About cannabis

Learn about cannabis (marijuana), its effects and health risks.

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What is cannabis?

Cannabis refers to the plant Cannabis sativa. The cannabis plant grows and is grown around the world, but originally comes from Asia.

The flowers and leaves of the plant are used for their ability to cause psychoactive effects, or effects on the mind, including:

  • euphoria (feeling high)
  • a sense of well-being
  • relaxation
  • heightened sensory experiences:
    • sight
    • taste
    • smell
    • sound

The cannabis plant is also used for medical, social or religious purposes. Marijuana is a slang term for the dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds of the cannabis plant. A lot of cannabis products come from or can be made using the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant, including:

  • dried herbal material
  • oil, such as hash oil
  • concentrates, such as shatter
  • hash, which is compressed resin
  • foods and drinks containing extracts of cannabis

Chemical substances in cannabis

Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances. Over 100 of these chemicals are known as cannabinoids. This is because they come from the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are made and stored in plant's trichomes, which are tiny, clear hairs that stick out of the flowers and leaves of the plant. Cannabinoids are chemicals that have an effect on cell receptors in the brain and body and can change how those cells behave.


The most researched cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for the way your brain and body respond to cannabis. While THC has some therapeutic effects, it also has harmful effects.

The potency (concentration) of THC in cannabis is often presented as a percentage of THC by the weight of a specific part of the plant. The THC potency in dried cannabis has increased from an average of 3% in the 1980s to around 15% today. Some strains can have an average of as high as 30% THC.

Cannabis that contains very low amounts of THC in its flowers and leaves (less than 0.3%) is classified as hemp.


Another cannabinoid is cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive. There is some evidence that CBD may block or lower some of the psychoactive effects of THC. This may occur when the amount of CBD in the cannabis is equal to or higher than the amount of THC. CBD is also being studied for its potential therapeutic uses.


Terpenes chemicals are made and stored in the trichomes of the cannabis plant, along with the cannabinoids. Terpenese gives cannabis its smell. Cannabis has been described as smelling like:

  • pine
  • spice
  • citrus
  • skunk
  • diesel
  • cheese

How is cannabis used?

Cannabis can be taken in many different ways, including:

  • smoking by:
    • joints or spliffs (cannabis wrapped in partially translucent paper and can be mixed with tobacco)
    • pipes, such as bongs
    • blunts (partially or entirely hollowed out cigar wrappers filled with cannabis)
  • drinking or eating through:
    • teas
    • sodas
    • baked goods
  • vaping (breathing in cannabis and cannabis concentrate vapours through a vaporizer)
  • dabbing (breathing in vapours from heating cannabis concentrates with a blowtorch)

What are different forms of cannabis?

Kief or hashish

Kief is a powder made from the trichomes of the cannabis plant.

Hashish is made from kief. It is the resin that comes from the trichomes when they are pressed. Hashish may be soft and flexible or firm and brittle. It can be different colours, including:

  • gold
  • black
  • green
  • brown

Hashish can also be made into various forms or shapes, such as:

  • balls
  • bricks
  • sticks
  • cakes

There is more THC in both kief and hashish than in dried cannabis. The amount of THC in hashish can be as high as 60% while the amount of THC in cannabis is usually much lower, such as 37%. Kief and hashish can be smoked, mixed with foods or liquids and eaten or drunk.

Hash oil (errl)

Hash oil, which is also called errl, is made by mixing cannabis plant material with petroleum-based solvents like butane. This pulls the cannabinoids out of the plant and into the butane. This method is dangerous and can cause fires or explosions. The resulting product is called butane hash oil or butane honey oil (BHO). The colour of this oil can be:

  • red
  • gold
  • dark brown

Hash oil is usually a thick, sticky liquid and may contain more THC than dried cannabis plant material. The amount of THC in hash oil can be as high as 80%.

Shatter, budder, wax, honeycomb and rosin

Shatter, budder, wax, honeycomb and rosin are often the strongest cannabis products. Some of these can have up to 90% THC. Many are made from butane hash oil (BHO) using different processes while others, like rosin, are made without solvents. These products each have a different look and feel:

  • shatter is hard, brittle and amber-coloured
  • budder or wax is soft and feels like lip balm
  • honeycomb looks like a honeycomb

Slang terms for cannabis

Including the term marijuana, cannabis may be known by different names across different cultures, communities and social groups. These names include:

  • pot
  • bud
  • wax
  • errl
  • purp
  • keef
  • dope
  • herb
  • joint
  • rosin
  • spliff
  • trees
  • boom
  • weed
  • ganja
  • skunk
  • reefer
  • doobie
  • shatter
  • budder
  • gangster
  • honeycomb
  • Mary Jane (MJ)
  • dank or dank krippy
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