Get Help

Call the Lung Health Line


Our certified respiratory
educators are ready to take your questions
(M-F 8:30am-4:30pm)

If you or someone you know is thinking about using cannabis, here are some things to know to help you make the best decision for your lung health. The best way to avoid any negative health impacts of cannabis is not to use. However if you are going to use we recommend you avoid smoking it. There is still a lot of research needed on non-combustible alternatives for cannabis but from a lung perspective smoking is likely the most harmful. If you do smoke cannabis recreationally don’t expose other people to second hand cannabis smoke, particularly children and other individuals with lung disease.

Cannabis Overview

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?

In Ontario cannabis will be regulated under the Smoke Free Ontario Act (SFOA) and treated like tobacco. That means, individuals are allowed to use cannabis in the same places they are allowed to use tobacco. For a complete list of restrictions under SFOA visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/smoke-free-ontario

Where can I purchase cannabis?

As of October 17th individuals wanting to purchase cannabis must do so through the Ontario Cannabis Store online. The OCS is the only legal seller of cannabis in Ontario. You must be 19 years of age to access the online store and make a purchase. 

Want to learn more?

If you would like to expand your knowledge further, then we encourage you to contact us or read through our sources below.

  1. Canadian Tobacco Alcohol and Drugs Survey (CTADS): 2015 < https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2015-summary.html>
  2. Boak, A., Hamilton, H. A., Adlaf, E. M., & Mann, R. E. (2017). Drug use among Ontarian students, 1977-2017: Detailed findings from the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) (CAMH Research Document Series No. 46). Toronto, ON: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  3. Health Canada: About Cannabis https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-medication/cannabis/about.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc_en&utm_content=laws_2&utm_campaign=cannabis-18
  4. Fischer, B., Russell, C., Sabioni, P., van den Brink, W., Le Foll, B., Hall, W., Rehm, J. & Room, R. (2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG): An evidence-based update. American Journal of Public Health, 107 (8). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303818
  5. McInnis, O., & Plecas, D. (2016). Clearing the smoke on cannabis: respiratory effects of cannabis smoking. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse.