Cannabis, also known as marijuana, pot, weed, ganja, Mary Jane, and a vast number of other names, is the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a mind-altering chemical.
When a person smokes cannabis, THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The effects are felt more slowly when a person eats (edibles) or drinks cannabis.
THC overactivates certain brain cell receptors, resulting in effects such as:
- Altered senses
- Changes in mood
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired memory and learning
The amount of THC in cannabis has been increasing steadily in recent decades, creating more harmful effects in some people.
Cannabis is not a harmless drug. Cannabis directly affects the brain, specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time. Developing brains, like those in babies, children, and teenagers are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of cannabis. Cannabis’ effects may last a long time or even be permanent. This means someone who uses cannabis may not do as well in school and may have trouble remembering things. Although scientists are still learning about these effects, studies show cannabis use by mothers during pregnancy may be linked to problems with attention, memory, problem-solving skills, and behavior problems in their children.
There are no reports of teens and adults dying from using cannabis use alone, but cannabis can cause some very uncomfortable side effects, such as anxiety and paranoia and, in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions.
Cannabis use can lead to substance use disorder, often referred to as addiction.
Information about the adult-use cannabis law, as well as additional health and safety information can be found on the Let’s Talk Cannabis Illinois website.