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Overview of cannabis

What is cannabis (also known as marijuana, hashish)?

The term cannabis refers to the many ways in which the Cannabis Sativa plant is prepared for consumption. These include:

  • Marijuana (dried and crushed leaves and flower beds)
  • Hashish (the resin of flower buds)
  • Cannabis extracts (oils and/or waxes)

Cannabis Sativa (hemp plant) has been used for centuries for industrial, medical, and recreational purposes. Cannabis plants produce more than 61 chemicals also known as cannabinoids. The two primary chemicals found in cannabis are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects or ‘high’ associated with cannabis use. Effects from THC vary depending on the dose, means of consumption, strain, whether it has been used with other substances, and the individual (age, pre-existing conditions, etc.,). CBD is the other major compound without the psychoactive effects.

Who’s using cannabis (or marijuana)?

The majority of the general population does not use cannabis. While nearly half (44.5%) of Canadians report ever trying cannabis, only 12.3% had used in the past year.

This rate is higher amongst youth (ages 15-19) and young adults (ages 20-24) with 20% and 30% reporting using in the past year respectively. One in 5 Canadian students (grades 7-12) report having ever tried cannabis. Similar to other substances these percentages increase with grade. In Ontario, 37.2% of grade 12 students report using in the past year.

Individuals that smoke tobacco also have higher rates of cannabis use and/or co-use. Approximately two-thirds of the general population who smoke, report using cannabis in their lifetime. Amongst Ontario students 92% of tobacco users report also using cannabis. Similarly over three-quarters of youth who vape regularly report trying cannabis.

Is cannabis addictive?

While most individuals who occasionally use cannabis do not experience dependence, approximately 5-9% of people that use cannabis will develop dependence. This rate amongst youth it is much higher at 17%. Additionally, about 1 in 5 people seek substance use treatment for cannabis related problems.

Where can I use cannabis?

Legalization of cannabis is different than something like tobacco. Individuals will only be allowed to consume cannabis in their private residences. You will not be allowed to consume cannabis in any of the following places:

  • Public places
  • Workplaces
  • Motorized vehicles
Where can I purchase cannabis?

Cannabis will be sold through the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). Cannabis will not be sold alongside other substances such as alcohol. Strict regulations have been put in place to prevent promotion through labeling and displays. The government is set to open approximately 40  stores by summer of 2018. A total of 80 stores will be open by 2019 and 150 by 2020. Online sales will also be available.