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Cannabis

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a drug that is derived from a plant. There are three main forms of cannabis:

  • Marijuana (also called pot, weed, or grass): the dried leaves and flowers of the plant.
  • Hashish (hash): A dried resin from the top of the plant.
  • Hash oil: a sticky oil made from hashish. It is often put in small bottles or caps.

Legalization

Cannabis will be legalized in Canada on October 17, 2018 for individuals ages 19+. Only cannabis purchased in licensed stores will be legal, and there will be limits on how much you can possess at once. Cannabis will only be legal to use in private property (i.e. at home). For more information, visit gov.mb.ca/cannabis/cannabisuseinmb.html.

University Policy

The University of Manitoba’s policy on cannabis use will be in accordance with provincial legislation. This means the following:

  • Smoking and vaporizing cannabis is prohibited on campus
  • Growth of cannabis is prohibited on campus
  • Sale of cannabis is prohibited on campus.

Medicinal use of cannabis is restricted to those with a valid prescription, and must be in accordance with the University’s Clean Air Procedure.

Your Health and Cannabis Use

Whether you use cannabis regularly or only once in a while, there can be risks involved. What you do about your cannabis use and your safety is up to you, but research has provided some recommendations.

In the same way that it is important to keep an eye on your diet and how it affects your health, it is important to understand your cannabis use and how it may affect your body and your life. Cannabis may affect your physical, mental, emotional, and social health. It is important to practice self-care, however this may look for you.

Everyone responds differently to cannabis and has their own risk factors for harm (such as pre-existing mental illness, family members with addictions, poor coping skills, lung conditions, and many more). While it's tough to say what might happen to you specifically, here are some of the more common problems associated with cannabis use:

  • Mental health problems (anxiety, psychosis, depression, suicide): You are at a higher risk if one of your immediate family members has a mental illness, and using cannabis can worsen any mental illnesses you already have. For example, if you already experience anxiety cannabis can make it worse (despite being typically described as relaxing).
  • Social problems: If cannabis is a common activity for you and your friends, you may begin to have trouble socializing when you don't want to use.  Your cannabis use may also cause tension with family or friends who don't use or who disagree with your choices.
  • Physical problems: Cannabis can affect your appetite, therefore affecting the choices you make about your nutrition. Cannabis can also affect your memory, attention span, and ability to make decisions. Smoking cannabis can damage your lungs and either cause or worsen lung infections, asthma, or emphysema.
  • Addiction: Although many people say you can't become addicted to cannabis, this is a myth. In fact, about 1 in 5 Canadians who received treatment for substance use had cannabis-related problems.

These recommendations are in accordance with Canada’s Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines.

Abstinence

Like anything else that can be harmful, the best way to keep yourself safe is to not use the substance at all. When thinking about using cannabis, consider the risks and the benefits.

Defer Use

Harms from cannabis use have been linked to starting at an early age, which may be related to brain development. Since your brain isn't fully developed until your mid-twenties, consider waiting until then to try cannabis.

Use Cannabis with Lower THC

Cannabis is made up of a few different components, including THC and CBD. THC is the part that can cause hallucinations and is responsible for most of the harms of cannabis use. CBD counter-acts some of the THC, meaning it can make your cannabis more safe. If possible, try using cannabis products with less THC and more CBD - this is often referred to as a high CBD:THC ratio.

Avoid Synthetic Cannabinoids

Health risks are much higher in synthetic cannabis products, such as K2 or Spice.  If you want to lower your risk, avoid these products.

Avoid Smoking

You have probably heard that inhaling smoke is bad for your lungs - this applies to smoking cannabis too. Try non-inhaled methods such as edibles or vaporizers. Just remember that edibles often contain higher doses of cannabis, so be aware of how much you're using.

Avoid Deep Inhalation

If you're going to be inhaling your cannabis (i.e. smoking a joint), avoid deep inhalation or holding your breath before exhaling, as these expose your lungs to more smoke. Try inhaling less smoke with each puff, and exhaling sooner than you would have before.

Use Less Often

The risks associated with cannabis use are linked to how often you use it. If you use cannabis daily or almost every day, you are at a much higher risk for problems (either right away or later on) than if you use it once a week or only on weekends.

Don’t Use and Drive

Cannabis can make it harder to concentrate, make judgement calls, and have control over your physical actions. This means that driving while using can be very dangerous. While everyone responds to cannabis differently, you typically need to wait 6 hours after using before it is safe to drive.

Know Your Other Risks

If you have a first-degree relative (i.e. a parent or sibling) with an addiction or who experiences psychosis, you have a much higher risk of developing the same. If you are pregnant, cannabis can harm the fetus as well. Know what makes you a higher risk for troubles than others, and weigh this in to your decision about whether or not to use.

Avoid Combining Risks

While each of the risks described here can cause issues on their own, it is even more dangerous to combine these risks (i.e. using high-THC cannabis every day). Try eliminating as many risk factors as you can in order to keep yourself as safe as possible.

If you are concerned about your cannabis use for any reason, seek help! There are many resources available for a variety of issues.

Healthy U

Many people have found that peer health educators are a really helpful way of receiving support for their cannabis use. Our Healthy U volunteers are able to share ways you can protect yourself while using cannabis, direct you towards appropriate resources if you want help, and be a set of listening ears if you just want to talk about your experiences or struggles. Visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/healthyumanitoba to find out their office hours, and then drop by 474 UMSU University Centre to have a chat or to pick up information.

Student Counselling Centre – 474 UMSU University Centre

If you would like counselling regarding your substance use, the Student Counselling Centre has an Addictions Foundation of Manitoba counsellor on site.

University Health Services – 104 UMSU University Centre

If you have concerns about the effects of cannabis on your physical health, visit University Health Services on campus, or see your family doctor.

Addictions Foundation of Manitoba – 1031 Portage Avenue or on campus

If you are seeking help for an addiction, consider meeting with an AFM counsellor at the Student Counselling Centre. You can also visit AFM's website at afm.mb.ca for a list of services and contact numbers.

Klinic – 870 Portage Avenue

If you are struggling with your mental health and are not comfortable seeing someone on campus, visit Klinic for support. For hours and services, visit klinic.mb.ca.

Information adapted from Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse & Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).