Using a new antibody developed against the C-terminus of the cannabinoid receptor (CB1), the immunostaining in the hippocampus revealed additional axon terminals relative to the pattern reported previously with an N-terminus antibody. Due to a greater sensitivity of this antibody, a large proportion of boutons in the dendritic layers displaying symmetrical (GABAergic) synapses were also strongly immunoreactive for CB1 receptors, as were axon terminals of perisomatic inhibitory cells containing cholecystokinin. Asymmetrical (glutamatergic) synapses, however, were always negative for CB1. To investigate the effect of presynaptic CB1 receptor activation on hippocampal inhibition, we recorded inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) from principal cells. Bath application of CB1 receptor agonists (WIN55,212-2 and CP55,940) suppressed IPSCs evoked by local electrical stimulation, which could be prevented or reversed by the CB1 receptor antagonist SR141716A. Action potential-driven IPSCs, evoked by pharmacological stimulation of a subset of interneurons, were also decreased by CB1 receptor activation. We also examined the effects of CB1 receptor agonists on Ca2+-independent miniature IPSCs (mIPSC). Both agonists were without significant effect on the frequency or amplitude of mIPSCs. Synchronous gamma oscillations induced by kainic acid in the CA3 region of hippocampal slices were reversibly reduced in amplitude by the CB1 receptor agonist CP 55,940, which is consistent with an action on IPSCs. We used CB1-/- knock-out mice to confirm the specificity of the antibody and of the agonist (WIN55,212-2) action. We conclude that activation of presynaptic CB1 receptors decreases Ca2+-dependent GABA release, and thereby reduces the power of hippocampal network oscillations.