Cannabis in Manitoba
 

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Cannabis Basics

Cannabis, weed, pot, marijuana, dope: these are all names for the buds or flowers of the Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica plants. Cannabis is most frequently smoked, either like a cigarette or from a pipe or bong. Cannabis may also be vaporized using either the dried flowers of the plant, or using concentrates. Cannabis concentrates will remain prohibited for sale until new legislation is passed.

There are hundreds of chemical compounds contained in the cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical that makes people feel high. THC can cause feelings of well-being, relaxation and increased appetite, as well as paranoia, anxiety, and depression. Cannabidiol (CBD) is known for its medicinal qualities to manage pain, nausea, inflammation and anxiety, but is not intoxicating.

Similar to alcohol consumption, there is a spectrum of effects when consuming cannabis. The more you consume (or the more THC is in the product) the stronger the effects. It is possible to take very little cannabis and experience mild effects, and it is possible to take too much and become sick.

Cannabis Health Risks

There are some factors that increase the risks of using cannabis, such as starting to use it at a young age, or heavier use, such as daily or several times each day.

Smoking cannabis frequently over a long period of time can damage your lungs, particularly if you hold the smoke in after inhaling. Daily or near-daily use of cannabis increases the risk of developing anxiety or depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. Frequent, long-term use of cannabis can negatively affect your memory, your ability to concentrate at school or work, and for some people will make it more difficult to become motivated.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to overdose on cannabis. It is not fatal, but overconsumption can be very uncomfortable and cause sleepiness, confusion, disorientation, clumsiness/loss of coordination, fainting, dizziness, chest pain, fast, slow or pounding heartbeat, panic attacks, loss of contact with reality, paranoia, and seizures. Seek immediate medical attention in case of overdose if experiencing chest pain, panic attacks or seizures.

If you have taken too much and find the effects overwhelming, and you are not experiencing chest pain, seizures, or a loss of contact with reality, make sure you are in a safe place and do not drive a vehicle or ride a bicycle. As the effects of cannabis wear off, you should begin to feel less anxious and uncomfortable.

For lesser symptoms, contact poison control (1-855-776-4766 or 1-855-7POISON), or Health Links – Info Santé (204-788-8200 or toll free 1-888-315-9257) for 24 hour advice.

Becoming dependent on cannabis is also a risk and some people who try to quit experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, sleeping difficulties, cravings and anxiety. Dependency happens in about nine per cent of cannabis users. If you or someone you know is struggling with a dependency, contact the youth addictions centralized intake service: 1-877-710-3999, or the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605.

Cannabis Myths

Myth #1 Cannabis is not addictive.

False.

Approximately one in 11 users (nine per cent) become dependent on cannabis. The risk is nearly two times greater if you start using cannabis when you are a teen or young adult. Likewise, if you begin using cannabis multiple times a week, the risk of becoming dependent increases to between 25 per cent and 50 per cent.

If you or someone you know is struggling with dependency, contact the centralized intake youth addictions service: 1-877-710-3999, or the Manitoba Addictions Helpline at 1-855-662-6605.

Myth #2 Everybody uses cannabis.

False.

In Manitoba, 55 per cent of people have tried cannabis at some point in their life. However, in 2017, 80 per cent of Manitobans reported that they had not used cannabis in that year.

Myth #3 It’s okay to drive when using cannabis.

False.

Many scientific studies show that cannabis use doubles your risk of being in a car accident. Cannabis remains in your body even after you stop noticing its effects. You can still be impaired hours after you no longer feel high. If you have consumed cannabis, it is the safest decision not to drive until the next day. If you consume cannabis frequently, you may consistently have levels of cannabis in your body that make it illegal to drive, even if you do not feel impaired.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by a drug, including cannabis. Persons who do so can be charged and face penalties under the Criminal Code and also receive sanctions, such as driver’s licence suspensions, under the Highway Traffic Act. It is important for drivers, including those in the medical marijuana program, to be careful to not get behind the wheel if their ability to drive is impaired by a drug; otherwise, they pose a risk of injury or death to themselves and others and could face serious legal consequences.

Myth #4 Holding it in your lungs makes the effects better.

False.

There is no scientific evidence to support this. Instead, holding the smoke in your lungs potentially increases the damage to your lungs. If you smoke or vaporize cannabis, it is best to exhale and not hold it in your lungs for any amount of time.

Myth #5 You can’t overdose on cannabis.

False.

You cannot die directly from taking cannabis, however, it is possible to overdose and become physically ill (nausea, vomiting), experience extreme anxiety, paranoia, and short-term psychosis (loss of touch with reality). These effects can take several hours to go away, depending on how the cannabis was consumed. The risk for overdose is especially high if you consume homemade edible cannabis products, as it is usually not possible to accurately measure your dosage.

Seek immediate medical attention in case of overdose if experiencing chest pain, panic attacks or seizures. For lesser symptoms, contact poison control (1-855-776-4766 or 1-855-7POISON), Health Links—Info Santé (204-788-8200 or toll-free 1-888-315-9257) for 24 hour advice.

For more information on the health effects of cannabis, please see Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living's cannabis website.

Cannabis and pregnancy.

Cannabis use during pregnancy can be harmful to the baby’s health and may lead to long term effects on the child’s growth and development. There are no known safe amounts of cannabis use during pregnancy; therefore it is recommended to abstain from using cannabis if pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Heavy cannabis users, particularly those who mix it with tobacco, have a greater risk of having a premature baby. The baby may also experience lower birth weight, lower alertness and slower growth. Many of the exposed infants have also experienced neurobehavioural disturbances as well as difficulty with memory and lack of attentiveness once they get older.

Cannabis use can also affect breastmilk; THC passes into breastmilk and then enters the baby’s brain and fat cells, where it can remain for weeks. It’s recommended that women stop using cannabis while breastfeeding.

For more information, please visit Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living's website on cannabis and pregnancy.