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Cannabis: What you need to know

What is cannabis?

Cannabis has many other names such as: grass, weed, pot, dope, green, blunt, reefer, hashish (hash), hash oil, Mary Jane/MJ, shatter, dabs. All forms of cannabis come from the dried flower buds and leaves of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It ranges in colour from grayish green to greenish brown and may contain seeds and stems.

Cannabis contains the mood-altering chemical THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid (a chemical compound affecting the mind) and is most responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use.

Canada has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world.  

How does cannabis make you feel?

People can have very different experiences with cannabis.

Some may feel:                          

  • relaxed
  • lively
  • talkative
  • giggly
  • euphoric

While others feel:

  • tense
  • anxious
  • fearful
  • confused

The kind of experience you 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.

What are the risks of using cannabis?

Cannabis use has well-documented short and long-term health and safety risks.

Some of the risks of using cannabis include:

  • problems with thinking, memory or coordination
  • impaired perceptions or hallucinations
  • impaired ability to drive safely, leading to fatal and non-fatal injuries
  • mental health problems and cannabis dependence
  • chronic respiratory or lung problems
  • reproductive problems

Not using cannabis is the best way to prevent these risks.

If you have decided that you will use cannabis, follow these Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines  to reduce your risk.

Is it legal to use cannabis?

Currently, it remains illegal to buy, possess and use non-medicinal cannabis in Ontario and Canada. The Cannabis Act is the legislation that will legalize access to non-medicinal cannabis in Canada and will come into force on October 17, 2018.

Once non-medicinal cannabis is legalized in Ontario you will need to be 19 years of age or older to buy, use, possess and grow cannabis. Even if you are of legal age to use cannabis, you will only be able to it in a private home or apartment. There will be fines for individuals who are found to be using cannabis in any public place, workplace or motorized vehicle.  Additional information about legalization of recreational cannabis is updated regularly on the Ontario Cannabis Legalization webpage.

Medicinal cannabis use is currently legal in Canada and access to cannabis for medicinal purposes will continue to be legal once the Cannabis Act comes into force.

Impaired driving

Driving after using cannabis is illegal  and dangerous.

Cannabis use affects coordination, reaction time, ability to pay attention, decision-making skills, and judgment. Driving while under that influence of cannabis significantly increases the risk of being in a motor vehicle collision. There are serious penalties for driving a motorized vehicle while impaired.

Don’t drive while under the influence of cannabis, or get into a vehicle if the driver has consumed cannabis.

Find more information and videos on impaired driving, learning about the penalties of impaired driving, as well as what you can do to plan to get home safely by visiting Don’t Drive High and Eggs on Weed.

Where can I get help?

CAMH Cannabis Page has lots of additional information about cannabis, including links where you can find help, treatment and support.

ConnexOntario provides free and confidential health information for people living in Ontario who are experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling. Services are available 24/7.

What's With Weed has information on the risks of using cannabis, a quiz to find out where you are at with weed, information on how you compare with others, as well as videos about young people talking about their own cannabis use.

Cannabis Talk Kit is a toolkit created by Drug Free Kids Canada which outlines how to talk to your teenager about cannabis.