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Lower-risk use

What is lower-risk use?

Cannabis is legal for adults (18+), but like many controlled substances, there are negative health effects. Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines will help you stay informed on how to lower the risk of these negative effects, if you choose to use.

What are the tips for lower-risk use?

  • Consider waiting and using cannabis later in life.
    • Although cannabis is legal for adults 18+, your brain continues to develop until your mid-20s. Cannabis can affect brain development even in the late stages.
    • Evidence suggests using cannabis in early adolescence can cause negative effects to brain development and increase your risk of long-term cognitive impairments.
  • Choose lower-risk products such as products with low THC content.
    • High THC products are associated with higher risks for mental health and behavioural problems. It's better to use products with higher CBD to THC ratios.
  • Limit and reduce your use of cannabis.
    • Frequent use of cannabis is linked to higher health and social problems. 
    • Limit to occasional use on weekends, or one weekday at most, depending on concentration and method of consumption. 
  • Avoid combining cannabis with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.
    • Using alcohol and cannabis together results in greater impairment and an increased likelihood of undesirable effects, including addiction to nicotine and harmful use due to increased dependency.
    • Prescription drugs can be affected by cannabis, so avoid combining them unless supervised by your doctor. Do not stop taking prescribed medication in favour of consuming cannabis without consulting your doctor.
  • Don’t use and drive.
    • Cannabis drastically affects reaction time, coordination and concentration, increasing your chances of being in a motor vehicle collision.
    • Want more information on cannabis and impaired driving?
  • Do not use if you are pregnant, think you might be pregnant, or are planning to become pregnant.
  • Avoid smoking, in favour of alternative methods of consuming cannabis.
    • Like cigarettes, smoking cannabis can harm your lungs.
    • If you do choose to smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath. Breathing normally decreases the toxic substances going into your lungs and body.
  • Don’t use synthetic cannabinoids (e.g. K2, Spice).
    • Synthetic cannabis has caused a number of deaths and should never be used as a replacement or alternative to cannabis products approved by federal legislation.
    • Want more information on what cannabis products are legal?
  • Be aware of bad reactions.
    • The symptoms of using too much cannabis include paranoia, panic, an increased or sporadic heart rate, confusion and nausea/vomiting.
    • If you or someone you know is having trouble breathing, has gone pale, or is unresponsive, call 911.
  • Some people shouldn't use cannabis. These include people with a personal or family history of psychosis or substance abuse disorders.

What are the health effects of cannabis?

Cannabis-related health problems are influenced by how much cannabis you use, how often you use it, and how you use it. Visit Drug Safe for more information from Alberta Health Services.

  • Lungs: Smoking cannabis can damage your lungs, and second-hand cannabis smoke is at least as harmful (or more so) than tobacco.
  • Stomach: Long-term, frequent use of cannabis can cause recurring episodes of severe nausea and vomiting, known as Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). Seek medical attention if you're experiencing this. 
  • Goals and performance: Using cannabis can negatively affect performance at work, school and other hobbies and activities. This is especially true for young adults. Early cannabis use can impact school performance, extracurricular activities, increase the risk of school suspensions or dropping out, and increase absences.
  • Memory and learning: Using cannabis can affect your memory, learning and attention.
  • Judgment and decision-making: Using cannabis affects your judgment and can lead to risky behaviour and poor decision making.
  • Mental health: For some people, particularly adolescents and young adults, frequent use of cannabis increases the risk for mental health problems like depression, anxiety and psychosis.
  • Dependency: There are reports that associate early, regular use of cannabis with higher risk of dependency.
  • Other health risks include testicular cancer and poor outcomes for pregnancy.

Is there a difference in risk between edibles and other methods of consuming cannabis?

Yes. Absorption of cannabis is much slower when it is swallowed or eaten, making edibles more unpredictable than smoking cannabis.

It can take between 1-3 hours to feel the effects of edibles, which are often much longer-lasting and produce more of a full-body effect.

When consuming edibles, wait a minimum of two hours before consuming more. It's possible to over consume and experience negative effects.

Note: Commercially-prepared edibles won't be legal during the initial stage of legalization. They have been proposed for the next round in October 2019. However, home-prepared edibles such as baking or teas are allowed for personal consumption, only for those over 18.

Can you consume too much cannabis?

Yes. Being familiar with the symptoms of a cannabis poisoning will prepare you to recognize an emergency.

  • Symptoms may include sleepiness, confusion, disorientation, loss of coordination, fainting or dizziness. 
  • Cannabis can affect your heart, producing chest pain or a fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat.
  • Psychological effects include panic attacks, loss of contact with reality and hallucinations. These effects are more likely if you have a personal or family history of mental illness or psychosis.
  • If you suspect cannabis poisoning, seek immediate medical attention or call 911 –– especially in the case of chest pain, panic attacks, seizures or breaks with reality.

Should you mix cannabis and alcohol?

No. Combining cannabis with alcohol, even in small amounts, greatly increases the impairment level of both substances. This can make it much harder to self-assess your level of impairment, and affects your body's ability to deal with a potential overdose.

Your body protects itself from alcohol poisoning by vomiting up the excess, but cannabis decreases nausea and vomiting. Therefore, if you consume cannabis and alcohol together, it increases your risk of alcohol poisoning.

Mixing cannabis and alcohol doubles the risk of a vehicle crash. Never use and drive.