Reduce your risk of lung problems, mental health problems and legal issues
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You and safer cannabis use
While using cannabis may be safer than using some other drugs, there are things about using cannabis that can be harmful. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of harms and bad experiences.
Before you start...
Be clear about why you want to use. Is it going to help you in some way or make things worse?
Be sure you trust your source. Cannabis for adult personal use is now legal in Canada. Legal cannabis products are tested for quality in BC, and thus safer to use than cannabis you may get from your dealer or a friend. Avoid using cannabis if contaminants like mold and mildew are visible.
Try a small amount first. Some strains of cannabis may have higher THC content and may have a stronger effect than you were expecting. If you know it's a stronger strain, you can use less and avoid unnecessary smoke and toxins in your lungs.
When using cannabis...
Be smart. Possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis for your own use is legal in Canada. Cannabis is regulated by the province of BC. You must be 19 or over to purchase, possess or use cannabis or cannabis products. Be sure you know where and when it is safe to use.
Avoid cannabis smoke if possible. Cannabis smoke contains tar and toxins. The safest choice is to use a vaporizer—it delivers the THC in mist form instead of smoke. But they cost a lot of money—$100-700. The second best choice is to smoke it in the form of a joint.
Prevent burns on your lips or fingers. Use a small piece of rolled unbleached cardboard as a filter.
Take shallow puffs, not deep inhalations. About 95% of the THC in the smoke is absorbed in the first few seconds so you don’t need to puff hard or hold your breath.
Leave tobacco out of the mix. Tobacco contains many cancer-causing toxins, so it's safer to smoke cannabis by itself.
Did you know...?
Water bongs are not as safe as joints. Bongs filter out more THC than tars since water tends to absorb THC. This requires you to puff harder, increasing the amount of tar that is inhaled.
Some pipes and bongs give off toxic fumes. If using a bong, avoid those with a plastic bottle, rubber hose or aluminum cone. If using a pipe, make sure it's made of glass, stainless steel or brass (avoid wood and plastic).
Cannabis and driving...
Stay away from the steering wheel. Cannabis can impair your motor coordination, judgment and other skills related to safe driving. It's safest to wait three to four hours after using cannabis before driving or operating machinery.
If eating or drinking cannabis...
Take your time. It can be hard to find the right dose when eating cannabis cookies or drinking cannabis tea. You may get much higher for much longer than you wanted to. To prevent this, use a small amount and wait at least one hour to feel the effects before using more.
Things to avoid
Using regularly at an early age. Human brains are not fully developed until early adulthood.
Using cannabis daily or almost daily. Regular habitual use can lead to dependence, meaning you feel you need to use it just to feel normal.
Using cannabis as your main way of having fun or coping with stress. There are healthier ways to enjoy yourself or deal with negative moods.
Using cannabis with alcohol. The effects of cannabis are intensified and may last longer than expected or wanted if you drink alcohol or use other drugs at the same time.
Using cannabis when you are at risk of a mental health problem. Cannabis use may increase the risk of psychotic symptoms for those with a pre-existing vulnerability to psychosis. And, it may worsen the symptoms of psychotic disorders.
Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service:
604-660-9382 (Greater Vancouver)
For more information on cannabis regulation in BC:
About the author
The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, formerly CARBC, is a member of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Substance Use Information. The institute is dedicated to the study of substance use in support of community-wide efforts aimed at providing all people with access to healthier lives, whether using substances or not. For more, visit www.cisur.ca.