. "I wish I could give you a bottom line," he says. "But, it's an evolving field of study." The serious, neutral scientific study of marijuana consumption is still a relatively new field, and the information it's turned up is still incomplete, but itu2019s finally starting to give us a clearer picture of potu2019s benefits and risks. And, it looks like it has some of both.n

nnThe most powerful and successful argument that marijuana advocates have made so far is that it can be realistically considered a medicinal drug as well as a recreational one. A combination of scientific and anecdotal evidence indicate that pot has an ameliorative effect on a wide range of ailments. "[Medicinal marijuana use] has been shown to be beneficial in neuropathic pain," Dr. Corn says, adding that it can also help with ALS, multiple sclerosis, HIV neuropathy, Valentino Shoes Sale and trauma, among other problems. n


nMost of cannabisu2019 beneficial aspects come from its chemical compounds called cannabinoids. The one cannabinoid that most people are aware of is tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, which is marijuanau2019s primary psychoactive component. Our bodies produce compounds called endocannabinoids, which have important roles in brain functions related to memory, appetite, stress, sleep, and other essential functions. The cannabinoids in marijuana fit the same neural receptors that we have for endocannabinoids, and when THC floods the brain and latches onto the parts responsible for our senses of sight, sound, and smell, our appetites, and our pain perception, it produces the high that marijuana users are familiar with.