Cannabis: The Basics

It’s good to be informed about the uses of cannabis, how to manage use and the health effects. You can learn more about cannabis here.

Learn More keyboard_arrow_down

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is the scientific name for the hemp plant. Its leaves and flowers—often called marijuana—contain a psychoactive [si ko ak tiv] resin that can affect how we think, feel and act.

Cannabis may come as:

  • marijuana – dried leaves and flowers or ‘buds’
  • hashish or hash – pressed resin from flowers and leaves
  • hash oil – concentrated resin extracted with a solvent

Cannabis is commonly smoked, but it can also be vaporized into a mist. Some people bake the oil into cookies or brownies, or drink it as tea. Others place a drop of tincture (concentrated liquid) under the tongue.

Why do people use cannabis?

The most common reason people give for using psychoactive substances is to feel good or have a good time. Smoking the occasional joint with friends or at a party might help them relax and engage with others. People also use substances because they are curious. It is natural to want to explore the world and try new things. Trying some cannabis may be one of those explorations.

Some people use substances to improve their performance. They say they use cannabis to help them concentrate in the same way some people use caffeine to become alert, perform better or keep focused. People may also use substances to feel better. This is usually to help them cope with pressure. As one young person said, cannabis “helps me relieve stress, manage anger… calms me down, helps me make it through the day.”

See the Tips for Managing Stress section for strategies on how to manage stress.

When is using cannabis a problem?

Most people do not experience long-term effects from experimenting with or using substances. But cannabis can be a problem if it negatively affects your life or the lives of others.

The level of risk for cannabis use differs from person to person and depends on factors like:

  • the age someone starts using
  • how often they use
  • the amount and potency of the drug
  • their personal health history
  • when and why they use the drug

It can seem like fun to use cannabis every day or smoke a lot at a party. It can, however, result in less contact with others, increase the chances of making poor decisions, or have other health effects. See the Cannabis and You page for more on the health effects of cannabis.

Cannabis may help ease anxiety or stress if used from time to time. The potential for harm increases if you use it more regularly or increase the amount you use. Some harms, such as driving while under the influence, may impact those we care about. Cannabis can impair your ability to drive. If the police stop you and find you are driving while impaired, they can fine you, suspend your driver’s license or bring criminal charges against you.

During our youth, we develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. The use of cannabis during these years is linked to a greater risk of negative health effects later in life. It can help to talk with a trusted adult or a health professional about the potential health risks associated with using cannabis.

If you are having difficulty controlling how and when you use cannabis, see the How can I Manage my Cannabis Use section.

What Next?

Want to explore and learn more? Here are a couple options that will help you.