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Cannabis 101

Burning questions about CBD, THC and everything in between

By Heidi Wicks

From the green plant to rainbow-hued edibles and from percentage levels of THC and CBD to deciding between indica or sativa, there’s a smorgasbord of choice when it comes to cannabis products.

Cannabis plant leaves and a dropper bottle

The Office of Alumni Engagement, in partnership with the School of Pharmacy, will present an online event with pharmacy researchers Drs. John Weber, Jennifer Donnan and Lisa Bishop to help address the various ways cannabis can be purchased and used medically and non-medically.

Cannabis 101 takes place on Tuesday, May 11, at 12 p.m. The event is free, but participants must register online.

Know the effects

Dr. John Weber will discuss the major effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) on the body, including effects on the brain and behaviour, impairment, differences in the onset and duration of action of cannabis products, and will compare smoked or inhaled products to oils, capsules or other types of edibles.

Dr. Weber says it is “very” important that people are well informed when choosing cannabis products.

Dr. John Weber
Photo: Chris Hammond

“For example, smoking cannabis leads to a very quick onset of action, whereas using edibles has a much slower onset but the effects could last much longer,” he said.

“THC has fairly obvious behavioural effects, which give many individuals a typical “high”, but can also cause significant impairment. Meanwhile, CBD does not have obvious psychoactive effects, and some evidence suggests it may be useful for anxiety and as an anti-inflammatory compound.”

Inherent health risks

Drs. Bishop and Donnan will discuss the provincial and national policies, consumption patterns in Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador and access to cannabis for medical and non-medical uses.

Despite cannabis’ freewheeling reputation as a laid-back, low-risk substance to enjoy, it is also important to recognize that cannabis has inherent health risks, says Dr. Bishop.

Dr. Lisa Bishop
Photo: Chris Hammond

To that end, the researchers will walk you through lower-risk guidelines for the safer use of cannabis and highlight resources for talking to youth about the risks.

The guidelines include recommendations such as choosing less risky products, such as edibles, beverages and topicals; reducing the amount or frequency of use; avoiding the product in adolescence; choosing lower THC-content products; avoiding synthetic cannabinoids; avoiding inhaled methods of consumption; not driving while impaired; considering individual risk factors for health problems; and not combining risky behaviours.

“These recommendations are intended to help people make safer choices so they can reduce cannabis-related harms.”

“Like alcohol, drivers or passengers are not permitted to consume cannabis in a vehicle.” — Dr. Lisa Bishop

Dr. Bishop also notes that driving while impaired by cannabis is illegal.

“It’s recommended that people wait at least six hours before they drive, and longer if they’ve consumed edibles,” she said.

“Like alcohol, drivers or passengers are not permitted to consume cannabis in a vehicle. This applies to all forms of cannabis, not just those that are inhaled, or those that contain THC. Cannabis should be kept in its sealed package when being transported, the same as alcohol.”

Regulated vs. non-regulated

When it comes to access, Dr. Donnan says there are currently 30 privately owned stores in Newfoundland and Labrador.

She warns customers that if you purchase cannabis products online, not all websites are licensed. Therefore, buyers cannot be certain that the products are regulated.

Dr. Jennifer Donnan
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“For those with a medical authorization, they can access online through a federally licensed medical cannabis retailer, or through the non-medical market,” she said.

“A common misunderstanding is that you can access cannabis through other online stores; however, these would be non-licensed retailers. This is a point of confusion because many websites look professional and seem to follow safety protocols in the same way licensed retailers do. However, their products would not be regulated.”

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