Cannabis FAQ

» What is a blunt?

A sliced open cigar with the tobacco replaced with marijuana. If it's smoked with a 40oz bottle of malt liquor, it is called a "B-40".

» Can marijuana make you sterile?

Yes and no. This has been a persistent myth for over 40 years but it actually does have some basis in medicine. Basically the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC, reduces lutenising hormone (LH) in the genitals.

LH triggers ovulation in women and is involved in sperm production in men. This results in a short-term (four-to five-hour) decrease in reproductive ability. Long term cannabis users, however, build tolerance to this effect and are immune.

» Is it safe to smoke marijuana during pregnancy?

No. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is highly likely to be harmful to fetal development and should be avoided by pregnant women and those who might become pregnant in the near future.

» Should I smoke marijuana and drive?

If marijuana was legal, the warning label would probably read: "Do not operate a vehicle or heavy machinery". Being stoned leads to a slight impairment of psychomotor and cognitive function. However, in studies, stoned drivers appeared to compensate for their impairment by taking fewer risks and driving more slowly, whereas alcohol tended to encourage risk taking and aggressive driving.(2)

Analysis of blood samples from road traffic fatalities in 1996-97 in the UK showed than 10% of victims who were driving were positive for cannabis. However, it is not clear what figures would have been obtained from a random sample of road users not involved in accidents. (3)

» Can marijuana make you schizophrenic?

There is a lot of misinformation presented about marijuana and schizophrenia. There is general agreement that heavy marijuana use can precipitate schizophrenic episodes but there is no evidence that it can cause the underlying psychotic disorder. Heavy marijuana users can exhibit long-lasting toxic psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations that can be - dangerously - diagnosed as a schizophrenic illness. (4)

» Is cannabis getting stronger?

Yes and no. Grass or marijuana is generally stronger thanks to sophisticated plant breeding and cultivation methods. However, mass-produced hash - which usually only contains about 4 -5 % THC - remains weak and unchanged, although there are reports of hash with 70-90% THC content.

» How long does marijuana remain detectable in a urine test?

The active ingredient THC is detectable in the urine after 48-72 hours in a one-off or occasional user or up to 6 weeks in a heavy user.

» I only smoke a few draws of marijuana, maybe a whole joint but that 's it. Will this still be detectable on a drug test?

Yes. Blood and urine tests involve detecting microscopic amounts of THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis) and THC breakdown products so even a few draws or just a whole joint of cannabis would still be detectable. See here for more details.

» How come you can get different highs from different strains of marijuana? Don't they just all contain THC?

Marijuana has two powerful active ingredients - THC and CBD (cannabidiol). Both substances are cannabinoids which produce psychoactive effects by binding with special receptors which are extraordinarily abundant all over the brain and body. Your brain makes it own cannabinoid - anandamide - which is thought to be involved in pain sensations, memory regulation and the immune system.

The relative amounts of these two ingredients plus small input from over sixty different cannabinoids in the plant determine the subtle differences in the types of high you can get from different strains of the cannabis plant. (5)

» What are the effects of using marijuana and breastfeeding? How does this affect the child?

The main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydro-cannabinol), is fat-soluble and does enter breast milk and the baby - often due to the size of the infant, in higher blood concentrations than the mother. However, there is no firm evidence that cannabis or THC can stunt, impair or damage a baby or their growth. One report (which is cited in several web pages on this subject) has stated that THC might delay infant motor development but we are still in the process of tracking down and reading the original study. (6)

Nevertheless, it is still best to avoid marijuana and other legal and illegal drugs while breastfeeding.

Here is a list of drugs and their suspected effects on breastmilk / breastfeeding

» How bad is smoking marijuana compared to smoking tobacco?

Smoking any drug is unhealthy, and cannabis is no exception. Marijuana smoke actually contains higher concentrations of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) than tobacco smoke. Marijuana smokers generally inhale more smoke for longer, depositing more than 4 times as much tar on their lungs as cigarette smokers. To balance this, marijuana smokers tend to smoke less joints and smoke less often.

» I used to smoke pot quite a bit however I find lately that when I get high - I just get paranoid and edgy? Is it me?

We have had several emails about this subject. It seems that some people do experience a 'turning point' in their marijuana use when it ceases to become enjoyable and instead provokes paranoia, fear or other 'bad trip' type symptoms.

In a recent study, between 10%-15% of people who smoked marijuana reported "paranoid" or "confused" feelings as a disadvantage of smoking marijuana. Furthermore, around 30% gave "negative experiences" as their reason for permanently quitting cannabis. (7)

» I am off to Amsterdam today with my fiancée who doesn't smoke marijuana. My idea is to introduce him to hash cakes but he is allergic to aspirin and I am worried that he might have a reaction to cannabis.

Your fiancée shouldn't have any allergy problems with eaten cannabis. However, if he hasn't ever taken cannabis before, BE VERY CAREFUL about feeding him hash cakes. Dutch cannabis is very strong and eating cannabis triples the effect (see cannabis effects). It could be very disconcerting for him if he's never been stoned.

» Is it possible to be allergic to marijuana? Recently I have had nasal problems when marijuana smoke is around me, my nose gets plugged and sometimes I get a runny nose and occasionally I sneeze too.

It is possible to be allergic to marijuana although the active ingredient, THC, is endowed with some moderate anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic properties. There has been little study in this area. It may be that other elements in the smoke, especially if you mix with tobacco, are causing your reaction. If you can, try smoking through a vaporizer (which significantly decreases the amount of toxic smoke-based compounds) and see if that produces the same effect. If it does, then you probably are allergic to marijuana.

» How come sometimes I can smoke 5 grams of marijuana and be perfectly alright, and other times have one joint and have an anxiety attack?

The character of many drugs' effects and reactions are dependent on 'set and setting', your mindset (how you feel at the time, what's going on in your life, your prevailing mood, the kind of day you've had) and your environment (where are you? are you relaxed there? who's with you? are you comfortable with everyone?).

Maybe examining the when, where, what, and how you smoke will help.

Is there anything consistent in your panic reactions? Time of day? Place where you're smoking?

You say sometimes 5 grams is okay. Sometimes one joint is enough to send you spiraling off. Could it be a strength issue? Is the cannabis you smoke always the same quality? The difference between a mild or low-grade strain and a fresh powerful strain can be considerable. If you're not prepared for being so stoned, so quickly, it may unsettle or even panic you.

What time of day do you smoke? Evenings are generally best as the body and the mind is more relaxed. Have you eaten before? Generally, an empty stomach will make drug effects stronger. A full stomach tends to ground you and lessen the possible unsettling out-of-body spacey side-effects of cannabis.

Otherwise, our page on Bad Trips And How To Avoid Them may be helpful

» A friend of mine told me marijuana doesn't kill brain cells, but makes them dormant. Thus, if you abstain for say, 30-60 days, the residual effects should go away. Is this true?

Marijuana does not kill brain cells nor does it make them go 'dormant'. Using marijuana can cause temporary impairments in short-term memory and what's called 'executive brain functions', the ability to learn new information or engage in complex manipulation of learned material. These effects disappear as the drug effects wear off.

Long term and chronic cannabis users themselves complain of problems with memory, concentration, loss of motivation, paranoia, depression, dependence and lethargy. However, the theory that heavy long-term marijuana use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions has yet to be proven by science.
source: House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. Cannabis. The scientific and medical evidence. London: The Stationery Office, 1998

1. MARIJUANA and MEDICINE: Assessing The Science Base, pg 123
2. House Of Lords Select Committee on Science & Technology Cannabis - The Scientific & Medicial Evidence, 4th Nov 1998, pg 12, 4.7
3. Department Of The Environment, Transport and the Regions study, 11 Nov 1998
4. House Of Lords Select Committee on Science & Technology Cannabis - The Scientific & Medicial Evidence, 4th Nov 1998, pg 13, .11
5. 1. MARIJUANA and MEDICINE: Assessing The Science Base, pg 35
6. Shinya, Ito 'Drug Therapy For Breast-Feeding Women', New England Journal Of Medicine & 'Behavioural Outcomes in Preschool and School-Age Children Exposed Prenatally to Marijuana'
7. Cohen DA, Kaal, Hendrien L, "Irrelevance Of Drug Policy: Patterns and careers of experienced cannabis use in populations of Amsterdam, San Francisco, and Bremen" pg 75-84