Marijuana which can also be called cannabis, weed, pot, or dope refers to the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant contains more than 100 compounds (or cannabinoids). These compounds include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is impairing or mind-altering, as well as other active compounds, such as cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is not impairing.
Marijuana can be used in a number of ways.3,4 Marijuana can be smoked in joints (like a cigarette), in blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana), or in bongs (pipes or water pipes). Marijuana also can be mixed or infused into foods like cookies, cakes, or brownies (called edibles) and can be infused in drinks.
It can be vaped using electronic vaporizing devices (i.e., e-cigarettes or vape pens) or other vaporizers. Compounds (or cannabinoids) in marijuana can also be extracted to make oils and concentrates that can be vaped or inhaled. Smoking oils, concentrates, and extracts from the marijuana plant, known as “dabbing,” is on the rise. Health and safety risks exist for each of the different ways of using marijuana
The marijuana plant has compounds that may help symptoms for some health problems.1 While more states are making it legal to use the plant as medicine for certain conditions, scientists are still learning the ways that marijuana may help or harm people. For example, smoked marijuana may damage your lungs and respiratory system.1
Certain compounds in marijuana products may affect your brain or body in harmful ways. In addition, no federal standards have been implemented for the quality and safety of marijuana products sold in state-based medical marijuana dispensaries. These products are not approved by the FDA.
Research on the medical use of marijuana is still in early stages, and much remains unknown about the plant and how it interacts with the body. Currently, the FDA has approved one plant-based marijuana drug (Epidiolex), which contains purified cannabidiol (CBD) from the marijuana plant. The drug is approved for treating seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy (Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome) as well as seizures associated with tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumors to form in many parts of the body.
The FDA has also approved two medicines (dronabinol [brand names: Marinol and Syndros] and nabilone [brand name: Cesamet]) made from a synthetic or lab-made chemical that mimics tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These medicines are used to treat nausea in patients with cancer who are having chemotherapy treatment and to increase appetite in individuals with AIDS who do not feel like eating (wasting syndrome).
The fact that marijuana is legal in some states for medical or nonmedical adult use does not mean that it is safe. Using marijuana at any age can lead to negative health consequences:
Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time is likely to result in greater impairment than when using either one alone. Greater impairment can result in greater risk of physical harm. Using marijuana and tobacco at the same time may also lead to increased exposure to harmful chemicals that could cause greater risks to the lungs and the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels). Also, marijuana may change how prescription drugs work. Always talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking and the possible side effects when mixed with other things, such as marijuana.
The dose authorized by the physician certification form per 30-day period is four ounces of dried, unprocessed marijuana or the equivalent. If a patient wishes to purchase more than that amount per 30-day period, the patient must present certification and an alternate recommended dose from two physicians.
If a physician wishes to certify an unemancipated minor under 18 with a qualifying condition, the physician must receive the written consent of a parent or legal guardian who asserts that he or she will serve as a primary caregiver for the qualifying patient.