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Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence

Health & Counseling Center

Health Promotion


Cannabis and its active components, both THC and CBD, come in different forms and strengths and can affect people differently. THC is the psychoactive compound found in cannabis that makes a person using it feel high. CBD does not produce a high feeling and some people use it for medical reasons.

If you decide to use cannabis, it is important to be informed. At DU, 36% of students report having never used cannabis. Only about 40% of students report using cannabis within the last 30 days (National College Health Assessment, Spring 2019).

Forms of Cannabis
There are a variety of ways to use cannabis and each one can affect people differently.
  • Smoking. Cannabis can be smoked in a joint or using a pipe or bong. This is how most people use cannabis.
  • Vaping. Vaporizers heat cannabis to release THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) and the vapor is inhaled. This method is growing in popularity.
  • Dabbing/hash oil. THC extract from cannabis, also called shatter, rosin, or concentrates, can contain up to 60-80% THC and may take effect very quickly. When dabbing, the oil is heated and the vapor is inhaled. Dabbing is extremely potent and shouldn't be used by anyone who hasn't used marijuana before.
  • Edibles. Edibles are food, snacks, or candies that are cooked with cannabis products and contain THC. The effects of edibles, teas and sodas can take longer to peak and last longer than smoking. This can delay the onset of feeling high and can cause people to take too much. It can take up to four hours to feel the full effects, and effects can last up to ten hours or longer. In commercially-available edibles, a standard serving size is 10 mg of THC. It is difficult to know how much THC is in homemade edibles.
  • Topicals. These products often have a higher CBD content than THC. They include infused lotions, salves and balms and are sold for localized pain and inflammation related to skin problems or pain. Due to the higher CBD content and topical application, they do not make the user feel high.
Tips for Safer Use

While there is evidence for some medical benefits to cannabis, there are also some potential harms:

  • Respiratory effects. People who smoke daily or near-daily may have a daily cough, bronchitis, mucus, and wheezing.
  • Memory. Daily or near daily use may negatively impact memory.
  • Mental health. High doses can cause hallucinations, paranoia, and not knowing what is real. This is a particular concern for folks who have a personal or family history of psychosis or psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
  • Secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke from cannabis has many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as secondhand smoke from tobacco.
The best way to avoid all potential harms from cannabis is to not use cannabis. If you choose to use cannabis, here are some ways you can lower your risk for potential harms:
  • Limit your use. Using cannabis frequently (i.e., daily or almost every day) is strongly associated with a higher risk of health and social problems. Limiting cannabis use to occasional use (i.e., weekends only or 1 day/week) can help lower risk for potential harms.
  • Know your limits. Cannabis affects people differently. Varying doses, strains, and forms can lead to different lengths and strengths of impairment (or being high). If you are unsure of how cannabis or a method of ingestion will affect you, start with a low dose.
  • Check your doses. High THC-content products are generally associated with higher risks of various mental and behavioral problem outcomes. You should know the nature and composition of the cannabis products you use, and ideally use cannabis products with low THC content. Given the evidence of CBD's attenuating effects on some THC-related outcomes, research advises using cannabis containing high CBD:THC ratios.
  • Consider a different method. Regular inhalation of smoked cannabis negatively affects your respiratory health. While alternative methods come with their own risks, it is generally preferable to avoid methods involve smoking combusted cannabis material (instead opting for using vaporizers or edibles). Using edibles eliminates respiratory risks, but the delayed onset of psychoactive effects may result in the use of larger than intended doses and subsequently negative effects from increased impairment.
  • Avoid drugged driving. Driving while under the influence of cannabis can increase risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. If you're smoking cannabis, wait at least six hours before driving. If you're eating or drinking a product with THC, wait at least eight hours.
Race and the History of "Cannabis" vs. "Marijuana"

You may have noticed that some places use the term "marijuana," while the Health and Counseling Center uses the term "cannabis." This is a deliberate choice, due to the historical context and social impact of the phrase "marijuana." Though marijuana is the most common name for cannabis in the United States today, its history is deeply rooted in racism and politics.

There is a longstanding theory that narcotics agents in the 1930s chose "marijuana," a word of Mexican-Spanish origin, over the more scientific "cannabis" when crafting drug laws in order to play into the US's growing fear of immigrants. "Marijuana" was also connected with Black jazz musicians in an attempt to racialize its use after the end of prohibition.

There is a long history between the association of cannabis, racism, and its impact on people of color. Even after legalization in Colorado, arrests of black and Latinx juveniles for illegal possession of cannabis increased: according to the 2016 FBI Crime Data Report, there were almost 600,000 US cannabis arrests, more than for all violent crimes (murder, rape, aggravated assault and robbery) combined. The vast majority of those arrests were for low-level possession – and disproportionately affected people of color. While those arrested may not serve extended prison sentences for the cannabis-related offenses, having a past conviction can still block access to housing, student loans, and employment.