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Cannabis (Marijuana, Weed or Hashish)

Street names: Marijuana, grass, weed, pot, dope, ganja, hashish, hash, hash oil, weed oil, honey oil

Cannabis is an illegal drug that comes from hemp plants with a high concentrations of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The drug has three common forms:

  • Marijuana: the dried leaves and flower buds of the cannabis plant;
  • Hash:  a compressed resin that comes from the flower buds; and
  • Hashish oil:  an oil that is produced by boiling the flower buds or hash resin in an organic solvent.

How it is used

Cannabis is often smoked, by being rolled into a joint on its own or mixed with tobacco. It is also sometimes smoked in a pipe. Less commonly if is sometimes cooked into foods, like brownies or added to a drink like milk.

While this drug is reported to be the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada, its use is typically infrequent and experimental.

Quick facts:

  • Cannabis it the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada. A 2009 study found that 42 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 had used the drug at some point in their life and 12 per cent had used the drug in the past year.
  • Cannabis is often one of the first drugs youth will experiment with. A 2009 report found that roughly 26 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 in Ontario have used the drug at least once in the previous year, with usage much higher in boys than girls.
  • Hemp that is used for industrial purposes has very low levels of THC. Of the three varieties of cannabis, cannabis sativa has the highest concentrations of THC. Only the female cannabis leaves contain THC.
  • People with a Health Canada medical exemption are permitted to grow, or have a designated person grow for them, their own supply.

Recognizing cannabis

The cannabis plant has a distinct appearance, with seven elongated leaves radiating out from a common centre, giving it an appearance much like an open human hand with the fingers spread apart. One of the most distinctive features of cannabis is its smell, which is very strong and recognizable.

The dried leaves look like a lumpy mix of green herbs, while hash can have a range of colours, from a lighter yellow to a darker brown, and looks somewhat like a bouillon cube with a smooth almost oil-like texture. Hash oil is a brown coloured oil that is normally stored in a small glass vial or sealed plastic bag.

Effects of cannabis

People who use cannabis regularly can develop a psychological and/or mild physical addiction.

When smoked or consumed, a person can have a range of experiences as well as intensity of experience, based on a number of factors. This can range from feeling relaxed, lively and giggly to tense, confused and anxious. The same person may have a different experience from one time they take the drug to another. When taken at high doses a person is much more likely to have a negative experience that in the most extreme cases can include pseudo or real hallucinations.

Chronic, heavy use of cannabis can have a number of negative long-term effects, which includes the possibility of developing cancer, bronchitis and reduced motivation at work and school.

There is also evidence that regular and heavy use of cannabis may impair memory, attention as well as the ability to process complex information and that these difficulties may continue anywhere from weeks to years after the person stops using the drug.

There may be a link between chronic heavy use of cannabis and the onset of schizophrenia, although it is not known heavy cannabis is the cause or a correlated coping mechanism. The current medical evidence indicates that people with schizophrenia who continue to use cannabis experience more acute psychotic symptoms and that this worsens the course of the illness.

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The primary source for this information was provided by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. For more information on Cannabis, please visit their website.