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Cannabis 101

What is cannabis?

Cannabis refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. “Cannabis” is the scientific term, but there are a lot of other names for cannabis like: weed, pot, marijuana, mary jane, ganja, etc. 

There are two main types of compounds in cannabis: THC and CBD. THC is the chemical in cannabis that produces a “high” feeling. CBD does not make you high. THC and other similar compounds and different strains are thought to have different effects on the body.

Banner: learn more about THC and CBD
How does cannabis impact the body?
How does cannabis impact your body?

When cannabis is smoked or vaped, THC passes from your lungs into your bloodstream. Your bloodstream carries it to organs throughout your body. Effects begin immediately and can last from 1 to 3 hours. Edibles can take longer before the effects are felt, making it hard to judge how much to consume.

THC impacts the parts of your brain responsible for pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, time perception, and coordination. 

How does weed make you feel high?

THC, one of the main compounds in cannabis, acts on cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the body but mostly in the brain. These brain areas are involved in memory, concentration, perception, and movement. THC interferes with the normal functioning of these brain areas.

How long do you feel high after consuming cannabis?

The answer varies depending on a variety of factors: the length of a high depends on the amount consumed, the mode of consumption (how the cannabis was consumed), the weight of the consumer, their level of tolerance, etc. The effects of using cannabis can last longer than you think.⁠ The noticeable effects of smoked cannabis generally last from 1 to 3 hours, and the effects of cannabis consumed in food or drink can last much longer. 

What are the side effects of cannabis?

Cannabis can cause slower reaction time and may cause dizziness. Other physical effects include increased heart rate, dry month, and increased appetite. How long cannabis stays in your system depends on how much, how long, and the method used to consume it. 

Chronic use or use of higher potency cannabis can lead to cannabinoid hyperemesis, which is severe nausea and dehydration and heavy use could result in dependence and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. 

What are the laws for cannabis?

As many of us know, you must be 21 years or older to purchase recreational cannabis in California or 18 years or older with a medical marijuana card. 

What happens if you get caught with cannabis when you’re underage? 

You might be required to complete drug education or counseling and community service. You can also get a minor in possession (MIP) even if a friend or relative over 21 years old buys it for you. You could also face fines and/or jail time if you have other prior offenses and if you are undocumented, you may be at risk for deportation. 

Can you travel or drive with cannabis? 

Cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, which means federal law applies to some types of travel within California.  No matter how you are traveling, cannabis cannot be taken across state lines, even if you’re traveling to a state where cannabis is legal. Cannabis is not legal or safe to use when driving and could result in a DUI. This also applies if you have a medical use card. While you are allowed to drive with cannabis in your vehicle, you are not allowed to have more than one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis and up to eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and it must be in a sealed, unopened package or kept in the trunk. It is illegal to carry cannabis products in airports or when you travel by air even if it is legal in the states where you are traveling. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of laws to local, state or federal authorities.

What happens if you are undocumented? 

U.S. Immigration is managed on a federal level. Because cannabis is illegal federally, there are unique risks for undocumented people - even in the states where cannabis is legal. Possession or use can cause an individual to be denied any sort of visa, green card, or U.S entry. Undocumented people could face legal consequences for using or possessing cannabis even if they are following state laws. Immigration officials can deny individuals entry into the United States, or have their application for lawful status or naturalization denied if they say they have ever possessed or used cannabis.

What are the restrictions for medical cannabis use? 

You can be 18 years or older with a medical marijuana card if you have a current qualifying physiciains recommendation or a valid county issued medical marijuana identification card. It is still illegal to drive while under the influence or consume cannabis in public spaces, even if it is for medical use.

Can cannabis help with anxiety?

Cannabis has been documented for use in alleviating anxiety. However, certain research has also shown that it can produce feelings of anxiety, panic, paranoia and psychosis. In high doses, marijuana can cause hallucinations, delusions, impaired memory, and disorientation.

Read more about cannabis and anxiety here.

What are the impacts of cannabis use?

Black market cannabis and the environment

Black market cannabis can often have unintended environmental consequences. For example, cannabis needs a lot of water to grow, so growing it on a large scale can easily result in water depletion. ⁠Illegal growers often don’t pay for water use, they tend to use water at even more wasteful rates with little regard for the environment. ⁠Purchasing from black market dealers instead of licensed farms or dispensaries can have big impacts on⁠ the environment.⁠

Learn more about the impacts of vaping on the environment.

Black market cannabis and crime

When you buy weed on the street or from a dealer, you don’t know the source. Much of California’s illegal marijuana industry has been linked to criminal operations such as kidnapping and human trafficking. When you buy marijuana from a legitimate farm or retailer in California, this isn’t the case.

Is it possible to get addicted to or overdose on cannabis? 

While cannabis does not have the same habit-forming chemicals found in other drugs, studies have found that some people are more susceptible to addiction and may become dependent on cannabis.

Marijuana use disorder is when users continue use of cannabis despite significant negative impacts on one’s life and health. Cannabis impacts receptors in the brain so while not causing an addiction, it can cause withdrawals that make it hard to quit. The more frequent the use, the more likely that is and stronger withdrawals will be. The ritual of smoking can also be habit-forming. 

Some warning signs that you may have a marijuana addiction include: 

  • Not being able to stop using marijuana even though you want to 
  • Doing dangerous things to access or use marijuana 
  • Continuing to use marijuana in spite of relationship, legal, financial, health, or other issues
  • Feeling like you need marijuana to feel normal
Is it possible to overdose on weed?

Although you cannot technically overdose on weed, you can go into a state of Hyperemesis. 

To learn more about hyperemesis, check out the article here

Hyperemesis is just one way you can be impacted when consuming too much weed. Frequent use, high potency, or over-consuming can all lead to longer-lasting impacts of cannabis consumption such as breathing issues and an elevated heart rate.

If you feel like you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should reach out for help. You can find resources near you on our resources page. You will not get in trouble for visiting the hospital to receive care even if you are underage or have consumed too much. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. 

Banner: Learn more about the impact of vaping on the environment

Fast Facts/Common Questions 

What are the differences between cannabis strains?

  • The different strains of cannabis typically include sativa, indica, or hybrid. Many who use cannabis believe that the different strains have a different effects on the body, with indica generally being more “relaxing” and sativa being more “energizing. However, there is very little science to back up these claims and any effects that the cannabis strain may have is effected by its potency, the user’s tolerance, and the consumption method, just to name a few factors.

What are the different ways people consume cannabis?

  • Cannabis is most commonly smoked like a cigarette or inhaled through a vaporizer, but it can also be made into “edibles” like brownies or candies, or brewed like tea. Edibles can have very high levels of THC and take up to 90 minutes before the effects are felt, making it difficult to judge how much to consume and increasing the chance of overdose.

What is dabbing?

  • Dabs are concentrated doses of cannabis that are made by extracting the psychoactive components (ex: THC) using a solvent. This produces a sticky oil (sometimes called wax, shatter, budder, and butane hash oil). This substance is then heated on a hot surface, usually a nail, and then inhaled through a “dab rig.” 
  • Learn more about hyperemesis in the article here