The effect of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive principle of marijuana, and [R-(+)-(2,3-dihydro-5-methyl-3-[[4-morpholinylmethyl]pyrol[1,2,3-d e-]-1,4-benzoxazin-6y)(1-naphthalenyl)methanone monomethanesulfonate] (WIN 55,212-2), a synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist, on the acetylcholine output in the medial-prefrontal cortex and hippocampus was studied by microdialysis in freely moving rats. The administration of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (1 and 5 mg/kg i.p.) and WIN 55,212-2 (5 and 10 mg/kg i.p.) produced a long lasting inhibition of acetylcholine release in both areas. The inhibitory effect of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and WIN 55,212-2 was suppressed in both areas by the specific cannabinoid CB1 receptor antagonist, [N-(piperidin-1-yl)-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-me thyl-1H-pyrazole-3carboxamide]HCl (SR 141716A), at the dose of 0.1 mg/kg i.p., per se ineffective to modify basal acetylcholine release. Most interestingly, SR 141716A alone at higher doses increased acetylcholine release both in the medial-prefrontal cortex (3 mg/kg i.p.) and hippocampus (1 and 3 mg/kg i.p.), suggesting that acetylcholine output is tonically inhibited by endogenous cannabinoids. Since the inhibitory effect of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol is produced by doses within those relevant to human use of marijuana, our results suggest that the negative effects of the latter on cognitive processes may be explained by its ability to reduce acetylcholine release in the medial-prefrontal cortex and hippocampus. Conversely, cannabinoid receptor antagonists may offer potential treatments for cognitive deficits.