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Cannabis refers to any of the products derived from the cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, including dried plant material, resin (hashish), and other products derived from these substances (e.g. oils, wax). Cannabis contains hundreds of chemical substances, including some that have been found to be psychoactive. Two of the most studied chemicals in cannabis are THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol).

Therapeutic Use

Access to cannabis for medicinal purposes has been permitted in Canada since 2001. Cannabis use has been found to have therapeutic effects to improve symptoms for some health conditions. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has compiled a comprehensive assessment of the Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids (including therapeutic effects). The College of Family Physicians of Canada has also issued guidelines for Authorizing Dried Cannabis for Chronic Pain or Anxiety.

Non-Therapeutic Use

Cannabis for non-medicinal use in now permitted for legal age adults in Canada.  Historically, cannabis has been the most commonly used illicit substance in Canada, with about 1 in 7 males and 1 in 10 females aged 15 and older reporting past-year cannabis use.

While there are some limitations to what we know about the health effects of cannabis, there are some well-documented risks associated with its use. These risks increase with frequent, prolonged use and early initiation of use. There are also specific health risks for young people and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. A summary of the health effects of cannabis can be found on Health Canada’s Cannabis Health Effects webpage.

The safest way to avoid the health risks associated with cannabis is to abstain from use. For people who do use cannabis CAMH has developed Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines and associated Evidence Brief with 10 recommendations aimed at limiting possible harms associated with cannabis use.

Screening Tools

New resources are also being developed to support individuals and clinicians to assess patterns of use and develop plans for managing problematic use or dependency. For example, The Centre for Effective Practice, a national not-for-profit organization that acts as a catalyst to improve health care outcomes for Canadians, has developed a non-medical cannabis resource that includes a screening tool, harm reduction and patient counselling supports, and recommended treatment for adverse events. Pathways Research has also developed Healthy Living Workbooks to help people lower risks from alcohol and cannabis use.

See our Getting Help page for a variety of local resources available to patients looking for help managing their cannabis use.

The following resources provide additional information about cannabis for medicinal and non-medicinal use: