What is Cannabis?

Cannabis (marijuana or marihuana) refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, cannabis is one of the most used drugs in the United States. Cannabis may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental.

Physical effects can include breathing problems, increased heart rate, problems with child development during and after pregnancy, and intense nausea and vomiting. Mental effects can include temporary hallucinations, temporary paranoia, worsening symptoms for individuals with schizophrenia.

Cannabis has been linked to other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Types of Cannabis

Cannabis concentrates are made by removing strong cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Concentrates are usually consumed by vaporizing (vaping) the product although they can also be smoked or ingested. They are found in different forms and go by a variety of names including dabs, shatter, hash oil, BHO, wax, budder, honey, and sap. These forms of cannabis often have high levels of THC which can be dangerous.
Edibles are food products that have had cannabis added. Examples include candies, cookies, brownies, drinks, and other snack foods. Unlike smoking or vaping marijuana where the effects begin after only a few minutes, the body slowly digests edibles like regular food, so it takes longer (1-3 hours) to feel the effect. Since the effects are not felt right away, a user may consume large amounts of the drug while thinking the drug is not working. This could lead to a cannabis overdose.
The cannabis flower is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis plant. It goes by many different names including but not limited to pot, bud, weed, and grass. This form of cannabis is usually smoked. Like tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke irritates the throat and lungs. In addition, smoking around other people exposes them to secondhand smoke.
Topicals are non-edible products such as lotions, oils, balms, and salves that are absorbed through the skin. They may be used to treat skin problems or for pain relief but are non- psychoactive so they will not get the user high.

Effects of Cannabis

Many things can contribute to how cannabis makes a user feel:

  • Individual physical characteristics (ex. weight, age, metabolism)
  • Dose (quantity and frequency)
  • Method of consumption
  • Experience of use
  • Other substance use (past or current)

Short Term Effects

When a person smokes cannabis, THC quicky passes through the lungs into the bloodstream which carries the chemical to the brain and other parts of the body. When smoking marijuana, individuals typically generally feel effects within 30 minutes to an hour. Someone ingesting edibles may take much longer to feel the effects.

Short term effects that a user may feel:

  • altered senses
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty thinking, problem solving, making decisions
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations, delusions, and in some cases psychosis (when taken in high doses)

Long Term Effects

Cannabis also affects brain development, especially if a user began in their teenage years. Cannabis effects thinking, memory, and learning functions. Long term, regular (daily or weekly) cannabis users may experience Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS). CHS can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Individuals can commonly find relief by taking long-lasting and hot showers. The only way to quit experiencing CHS is to stop using cannabis.

Cannabis can be addictive, but not everyone who uses cannabis becomes addicted to it. An individual who regularly uses marijuana may develop a cannabis use disorder, where cannabis use becomes uncontrollable and begins to impact normal functioning, such as failure to fulfill role responsibilities at home, school or work, physical dependence, and health problems. Learn more about signs, symptoms, withdrawal of cannabis addiction. 


Cannabis Laws

In 2008, Michigan passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act to allow a qualifying patient or primary caregiver to possess a registry card and an amount of marijuana that does not exceed 2.5 ounces of medical marihuana.

In 2018, Michigan passed the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act to allow personal possession and use of marihuana by persons 21 years of age or older, to provide for the lawful cultivation and sale of marihuana and industrial hemp. See below for what is and what is not permitted under the Michigan law:

Under Michigan law, the following is permitted:

  • Anyone over the age of 21 may possess and consume cannabis. 
  • Where cannabis sales are legal, an individual can purchase up to 2.5 ounces, however an individual cannot have more than 15 grams of cannabis concentrate at one time.
  • At home, an individual may keep up to 10 ounces of cannabis flower in a secure location.
Under Michigan Law, the following is not permitted: 

  • Public consumption or in a place that is prohibited by the property owner.
  • Operating machinery or driving under the influence of cannabis.
  • Individuals cannot cross state lines with cannabis.
  • Possession of cannabis in a school.

While cannabis is legal in Michigan, cannabis is illegal at the federal level and is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. 

Cannabis Safe Storage

If an adult (21+) chooses to use cannabis, they should be mindful of the safety of their children and pets and any children who may visit their home. It is best practice to lock all cannabis products in a lock box, bag, or safe to prevent accidental ingestion. Accidental ingestion and poisoning can be prevented by:

  • Keeping cannabis locked away where small children and teens cannot get into it. Like alcohol, teens may search for cannabis products in the home, locking it up is a good way to prevent underage use.
  • Keeping cannabis out of sight. Cannabis cannot be used in public (including schools, parks, sidewalks, etc.), and it is a good idea to consume cannabis out of sight of young people. Children and teens learn by watching the adults in their lives.
  • Storing cannabis in the original retail packaging or container to prevent confusion.

If a child accidentally ingests cannabis, call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 and watch for the following signs:

  • Trouble waking or sitting up
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sleepiness or drowsiness

If the reaction seems severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.


For Healthcare Providers

LCHD works with the Washtenaw County Health Department to provide the Cannabis in Practice webinar series for healthcare providers. Hear from a diverse group of experts in the field of cannabis. Sign-up to get updates about future events. Archived webinars can be viewed here:

For Parents

Having conversations about cannabis with kids and teens may seem daunting but research shows that one of the most influential factors for children is a strong, open relationship with a parent. Below are resources to help start the conversation:


Look for signs of drug abuse:

  • Changes in behavior, mood, or grooming habits
  • Changes in academic performance and school attendance
  • Red or bloodshot eyes
  • Finding drug paraphernalia such as: rolling papers, pipes, ashtrays, and material or substances that appear to be potpourri or incense.
  • Strange smelling clothes or bedroom
  • Using incense and other deodorizers
  • Clothing, jewelry, music, or posters that promote drug use
  • Unexplained lack of money or surplus of cash on hand


For Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

Although scientists are still learning about the effects of marijuana on developing brains, studies suggest that marijuana use by persons during pregnancy could be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior in their children later in life. (CDC)

Marijuana use while breastfeeding also comes with risk of harms to the baby. THC and other chemicals in cannabis can be passed to a baby through breast milk, increasing the baby’s risk for problems with brain development. (SAMHSA)

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the baby and the parent. But THC in cannabis gets into breast milk and may affect your baby. Because THC is stored in body fat, it stays in your body for a long time. A baby’s brain and body are made with a lot of fat. Since your baby’s brain and body may store THC for a long time, you shouldn’t use cannabis while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Breast milk also contains a lot of fat. This means that “pumping and dumping” your breast milk does not work as THC is present in breast milk for several weeks after last use.

For Youth and Young Adults

Cannabis use beginning in teen years or younger may affect brain development which may impair thinking, memory, and learning. The teen brain is actively developing and continues to develop until around age 25.

People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are at increased risk of developing marijuana use disorder. Cannabis Use Disorder is the inability to stop using marijuana even though it’s causing health and/or social problems.

Some signs of marijuana use disorder include trying but failing to quit using marijuana or giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.

Cannabis use has been linked to depression and social anxiety in adults. People that use cannabis are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (hallucinations, not knowing what is real, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t there. The association between cannabis and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using cannabis frequently at an early age.

Driving while impaired by marijuana is dangerous and illegal. Marijuana affects reaction time, coordination, and concentration—skills required for safe driving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can someone become addicted to cannabis?

Some, although not all, people who use cannabis will develop cannabis use disorder, meaning they are unable to stop using cannabis even though it is causing health and social problems in their lives. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, recent data suggest 30% of those who use cannabis may have some degree of cannabis use disorder. People who start using cannabis before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop cannabis use disorder than adults.

What is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)

Though it is true cannabis does not cause the same kind of immediate overdose that other drugs may cause, cases of CHS are on the rise. This rare illness is seen most often in long-term, heavy, daily users of cannabis and typically causes frequent severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Most people self-treat using hot showers to reduce their symptoms. The only known treatment and cure for CHS is to stop using cannabis completely.

Why does Michigan sometimes spell marijuana with a "j" and other times an "h"?

Historically, Michigan chose the spelling with an “h” when passing the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 using the federal spelling, marihuana.

Governing state laws spell marihuana with an “h”. In addition, legal communication, references to statutes (laws), and administrative rules relating to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, the Michigan Medical Facilities Licensing Act, or the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act use an “h” in the spelling of marihuana.

In non-formal communication, “j” will generally be used. However, both spellings – marijuana and marihuana – are acceptable.

An act of the Michigan Legislature would be needed to change the spelling of marijuana in Michigan statues.

What are the effects of mixing cannabis with alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs?

Using alcohol and cannabis at the same time is likely to result in greater impairment than when using either one alone. Using cannabis and tobacco at the same time may also lead to increased exposure to harmful chemicals, causing greater risks to the lungs, and the cardiovascular system.

Also, be aware that cannabis may change how prescription drugs work. Always talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking and possible side effects when mixed with other things like cannabis.

Is it possible to overdose or have a bad reaction to cannabis?

A fatal overdose is unlikely, but that doesn’t mean cannabis is harmless. The signs of using too much cannabis are similar to the typical effects of using cannabis but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting. In some cases, these reactions can lead to unintentional injury such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning.

Synthetic cannabis use increases the chance of fentanyl consumption that can be fatal.

What is a cannabis strain?

Strains are different variations of the cannabis plant, similar to how you might notice many different variations of tomatoes in the garden or at the grocery store.

Last Modified May 28, 2024

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Matt Bolang

Matt Bolang
Health Officer


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