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Frequently Asked Questions

Cannabis

Cannabis is difficult to classify pharmacologically because it has a variety of effects. It is primarily a depressant drug, however, it can have hallucinogenic and some stimulant properties. Marijuana, hashish and hashish oil come from the cannabis plant.

Cannabis can also been known as mull, pot, dope, weed, leaf, gunja, marijuana, grass, smoke, green, hashish or hashish oil, amongst other street names.

Cannabis is usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or water pipes (bongs). The drug is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the lungs. Intoxication is felt when the drug reaches the brain which can take a few minutes and may last for up to 5 hours. When cannabis is eaten, the absorption of the drug is much slower, taking up to 3 hours to enter the bloodstream and the amount of food in the stomach and the user (e.g. weight, gender and other drugs used) will determine how quickly a person feels the effects.

Cannabis is primarily a depressant drug, which means it decreases alertness by slowing down the activity of the central nervous system. However, it can also have hallucinogenic (can alter perception and can cause hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing something that is not there) and some stimulant (increases the body's state of arousal by increasing the activity of the brain) properties.

The effects of cannabis can change from person to person as with any drug. This is because the effects of drugs change with person to person depending on the persons characteristics (such as physical size, gender, mood, diet, fitness, age, expectations and health), the drug itself (such as the amount used and its purity), and how it is taken and the environment a person is in when using the drug.

Short term effects of cannabis on your body can include loss of concentration, impaired balance and reduced coordination, increased heart rate, reddened eyes and increased appetite. Cannabis intoxication can also cause confusion, restlessness, a detachment from reality, hallucinations, anxiety and panic attacks.

Cannabis use can also cause problems later in life, not just while using the drug. There is a growing body of research that indicates cannabis causes significant harm to the community, particularly in relation to physical and mental health, and wellbeing. Long term effects of cannabis can include respiratory disorders (bronchitis, asthma and emphysema), risk of cancer (especially lung cancer), decreased concentration, memory and learning abilities and interference with sex drive and hormone production. Cannabis use can increase the risk of mental health problems, especially in young people. This risk increases the earlier a person starts and the more they use.

Frequent use of cannabis can affect the brain by decreasing the user's ability to concentrate and remember things and can also impact on learning ability. Research indicates that cannabis affects the frontal cortex of the brain, leading to less self-control.

Cannabis use can increase the risk of mental health problems, especially in young people. This risk increases with frequency and amount of cannabis use. The frequent or even occasional use of cannabis can cause anxiety, depression, paranoia and psychosis in those people who have a vulnerability to mental health problems. People who use cannabis in their teens may also have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. This risk also increases with frequency and amount of cannabis use.

Dependency is a complex issue. Some drugs are more physically addictive while others are mentally or socially addictive.

It has been suggested that cannabis use can lead to dependency. Research indicates that 1 in 10 people who try cannabis become dependent, with young people more at risk of dependence following cannabis use than older people.

Cannabis can be detected in saliva for up to 4 hours after use. It is suggested that a single joint can last from 18 hours to 5 days until it is no longer detectable in urine, and 20-36 hours until it is no longer detectable in blood. Heavy cannabis use can take 60-90 days until it can be no longer detectable in urine, and 20-36 hours until it is no longer detectable in blood.

It is important to note that the detection of drugs and their metabolites in any biological sample (saliva, urine and blood) can change depending on the individual person and their biological factors and most suggested time frames are based on scientific studies, but individual results may vary.

There is no safe level of cannabis use. Because cannabis is harmful, it is against the law for people in Western Australia to use, possess, cultivate or sell / supply cannabis, or to possess pipes and other smoking implements containing detectable traces of cannabis.

It is important to note that the detection of drugs and their metabolites in any biological sample (blood, urine and saliva) can change depending on the individual person and their biological factors and most suggested time frames are based on scientific studies but individual results may vary.

It is against the law to sell cannabis smoking paraphernalia (e.g. bongs) or to display them for sale in a shop or retail outlet. Selling cannabis smoking paraphernalia to a child under the age of 18 years attracts a higher penalty than selling to an adult.

A person convicted of a drug offence will receive a criminal record and this can lead to difficulties in getting a job, credit or visas for overseas travel.

Using cannabis can also impact on your life in many ways. For example, the cost of purchasing cannabis can lead to financial problems and drug use can lead to social and emotional problems that affect relationships with family and friends.

We would recommend that you contact WA Police for any other questions on cannabis and the law (www.police.wa.gov.au).

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