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Cannabis Basics

If you’ve landed on this page, it’s because there are things you want to know about cannabis: what it is, how it works, and the effects it may have on you both short-term and long-term. Below is our weed 101, quick and simple info designed to get you up to speed with weed.

You’ve heard the words thrown around: ‘cannabis’, ‘weed’, ‘dope’, ‘pot’, ‘green’, and even though you know it’s a drug, you’re just not 100% sure what it is and how it works. Below are five cannabis facts that will help you answer: what is cannabis, how does it work and what are the effects of cannabis?

What is cannabis?  

Cannabis is a drug that comes from the cannabis plant. Even though a lot of people use the word ‘cannabis’ when talking about cannabis in general, cannabis is actually just the dried flowers and leaves of the plant. Cannabis users might also use ‘hashish’, which comes from the plant’s resin (like a gum) or hash oil.

How is cannabis used?

Most people who use cannabis smoke it in a joint, which is like a cigarette, or in a bong, which is a water pipe that might have been bought at a shop or made at home from things like old soft drink or juice containers. A lot of people think bongs are less dangerous because the water makes the smoke seem less harsh, but bongs will actually increase the amount of tar that gets into your lungs and all ways of smoking cannabis can increase the likelihood of lung diseases.

How does it make you feel?

How cannabis affects you depends on:

  • how much you use;
  • how often and how long you’ve used it;
  • whether you smoke, vape or eat it;
  • your mood, your expectations and the environment you’re in;
  • your age;
  • whether you have certain pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions; and
  • whether you’ve taken any alcohol or other drugs (illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or herbal).

Using weed makes you feel ‘high’ because it has an ingredient called THC. The effects of weed are different for everyone – some people might feel happy, talkative and less self-conscious than usual, while other people can feel sleepy, nauseous and uncoordinated… or any combination of these effects. Some people may get really paranoid when they use cannabis, feeling really anxious, nervous or afraid. The kind of experience you may have can vary from one drug-taking episode to another, usually because of the amount taken, the method used and the frequency of regular cannabis use.

How long does the feeling last?

When cannabis is smoked or vaped, the effect is almost immediate and may last several hours, depending on how much is taken. When it is swallowed, the effect is felt in about an hour and lasts longer than when it is smoked.

Although the high lasts only a few hours after smoking, THC is stored in fat cells and expelled from the body over a period of days or weeks. This is why drug tests for cannabis use can give a positive result long after the effects have worn off.

Is it dangerous?

If you keep using weed heavily, for long periods, you risk damaging your health, which might affect your school, your social life and your family relationships. These health risks are possible for anyone who uses cannabis heavily or regularly:

  • problems with thinking, memory or physical co-ordination;
  • impairment, which can lead to serious injuries, including car accidents;
  • hallucinations, such as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling or feeling things that don’t really exist;
  • mental health problems, especially if you or an immediate family member has had a mental health issue, like psychosis or an addiction to alcohol or other drugs;
  • cannabis dependence;
  • breathing or lung problems from smoking; and
  • problems for the baby during or after pregnancy, especially if cannabis is smoked.

For more information about these risks and ways to avoid them, Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines may be helpful.

What’s the deal with cannabis laws in Canada? 

It is important to remember that cannabis is legal on October 17, 2018. Cannabis laws in Canada vary between each province, with each province having their own ways of dealing with cannabis possession, where you can grown cannabis and where and how you can buy cannabis. The only way to avoid them for sure is not to use cannabis. If you’re thinking of trying cannabis, or you’re being pressured, it can sometimes feel like everyone else is doing it – but that’s not true. In Canada, a recent survey showed that only 13% of youth have used cannabis in the past month.

*Please note that the terms ‘cannabis’, ‘marijuana’, ‘weed’ and ‘pot’ are used interchangeably in these fast facts, and all refer to the illegal drug, cannabis, unless otherwise specified.