Using Cannabis safely
People have been using cannabis for a long time, in many ways, and for many reasons. Some people use cannabis recreationally similar to how they use alcohol - to help them relax and to be more social. Some people have used cannabis medicinally to treat a number of medical conditions. Like many drugs, cannabis is not without risk.
While using cannabis may be safer than using some other unregulated drugs, there are things about using cannabis that can be harmful. It is important to create a plan to reduce these harms. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of harms and negative experiences.
Before you start using cannabis
Consider: why you are choosing to use cannabis? Is it going to help you in some way? It is out of curiosity? Is it something you use frequently? Have you informed yourself on the risks as well as the benefits?
Is it legal to use cannabis?
For adults over age 19, cannabis for personal use is now legal in Canada. Legal cannabis products are regulated and tested for quality in BC. Legal cannabis products are safer to use than cannabis you may get from your dealer or a friend. Avoid using cannabis if contaminants like mold and mildew are visible.
Try a small amount first. Some strains of cannabis may have higher THC content and may have a stronger effect than you were expecting so be aware of the potency of the cannabis you are choosing to use. To be on the safe side, start small and use less. Smoking less helps reduce smoke and toxins in our lungs. You'll notice the full effects of smoking cannabis within 30 minutes of smoking a joint. Most physical and psychological effects of smoking cannabis will wear off within 5 hours but this can vary from person to person.
Understand the laws
If you are 19 years or older, possessing up to 30 grams of cannabis for your own use is legal in Canada. Cannabis is regulated by the province of BC. You must be 19 or over to purchase, possess or use cannabis or cannabis products. Minors in BC (people under the age of 19) are not allowed to possess any cannabis. Be sure you know where and when it is safe and legal to use cannabis
Avoid smoking cannabis if possible
Cannabis smoke contains tar and toxins. The safer choice is to use a vaporizer—it delivers the THC in mist form instead of smoke. Also try to avoid mixing cannabis with tobacco as tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance, and other toxins.
Prevent burns on your lips or fingers
Use a small piece of rolled unbleached cardboard as a filter. Avoid using cigarette filters—they do not remove toxins in the smoke.
Take shallow puffs, not deep inhalations
About 95% percent of the THC in the smoke is absorbed in the first few seconds so you don't need to puff hard or hold your breath.
Don't mix cannabis with tobacco
Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance, and many cancer-causing toxins so it's safer to smoke cannabis on its own.
Eating or drinking cannabis products
Take your time. It can be hard to find the right dose when eating cannabis cookies or drinking cannabis tea. You may get much higher for much longer than you wanted to. To prevent this, use a small amount and wait at least one hour to feel the effects before using more. Feeling the effects of edibles takes longer than for smoking cannabis, and it is common for people to consume too many edibles in a short amount of time and regret it.
Cannabis and driving
Stay away from the steering wheel. Cannabis can impair your motor coordination, judgment and other skills needed to drive safely. It's safest to wait 6 - 8 hours after using cannabis before driving or operating machinery. This guideline varies from person to person as cannabis can impair your body for up to 24 hours in some cases. Impaired driving under the influence of cannabis can also result in heavy fines, license suspensions, and other legal consequences.
Mixing cannabis with other substances is risky
It's not uncommon for people to mix cannabis with other substances to experience different feelings or offset unwanted side effects. But there are risks to combining cannabis with other substances, including intensified effects that may last longer than expected or wanted. Here are some common combinations and their related effects:
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