CANNABIS: Scientific name - Tetrahydrocannabinol

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What it looks like and how it is taken

Cannabis comes in three main forms - HERBAL, which looks like grass or herbs; RESIN, a dark brown or black lump, similar to a stock cube; and 

OIL, a sticky dark oil .

All can be smoked, cooked or eaten with food, and have a distinctive aroma.

THC is the ingredient in cannabis that can make you feel very chilled out, happy and relaxed.

THC can also make you hallucinate, meaning that it can alter your senses, so that you might see, hear or feel things in a different way to normal.

Paraphernalia usually associated with cannabis include rolling papers, pipes and bongs.

The main effects

Cannabis has a number of different effects. It is classed as a sedating and hallucinogenic drug. Its effects can turn out to be pleasant or unpleasant:

Users feel chilled out, relaxed and happy, and they may get the giggles or become very talkative.

It can make you more aware of your senses, and the hallucinogenic effects can even give you a feeling of time slowing down.

It can make you feel very hungry – this is sometimes called ‘getting the munchies'.

Some people have one or two drags on a joint and feel light-headed, faint and sick. This is sometimes called a ‘whitey’.


Cannabis and the law

Cannabis is a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – it’s illegal to have it for yourself, to give away or sell.  Possession is illegal whatever you’re using it for, including pain relief. The penalty is up to five years in jail.

Supplying someone else can get you 14 years and an unlimited fine. Supplying your mates, even if you give it away, is also considered ‘supplying’ under the law.

If the Police catch you with cannabis, either producing or selling, they’ll always take some action. This could be either a fixed penalty or an arrest and possible conviction. A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a pretty serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.

Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal – and you can still be unfit to drive the day after smoking cannabis. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.  Allowing other people to use cannabis in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch someone smoking cannabis in a club they can prosecute the landlord, club owner or person holding the party. 

 The risks of taking Cannabis

Cannabis can "freak you out" ,  causing feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic and paranoia.  For people with illnesses such as schizophrenia, cannabis can cause a serious relapse.

Regular cannabis use is known to be associated with an increase in the risk of later developing psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia; and if you have a family background of mental illness, you may also have an increased risk.

Cannabis can affect the way the brain works. Regular, heavy use makes it difficult to learn and concentrate and research has linked cannabis use to poor exam results. This is a potentially serious risk if you’re young, when the brain is still developing. People who take a lot of cannabis can also find they lack motivation.

Cannabis can also mess with your body. Tobacco and cannabis share some of the same chemical "nasties" , so like smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis can make asthma worse, can cause wheezing in people without asthma and can even lead to lung cancer.

When people mix cannabis with tobacco they're also taking on all the risks associated with smoking tobacco, which can range from coughs and chest infections to cancer or heart disease. It can increase the heart rate and affect blood pressure, which can be especially harmful for those with heart disease.

It is reported that frequent use of cannabis may affect fertility. It can cut a man's sperm count and can suppress ovulation in women. If you’re pregnant, smoking cannabis may increase the risk of your baby being born smaller than expected.