Using cannabis is a personal choice. If you use or would like to use cannabis, here is some information that will help you make informed choices to reduce the risks to you and those around you when using cannabis.
Cannabis is used in different ways and they all have short- and long-term health risks. In fact, no method of using cannabis is risk free. To learn more, go to the pages Health Risks of Cannabis Use and Forms and Methods of Cannabis Use.
Whatever method is chosen, using cannabis will have effects and consequences that will vary depending on the individual, the dose and the context. This is called the law of effect.
Choose the legal market
By choosing the legal market, you will be using products that have undergone quality controls and do not contain pesticides or mould. You will also be using products whose THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) concentrations have been tested and are displayed on the package.
Only the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) is authorized to legally sell non-medical cannabis products (in all its forms) in Québec. Beware of products sold on websites other than the SQDC site.
Choose products with a low THC content and limit your use to occasional use
THC is the main ingredient responsible for the “high” associated with cannabis use. Using a product with a concentration of THC that is too high can cause severe effects and make you feel unwell (rapid heartbeat, anxiety, disorientation). Furthermore, if you use products with a high THC content, you are more likely to develop dependence or a mental health problem.
By altering sensory perception, concentration and coordination, daily cannabis use can affect a person’s social life and performance at work or school. Occasional use lowers these risks.
Protect your lungs and those of people around you
Smoking a cannabis product is harmful to the lungs. If you still want to use this method, avoid inhaling deeply and holding your breath; this practice increases the risk of lung disease. Avoid exposing your family and friends to secondhand smoke too.
Vaping cannabis should be avoided, since it is associated with a risk of developing an acute pulmonary illness. For more recommendations, go to the Mise en garde contre le vapotage du cannabis (warning about cannabis vaping) page on the website of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux.
Cannabis produces fewer harmful substances if it is vaporized rather than smoked. However, the data available does not indicate that vaporizing is safer or preferable.
Start low and go slow with edible cannabis products
The effects of cannabis edibles take longer to be felt (30 to 60 minutes, sometimes longer) and last longer (6 to 8 hours, sometimes longer).
If you prepare the edible product yourself or if you buy it on the legal market, you will be able to judge the amount of THC absorbed better. Preferably use a product that contains less than 2.5 mg of THC. Avoid taking more for the next 2 to 3 hours to reduce the risk of overdose.
Avoid mixing cannabis with other substances
Scientific studies suggest that the effects of cannabis are more severe if you mix it with alcohol. So beware of the effects that cannabis will have on you, even when you take a dose that you think you are used to. Using cannabis and alcohol at the same time increases the level of impairment of different cognitive functions, such as your reaction time. That’s why driving is strongly contraindicated, given the risk of having a motor vehicle accident.
Using tobacco can also amplify the effects of cannabis. This means that mixing tobacco and cannabis could have more serious consequences, not to mention that tobacco is a highly addictive product.
Mixing medications and cannabis should be avoided because of possible interactions. Cannabis could have an impact on the effect of the medications you are taking. Ask a health professional, such as your pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Plan on not driving
Do not get behind the wheel after using cannabis, especially if you have been drinking too. Use one of these alternatives:
- Designate a sober driver;
- Use public transit;
- Call a taxi.
Remember that it is illegal to drive a vehicle after using cannabis, whatever the amount.
Store your cannabis products safely
Keep cannabis products in a safe place to prevent children or pets from ingesting them.
Abstain from using cannabis in some situations
Some people are more likely to develop physical or mental health problems if they use cannabis. Preferably, you should abstain from using cannabis and its derivatives:
- If you are under 25. The younger you are when you start using cannabis, especially if you start before age 16, the greater the risks to your health. Put off the first time you use cannabis for as long as possible.
- If you or a member of your immediate family have a history of psychosis, dependence or mental health problems.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding. To find out more, go to Risks during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Last update: February 21, 2020 3:50 PM