Cannabis (Marijuana)

Cannabis is the scientific name for the hemp plant.  The term "marijuana" is a Mexican slang word for the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant.  Most drugs are put into one of these three classes: stimulant, depressant or hallucinogen.  But cannabis belongs partly in all three.  It is legal to use cannabis for medicinal purposes in a number of countries including Canada and 15 of the United States (see Medical Use of Cannabis from Here to Help)

Cannabis is used in several forms, including:

  • the dried flowers or 'buds' of the hemp plant (marijuana)

  • an extract or 'resin' that is pressed out of the flowers and leaves (hashish or hash)

  • a powder (kief) that can be sifted from the leaves and flowers of the plant

  • a strong resin (kieft) that is extracted using a solvent (hash oil)

People smoke cannabis in a "joint" or through a pipe or "bong" (water pipe).  It can also be vapourized and the vapour can be inhaled.  Sometimes people mix cannabis with other herbs and smoke it or add it to cakes, cookies and other foods.  It can also be brewed into a tea or other beverage.  Or it can be mixed into a cream and rubbed on the skin.  It is almost impossible to overdose on cannabis.

When people smoke marijuana, they feel the effects almost immediately.  The effects usually last for one to three hours.  The effects take longer to being when it is eaten, but they usually last longer.  The psychological effects of cannabis depend on the person and the way they use it.

Short Term Effects

  • Faster heart rate and lower blood pressure

  • Dry mouth

  • "Red" eyes

  • Feet feel hot or cold

  • Muscles relax

  • Problems with short term and working memory

  • Possible trouble with problem solving and thinking

  • There is recent evidence that cannabis may trigger schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals

Some users report the following experiences:

  • Increase in hunger; food tastes and smells better

  • Think they hear or see things when they don't

  • Anxiety or paranoia

  • Greatly enjoy music

  • Laugh a lot; many things seem funny

  • Time seems to move faster or slower

  • Lost in thoughts

  • Less coordinated

  • Feel relaxed, less stress, or euphoric

At high doses people may:

  • Believe or see thing that are not real - hallucinations or delusions

  • Be confused about where they are or what is happening

  • Have memory Problems

Long Term Effects - chronic smoking of marijuana may cause

  • Coughing and more phlegm in throat and lungs

  • Serious chest illness that keeps returning

  • Higher risk of lung infection

  • Problems breathing

  • Greater risk of lung cancer (although evidence is still inconclusive).

Withdrawal Effects

Cannabis can be mildly physically addictive when used regularly.  People may also become addicted psychologically to the feelings they get from using it.  A person who uses cannabis regularly may have the following withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.

  • Grouchy and irritable

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Anxiety

  • Stomach upset

  • Loss of appetite

  • Sweating

See Also: 

BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.