Cannabis use is a personal choice and individuals choose to use cannabis for a variety of reasons. Regardless of these reasons, it is important to understand the potential benefits and health risks. Learn the facts so that you can lower your risk and make informed decisions that are right for you and your family.

Cannabis is a plant known by many names, including marijuana, weed, or pot. Some common forms of cannabis include the dried flower, edibles, oils, extracts, tinctures, creams and capsules. People consume these products for both medical and non-medical purposes.

The cannabis plant contains over 100 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. When consumed, these compounds affect the brain and other parts of the body. The two most common cannabinoids are:

  • THC (aka delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant and is responsible for the way your brain and body respond to cannabis, including the intoxicating effects or feelings of “high”.
  • CBD (aka cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant and is not typically associated with intoxication or feelings of “high”.

Understanding the laws and regulations around non-medical cannabis use in Canada is an important part of staying safe.

Learn the facts so that you can make informed decisions:

What you need to know about cannabis, Government of Canada

The two most common ways that people use cannabis are through inhalation and ingestion. It is important to understand the differences between the two and how each can affect you:

When will I feel the effects? When will the effects peak? How long will the effects last?
Inhaling (aka smoking, vaping) Seconds to a few minutes Within 30 minutes Up to 6 hours*
Ingesting (aka edibles, drinks) 30 minutes to 2 hours Within 4 hours Up to 12 hours*

* Some effects can last up to 24 hours

Safer Use Tips:

  • Always read product labels to understand the strength of the product
  • Choose edible products with 2.5 mg of THC or less
  • Wait to feel full effects before taking more to protect against overconsumption
  • If you choose to smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath
  • Avoid mixing cannabis with tobacco, alcohol or other substances
  • Try to limit your use of cannabis products

For more information on safer cannabis consumption:
Consumer Information-Cannabis, Health Canada

If you choose to use cannabis, you may be putting your health at risk.

Short-term health risks
Cannabis use may cause unwanted side affects such as:

  • Impaired concentration, memory, and decision-making
  • Impaired ability to drive safely (i.e. vehicle, ATV, snowmobile, etc.)
  • Feelings of anxiety, paranoia, fear, or panic
  • Faster heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Other harms such as over consumption

Long-term health risks
Regular and long-term use of cannabis may lead to problems such as:

  • Trouble with memory, concentration, and learning
  • Difficulty thinking and making decisions
  • Lung problems if smoked, including chronic cough, wheezing, and lung infections
  • Mental Health problems like anxiety, depression, or psychosis. Your risk increases if you have a personal or family history of these conditions or use products with high % of THC.
  • Cannabis Use Disorder. Some people who regularly use cannabis may find it hard to control their use and keep using even though it is negatively impacting on there lives. Close to 1 in 10 adult who ever use cannabis will develop a dependency.
  • Motivational Syndrome. Making plans without an ability to follow through.

Your health risks increase if you use cannabis regularly and over a long period of time.

For more information on the health impacts of cannabis:
Health effects of cannabis, Health Canada

Using cannabis during pregnancy or while breastfeeding can affect the health of your baby. If you have questions or concerns, it is best to have a discussion with a health care provider.

For more information about cannabis use and pregnancy or breastfeeding:
Thinking about using cannabis before or during pregnancy?, Health Canada
Pregnancy Info, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Delay as long as possible. The earlier in life you begin cannabis use, the more likely you are to experience serious health effects.

Always purchase cannabis products from a licensed retailer, whether from a local store or online. Synthetic cannabis products (i.e., K2, Spice) are dangerous and can cause serious health problems.

Choose safer methods. There are different ways of using cannabis and some are safer than others. Smoking cannabis causes the most harm. If you do smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath.

Start low and go slow. Choose products with a low amount of THC and an equal or higher amount of CBD.

Stick to one. Mixing cannabis with tobacco, alcohol, or other substances will increase impairment and the risk of serious health effects.

Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Cannabis can impair your judgment, reaction time, and increase your chances of being in an accident. When using cannabis, it is important to wait at least 6 hours before driving or operating a motorized vehicle. It is also best to avoid combining cannabis with alcohol and other substances as this increases your level of impairment.

Some people should avoid use. It is safest to avoid using cannabis if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you are at risk for mental health or substance use problems.

Practice safe and responsible storage. Keep cannabis products in a safe place out of reach from children, youth, and pets. Cannabis in food products (edibles) can be especially tempting to curious children. If a child accidently eats or drinks cannabis, seek medical attention right away.

Know when to call for help. If you ever experience sever symptoms from cannabis, such as confusion, shaking, shortness of breath, and/or vomiting, seek medical attention right away.

It can become hard to stop. Close to 1 in 10 adults who have ever used cannabis will develop a dependency. Limit your use, such as once a week or only during weekends.

For more information about safer cannabis use:
Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines , Center for Addiction and Mental Health
Thinking about using cannabis while parenting?, Health Canada
Cannabis impairment, Health Canada

Many youth are curious about cannabis. It is important to invite open and honest conversations about cannabis early and to provide accurate information before your teen needs to ask. You may not be able to ‘prevent’ your teen from trying cannabis, however, you can prepare them to make safe and responsible choices for themselves.

For more information on how to engage youth in conversations about cannabis:
Cannabis Talk Kit, Drug Free Kids Canada
Test Run the Cannabis Talk, Drug Free Kids Canada
Cannabis: What Parents/Guardians and Caregivers Need to Know, Center for Addiction and Mental Health
Talking Pot with Youth, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Some people choose to use cannabis to help manage certain health conditions. Cannabis for medical purposes has been legal in Canada since 2001. To determine if cannabis is appropriate to treat your symptoms, it is best to have a discussion with a health care provider.

Using non-medical cannabis to manage a physical or mental health concern can be harmful. If you are self-medicating with non-medical cannabis, talk to a health care provider to determine the best possible care plan for you.

To learn more about cannabis for medical purposes, please visit:
Medical use of cannabis – Health Canada

If you would like to seek help for a loved one’s or your own cannabis use, contact your local mental health and addictions office.