Cannabis is the second most commonly used substance in Canada, after alcohol. On October 17, 2018, Canada became the second country in the world to legalize and regulate the sale and use of cannabis and cannabis products. Understanding the impacts of cannabis is essential to minimize the risks and harms and to maximize the benefits of its use. For that reason, CCSA conducts research, brings together knowledge and provides targeted materials to support evidence-based decisions and actions for cannabis policy and practice.
What Is Cannabis?
Cannabis is a plant, known for its psychoactive properties. A variety of cannabis products — herbal material, cannabis oil, concentrated extracts, edibles, tinctures and creams — are produced and used for their physical and cognitive effects. People consume these products for medical and non-medical purposes. People usually smoke cannabis, but they can also consume it in other ways such as vaporization (“vaping”) and in edibles.
Cannabis flowers secrete over 100 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. When consumed, these compounds bind to cell receptors and change the way these cells communicate with one another. Two of the best known cannabinoids are:
- THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis and is responsible for the “high” that individuals experience. It has both therapeutic and harmful effects.
- CBD (cannabidiol), which is the second-most common cannabinoid in cannabis. It is not psychoactive and is being studied for use in medical applications, such as relieving pain, anxiety and other chronic conditions.