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What's Cannabis?

Cannabis comes from the cannabis sativa plant grown in many parts of the world, including New Zealand. It is the most widely used illegal drug in New Zealand.

There are several forms of this drug used for recreational and medicinal purposes:

Marijuana (also known as pot, weed, ganja, dak, grass): the most common form in New Zealand. It's made from the cannabis plant's dried leaves and flowering tops (i.e. buds). Marijuana is usually smoked, often in hand-rolled joints (like cigarettes), but it may also be eaten in foods (e.g. baked into cookies).

Tetrahydracannabinol is the primary psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant. The THC content in marijuana in New Zealand currently ranges from1-32%.

Hash: made from the resin and flowers of the plant, which are dried and pressed into a block.

Hash oil: a sticky, concentrated liquid made from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant.

The most significant ingredient in cannabis is a chemical known as THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). This is what can change your behaviour and make you feel stoned. It can stay in the body for several weeks. Usually, there's more THC in hash oil or hash than marijuana, but often it varies from one batch to the next. The more THC, the stronger the effect it will have on you.


What does Cannabis do to you?

Cannabis affects people in different ways. Its effects depend on the strength and amount taken, your previous experience with cannabis, your personality and even your mood at the time. The effects can last up to four hours. In small amounts, while you're stoned, cannabis usually makes you:

  • Relaxed 
  • Sociable 
  • Slow 
  • Clumsy 
  • Not able to concentrate 
  • Very hungry - 'the munchies' 
  • Have bloodshot eyes 
  • Have an increased heart rate 
  • Sleepy 
  • Cannabis may also cause feelings of worry, anxiety or panic.

In larger amounts, you may:

  • Feel confused or scared 
  • Have a slowed sense of time 
  • See or hear things that aren't real. 
  • The larger the dose, the higher the risks of having a bad experience.





Can Cannabis negatively affect your life?

Yes. It can harm you in the followings ways:


You are most likely to have serious physical or mental health problems from using cannabis heavily (e.g. daily or near daily) over many years. On the other hand, most studies find people who occasionally use small amounts of cannabis report few health problems.

Being stoned on cannabis can be risky in certain situations though, like driving a car, where the effect on your reaction time and co- ordination may put you or your friends at risk.

Health risks from heavy, long-term cannabis use are:


Bronchitis or other diseases related to your breathing system, cancer of the lungs, mouth or throat, from smoking cannabis, a small loss of attention and memory ability, which may or not return to normal after you stop using cannabis.


Becoming mentally dependent on cannabis, finding it hard to give up worsening the effects of mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression.


If you use cannabis regularly, it may lead to problems with friends, family or whanau. Other people may not understand or like your mood or behaviour while you're stoned. And if using cannabis causes problems in other parts of your life - like school - that can upset family and friends too.


Cannabis can make you clumsy, forgetful and possibly less motivated, making it harder to do a good job. You could get sacked, or your career might not go as well as you'd like. If you're operating machinery while you're stoned, you run the risk of having an accident.


Cannabis can make it hard to concentrate and remember things, and may make you less keen to work. So if you're studying, it could mean your grades or exam results suffer.

Sports and Recreation

If you like playing sports, cannabis can reduce your performance. If you're stoned, you probably won't be as quick or co-ordinated. And even if you're not stoned, you may find you're less interested in sport if you've been using cannabis heavily for a while. Swimming and water sports can be dangerous if you have taken cannabis.


Cannabis isn't cheap. If you use if often it can cost a lot, and put a big strain on your wallet.



When's Cannabis most harmful?

Using cannabis is especially risky if you are:

  • Using it heavily, particularly over several years.

  • Using machinery or driving.

  • Using other drugs as well (especially alcohol).

  • Depressed or have a mental illness.

  • Pregnant (the baby's health will be at risk).

  • At risk of heart problems.

  • Having problems doing well at school.


Where Can I Get Help?

Youth health centres are a good place to go for help. If you don't have one in your area, talk to an adult you trust, such as your parents, your doctor, Kaumatua or Kuia, a school counsellor or a youth worker. You can also get help from an Alcohol and Drug Service (they're listed in the phone book) or ring the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797.



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