Cannabis is an annual, flowering herb. It is widely accepted as being indigenous to and originating from Central Asia. Cannabis plants produce a group of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce mental and physical effects when consumed. The plant is also known as hemp, although this term is often used to refer only to varieties of cannabis cultivated for non-drug use. In Australia, it is understood as a prescribed medicinal treatment, accessible through your GP.
Cannabis contains many cannabinoids. THC and CBD are believed to be two most important cannabinoids that play a role in the effects of cannabis. The effects of cannabis depend on the cannabinoid profile of the plant which can vary widely within the labels ‘Sativa’ (CBD) and ‘lndica’ (THC). The buds of the plant are smoked, vaporised, used in cooking or tinctures to achieve the desired effects. In the early 20th century, it became illegal in most of the world to cultivate or possess cannabis for sale or personal use. Cannabis has depressant, psychedelic and stimulating effects, but does not slow down the Central Nervous System (CNS) as most other depressants do.
Know Your Body & Mind — ‘Set’
Know Your Environment — ‘Setting’
Know Your Drug — Practice Harm Reduction
Cannabis is most commonly smoked but can also be vaporised, eaten, infused into food and beverages, tinctures, topicals, patches and ingesting raw cannabis.
DURATION OF EFFECTS
Inhaling (smoking or vaping)
Ingesting (eating or drinking)
|Total Duration||1hr – 6hrs||Total Duration||6hrs – 12 hrs|
|Onset||0-10 mins||Onset||30 mins – 2hrs|
|Peak||15-30 mins||Peak||30 mins – 4hrs|
|Coming Down||1hr – 2.5hrs||Coming Down||4hrs – 8hrs|
|After Effects||6hrs – 24hrs||After Effects||12hrs – 24hrs|
Half life: Even though the apparent effects of the drug wear off after a few hours the half life for THC/CBD can be far longer. This builds up over time and regular cannabis users may have the drug and its metabolites in their system for days and even weeks after stopping.
In roadside and workplace drug tests, police and employers are only testing for THC. They aren’t looking for CBD, as CBD is non-intoxicating and is not known to affect cognitive abilities like motor skills or judgement.
Roadside Police: THC (Cannabis) is tested for in roadside drug tests and is detectable in saliva tests for 24-48hrs+. In Australia, it’s illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your system – that means that the roadside tests which are used (saliva swabs, blood, and urine tests) are not testing for impairment, but simply the presence of THC which can stay in your system for a large amount of time.
Workplace: OHS law gives employers rights to test employees for drug use. This should be contained in workplace policy, it should be reasonable, and a risk assessment should be done to determine whether testing of employees is appropriate. THC can store in your fat cells and accumulate in the body even in trace amounts – depending on body fat composition, frequency and levels of use, there is a potential for a failed drug test weeks after your last dose.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS
CBD – Cannabidiol
|Minimal to no side effects|
Effects vary from person to person. The effects of cannabis greatly depend on the CBD and THC ratio.
The following are general effects: Could apply to some strains or common in hybrids.
In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any drug. ‘Dose’ depends on the form a drug is in (leaves, powder, oil, shatter, hashish) and how you have it (inhale or ingest).
- If you are new to edible cannabis or cannabis, start low by consuming an edible cannabis product with no more than 2.5 mg of THC. For smoking or vaping cannabis, start with a product that contains no more than 100 mg/g (10%) THC content.
- Strength varies greatly from source to source so dosage will vary. A couple of puffs of a joint may be more than enough to feel the effects.
- It’s always a good idea to start with a small dose.
- Some people find that it’s also better to start with a joint rather than bongs as it is easier to monitor dose ie. a bong will deliver a full hit in one go which can be overwhelming to first time users.
- Consider carefully before redosing as it is easy to get carried away.
- Cannabis grown hydroponically can be stronger than cannabis grown outdoors in the ground. However be mindful you can also get very strong outdoor grown weed if it contains high levels of THC.
DID YOU KNOW ABOUT TERPENES?
Terpenes are the fragrant oils secreted from the same resin glands that produce cannabinoids on marijuana plants. Most notably, Terpenes are known for the aromatic qualities that they instill within marijuana flowers. They also naturally protect plants from bacteria, fungus, insects and a variety of other environmental stressors.
Terpenes bind to receptors in the brain, much like cannabinoids do, and they are known to act as serotonin uptake inhibitors, enhancing norepinephrine activity (many antidepressants do one or the other). The specific way that each terpene binds and interacts with neurotransmitters determines the effects felt by the user.
Terpenes also interact with THC and CBD, augmenting or subtly altering the effects of these and other cannabinoids. Understanding the science of terpenes can help you find the strains that work best for you. For more information check out this video resource.
POTENTIAL BENEFITS AND SIDE EFFECTS
THC – Tetrahydrocannabinol
- Change in vision- colours or lights seem brighter
- Dry mouth
- Bloodshot eyes
- Stimulation, inability to sleep
- Increased appetite (munchies)
- Increase in body/mind connection
- Physical relaxation
- Chest infections
- Feelings of love and empathy
- Mood lift / Euphoria
- Deeper connection to music and sound
- Relaxation, reduced stress
- Spiritual experiences
- Unexpected emotional experiences
- Depression (post high)
- Closed eye visuals
- Increased awareness of senses (taste, smell, etc)
- Altered sense of time
- Racing thoughts
- Boring/mundane tasks can become interesting
- Increased focus and concentration
- Creative, philosophical, abstract or deep thoughts
- Short term memory loss
- Panic attacks (usually in higher doses)
- Exacerbated latent or existing mental health disorders
- Evidence of inhibiting emotional development if used regularly during adolescence
‘Set’ is the mindset a person brings with them and includes the physical, emotional and spiritual condition of the person, their expectations about the drug’s effects and how they will react to it. ‘Setting’ is the environment that a person is in, including the social environment, who you are with and the physical surroundings, e.g. at home, at a festival or an unfamiliar location. For psychedelic drugs, more so than other psychoactive substances, set and setting are very important in determining the nature of the experience.
- Use in a comfortable environment with people you trust.
- Start with a small dose – to gauge your tolerance
- Make sure you drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Also, PGRs (Plant Growth Regulators) are very common in the Australian black market in recent years due to their high profitability and low cost of operation for unregulated markets. Cannabis grown using certain plant steroids are carcinogenic to the human body when combusted. PGR goes by many names – scag, dirt, ‘Brisbane/Melbourne Red’ and ‘Canberra/Adelaide’ Gold, to mention just a few. To find out more view this article here.
SAFER HANDLING & THE LAW
Carrying Cannabis and paraphernalia (e.g. Smoking / Preparation equipment) puts you at risk of criminal charges including trafficking, even if you don’t deal.
In Queensland the maximum penalty for personal use Cannabis possession is as follows:
- more than 500 grams: $590,000 (5,000 penalty unit) and/or 20-25 years imprisonment
- less than 500grams: up to 15 years maximum imprisonment, possession of paraphernalia: up to 2 years imprisonment
- less than 50 grams of cannabis and/or a smoking implement, police are required to offer offenders a drug diversion. This outcome avoids going to court or receiving criminal charges, however it is subject to not having received a drug diversion before, no prior criminal records or arrests associated with the possession or drug charges.
Know your local laws e.g. the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld), the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substance Act 1981 (Vic).
INHALING (Smoking & Vaping):
- Cannabis smoke or vapour delivers THC, the chemical that gets you high, into your lungs where it passes directly into your bloodstream and then your brain
- Avoid sharing smoking devices to prevent sharing blood borne viruses such as Hep C.
- Keep your lips moisturised to avoid cracking/bleeding.
- Clean your smoking devices by soaking in boiling water for a few minutes.
It is best not to hold smoke in your lungs longer than 3-5 seconds. It takes this long to absorb the maximum amount of THC and holding your breath for longer will not make the effects stronger.
- Using a vaporizer is a good alternative to smoking a joint or a bong as it will contribute to fewer respiratory problems. You will also need less cannabis to reach the same effect. THC boils at ~150 degrees celsius and CBD at ~180). For anti-anxiety effects, vaporise at 180 degrees celsius or higher (CBD can have an anti-anxiety effect)
- Bongs filter out more THC than tar and are more harmful to your respiratory system than using a vaporiser or smoking a tobacco-free joint.
INGESTING (Eating & Drinking):
- Edible cannabis travels first to your stomach then to your liver before getting into your bloodstream and brain. The liver converts THC into a stronger form and this combined with the THC from the original product adds to the intensity of the high.
- Cannabis oils and extract products such as edibles can be very potent and cannabis consumed orally has longer lasting effects. Be mindful of your dose to prevent unexpected strong effects that may be experienced as unpleasant.
LONG TERM EFFECTS
Upper respiratory problems if smoked • Psychological dependence • Reduced cognitive functioning • Possible mental health issues if pre-existing
It is not recommended to use Cannabis if you have or are at risk of:
Depression • Anxiety • Psychotic disorders • Schizoaffective disorders • Respiratory problems (only when smoking) • Heart problems
Polydrug use has many possible outcomes. What could be fun for one person could be dangerous for another. We recommend you proceed with caution.
- Tobacco – increases risk of respiratory issues (including cancer) and can contribute to nicotine dependence.
- Psychedelics (all) – may increase the effects which can lead to confusion or a challenging experience.
- Stimulants (Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Speed) – May intensify the effects which may lead to an increase in anxiety, confusion, paranoia and thought loops.
- Prescription drugs – may compound effects of blood pressure medication
- Antipsychotics – Decreases effects of antipsychotics, increased psychotic symptoms, tremors, muscle stiffness, tiredness, difficulty breathing.
- Antidepressants – Increased blood levels of the antidepressant, resulting in increased side effects. Risk of arrhythmia (TCA), mood disorders (SSRI, specifically fluoxetine/ Prozac®), increased heart rate.
Low risk effects
- Alcohol – Low risk however in excess can cause nausea, vomiting and unexpected effects
- Nitrous – Low risk combination
- MDMA – Large amounts of either or both may cause strong and somewhat unpredictable experiences, which can be as intense as psychedelics. Consider that your Set and Setting are good, before you combine these. Cannabis should be saved for towards the end of the MDMA experience if possible, where the psychedelic alike effect won’t come to play and may ease the comedown.
Check out the TripSit drug combinations chart here for info on other combinations.
Call 000 if experiencing adverse effects, feel unwell or concerned in any way
This educational resource has been developed collaboratively by healthcare workers and people who use drugs for their peers and the wider community. The role of Hi-Ground is to provide practical, evidence-based, unbiased information to assist you to make educated choices and to promote harm reduction, community care, and wellbeing.
In an unregulated market it’s impossible to know the purity or dose of any substance. Taking drugs from an unregulated market carries its own risk, and you can educate yourself and practice harm reduction to reduce this risk.
Knowledge is power.
This resource is produced by DanceWize & Hi-Ground