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Cannabis- Top 10 Ways to Protect Your Health

The best way to prevent harm from cannabis is to not use it. However, if you choose to use cannabis, there are other ways to decrease potential harms.

For more information and for resources you can print and use in your community please see the following links:

The earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the higher the risk of serious health and learning problems, especially for youth. Regular use of cannabis as a youth can harm the developing brain and impact mental health, decision making, learning and memory. Waiting as long as possible before beginning use of cannabis (ideally until age 25 when the brain is fully developed) can decrease the risk of problems.

  • THC is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. High THC amounts make it more likely that you may develop dependence or mental health disorders.

  • Choose legal products with labels indicating a higher ratio of CBD to THC.

    Using caution with products that have high THC content. 

  • Start with a small amount of a cannabis product; wait to see what effects it has on you before consuming more.
  • Avoid using synthetic cannabis products (e.g., K2, Spice), sometimes sold at convenience stores and other shops. These drugs are very strong and can cause severe health problems and, in rare cases, death. (Note: this warning is not referring to synthetic medical cannabis products such as Marinol®.)
  • Smoking cannabis (a joint, pipe or bong) is the most harmful way you can use cannabis because it directly affects your lungs.

    Options like vaping or consuming edibles may be less harmful for your lungs but can still cause harm. Keep in mind that these alternatives can also affect your health in other ways. Remember when consuming edibles, it can take between 30 mins to 2 hours to feel the effects, so go slow.  See the Health Unit’s E-cigarettes and Vaping section for the latest information related to the health impacts of vaping. 

    If you choose to smoke cannabis, avoid inhaling deeply or holding your breath, as these practices increase the amount of toxins absorbed by your lungs.

    • The more often you use cannabis, the more likely you are to develop health problems, especially if you use on a daily or near-daily basis.
    • Reduce your health risks by limiting yourself to occasional use and avoiding daily or near-daily use.
    • Frequent use of cannabis can lead to dependence at any age. The risk of dependence is highest if frequent use starts as a youth.
    • Using cannabis with other drugs increases risks to your health.
    • Combining cannabis with tobacco, alcohol or other drugs may intensify physical and mental impairment, and increases the potential for injury and risky decision making.
    • Smoking tobacco and cannabis together increases risks of cancer, breathing problems, and becoming dependent on both drugs.

    If you choose to use edibles, start with a small amount and go slow! 

    • Eating cannabis products tends to produce stronger and much longer-lasting effects as compared to smoking or vaping the drug.
    • Edibles also take longer from the time they are eaten to the time you feel the effects (30 minutes to 2 hours).  This can lead to consuming too much THC which can result in motor impairment, dizziness, mental confusion, hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, extreme sedation and cardiac stress.

    Some people choose to make edibles at home. It is impossible to determine exactly how much THC is in any portion of a homemade edible item. This can lead to unintended overconsumption.

    • If a child consumes cannabis, it is a medical emergency.  Call 911 or the Ontario Poison Control Centre at 1-800-268-9017.
    • Children who consume cannabis may experience vomiting, nausea, confusion, mood changes, slurred speech, agitation, drowsiness, balance issues and difficulty breathing.
    • Avoid smoking around others, especially children. Second-hand cannabis smoke can lead to lung irritation and other health problems.
    • Clearly label all cannabis products and keep them out of reach of children, youth, unknowing adults, and pets.
    • Here are some tips on how to safely store your cannabis
    • You should render cannabis unfit for use or consumption, prior to disposing of it.  One method of disposing of excess cannabis is to grind it, blend it with water and mix it with cat litter, and then place it in your regular household garbage. Check out Health Canada’s Information Bulletin for more information.
    • Driving while impaired by cannabis is illegal and increases your risk of being in a crash.
    • Cannabis impairs your judgement, coordination, and slows your reaction time. 
    • Do not drive a car, truck, motorcycle, snowmobile, boat, off-road vehicle or any other motorized vehicle after using cannabis. 
    • Do not operate machinery after using cannabis.
    • Do not take a ride with a driver who has been using cannabis, other drugs or alcohol. 
    • Cannabis impairment can make other activities such as bicycling, skiing and snowboarding dangerous too.

    Cannabis can affect people’s health in different ways.
    Some of the short-term health effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Decreased coordination
  • Reduced decision-making
  • Sleepiness
  • Decreased memory
  • Decreased concentration and ability to stay attentive

    Long-term health effects occur when people use cannabis regularly over time.  People who are under 25 years of age are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems from cannabis use. 

    • Some people, especially youth are more likely to develop mental health problems from cannabis use
    • Avoid using cannabis if you have a personal or family history of mental health problems (especially psychosis – i.e., schizophrenia, bipolar disorder) and substance use problems.

    Cannabis is made up of many chemicals including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  THC is a psychoactive chemical.  Psychoactive chemicals impact the way a person’s brain works and can cause changes in the way a person feels, behaves, and thinks.

    Research shows that there is no safe amount or safe time to use cannabis if you are trying to become pregnant, are pregnant or are breastfeeding because cannabis use can lead to potential harms to the fetus and infant.  Therefore, the safest choice for your baby is to not use cannabis in any form while trying to get pregnant or during pregnancy.

    Cannabis use during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with low birth weight, have increased irritability, poor sleep and problems with mental health, learning, memory, and behaviour as they grow up.
    If you are pregnant or have a baby, it is important to protect yourself and your baby from secondhand cannabis smoke.  You can do this by asking people to not smoke around you and your baby.

    Some people experience morning sickness during pregnancy.  Cannabis is not recommended to treat nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.  If you have morning sickness, talk to your health care provider about options that are safe for during pregnancy.

    Using cannabis can make it difficult to care for a child.  If you choose to use cannabis, plan ahead and make arrangements for childcare while you use.

    For more information see,, or call MotherToBaby at 1-866-626-6847.

    For more information and for resources you can print and use in your community please see the following links:

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