What is Cannabis, THC & Hemp
Cannabis, which is often called weed, pot, marijuana, or hash, can have psychoactive characteristics and is consumed recreationally and for medical purposes in the United States. New York and other states have legalized possession and/or cultivation of small amounts of marijuana under their state laws, and also allow for medical use of marijuana in certain circumstances.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a compound found in cannabis, can cause impairment. Using cannabis products containing THC may lead to negative health effects.
Hemp and Adult-Use Cannabis are different classifications of the cannabis plant. Hemp is used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less THC. Adult-use cannabis and Medical cannabis are used to classify varieties of cannabis that contain more than 0.3% THC, which is known for its psychoactive effects (including a feeling of being high)
What is Legal and Illegal
- It is legal for adults 21 years or older to possess 3 ounces of cannabis and 24 grams of cannabis concentrate (edibles, oil).
- It is legal for adults 21 years or older to use cannabis in a private home or in most places where tobacco can be used, with the exception of use in a motor vehicle, a private business (such as a restaurant patio), a hookah or “cigar bar,” or on federal property.
- It is legal for adults 21 years or older to “share” cannabis without compensation, to a person 21 years or older under the legal possession limit, but the sale of a service or commodity associated with the sharing is prohibited, including so-called "gifting".
If you use marijuana products, keep them in childproof containers and out of the reach of children and pets.
For additional questions, contact your healthcare provider, your health department or your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222, or 911 if it’s an emergency.
- It remains illegal to smoke cannabis in a motor vehicle, a private business or any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited (like restaurant patios).
- It remains illegal to grow cannabis plants in your home until the OCM issues regulations permitting home cultivation for adult-use.
- It remains illegal to distribute or sell cannabis without a license. Transferring cannabis under the possession limit between adults who are 21 years or older without remuneration (money paid or service provided) is legal. However, some individuals are attempting to skirt the law with so-called “gifting” in which cannabis is given away at the same time as another transaction or is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services – this activity is illegal.
- It is illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis which can slow motor coordination and other skills needed to drive safely. Like with alcohol, if you drive under the influence of cannabis, you will get a DUI and risk hurting yourself or others.
Even in places where cannabis use is legal for adult usage, it is recommended that some people should still not use cannabis:
- Youth and Teens: Youth cannabis remains illegal for individuals under 21. Certain compounds in cannabis (like THC) can affect the developing brain. The part of the brain that is responsible for making decisions (the prefrontal cortex) is one of the last parts of the brain that develops and is particularly impacted by cannabis use.
- Pregnant People: Like many other drugs, there is limited research on the effects of cannabis on pregnancy and/or fetal development. There are still many unknowns about the short- and long-term effects of cannabis during and after pregnancy for you and your baby. A safe choice is to take a break from cannabis use.
- Breastfeeding: See Cannabis Considerations for Pregnant And Breastfeeding/Chest Feeding Individuals.
- People with diagnosed mental health conditions, or family history of psychosis: Evidence suggests that cannabis use can increase risk for schizophrenia, particularly for people with family history of schizophrenia, or who started using cannabis early.
Cannabis Risks - Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis is Illegal.
Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal.
Driving while high slows motor coordination and other skills needed to drive safely. If you feel different, you drive different. And remember, if you’ve consumed food infused with cannabis – called an “edible” – it can take as long as four hours for it take effect. If you’re not sure if you’re high or impaired, stay put and don’t take the chance of harming yourself or others. Make a plan before you consume cannabis.
Cannabis Risks - Drug Poisonings in Children
If you are over 21 and choose to have marijuana edibles such as gummies, cannabis oil for baking, weed candies, etc. remember to:
- Keep all marijuana containing products up high and out of reach of children and pets. See Up and Away – Put your medicines up and away and out of sight.
- Consider buying a medication lock box.
- NY Poison Center 1-800-222-1222: Add this number to your phone and post it where people can can easily find it.
- If you think a child has swallowed or ingested any form of marijuana, call 1-800-222-1222 or 911 immediately. Symptoms/reactions are often delayed.
These “accidental and unintentional” drug poisonings in children are 100% preventable.
Short Term Risks of Cannabis Use
- Lung irritation
- Decreased mental ability
- Anxiety/panic and paranoia/psychosis
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
Long-term Risks of Cannabis Use
- Know your limits! If cannabis use is hurting your quality of life, cut back or stop altogether.
- Apathy or loss of motivation
- Decreased memory and learning ability
- Decreased sex drive
- Mental health issues
- Excessive use
- Excessive weight gain
- Cravings or obsession with cannabis
- Using cannabis and doing risky things (driving, using power tools)
- Using cannabis to treat withdrawal symptoms
Cannabis Withdrawal Symptoms
- Some people may have withdrawal symptoms when stopping cannabis use. These may include:
- Irritability, cravings, anxiety Depression, anger, or confusion
- Symptoms usually peak about 4-5 days after stopping use, and they usually subside within about 2 weeks.
- Sleep problems, restlessness, appetite loss
- Tremors, night sweats, or diarrhea
Cannabis Use Disorder
This is the medical diagnosis for problematic cannabis use. Cannabis use is problematic when it begins to impact an individual’s life. Some common signs of cannabis use disorder include:
- Using more cannabis than intended Trying but failing to stop using cannabis when you want to
- Spending a lot of time using cannabis
- Craving cannabis
- Using cannabis even when it causes problems at home, at school or at work
- Continuing to use cannabis despite social, relationship or school-related problems
- Giving up important activities with family or friends in favor of using cannabis
- Using cannabis in high-risk situations, like while driving a car
- Continuing to use cannabis despite physical or psychological problems
- Needing to use more cannabis to get the same high
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping use of cannabis
If you or someone who is with you has consumed too much cannabis, call the Upstate New York Poison Control Center (800) 222-1222) or, if it’s an emergency, call 9-1-1.
Support & Resources
- Erie County Department of Health Resources
- NY State Office of Cannabis Management
- Videos from the NY State Office of Cannabis Management
- If you or a loved one is having problems with cannabis usage, there are resources in Western New York and beyond.
- Buffalo and Erie County Addiction Hotline: (716) 831-7007
- New York State’s HOPEline: Call 1 (877) 846-7369 or text HOPEline Short Code at 467369
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration): Call the National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP, or visit the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator at findtreatment.samhsa.gov.
- If you or someone who is with you has consumed too much cannabis, call the Upstate New York Poison Control Center (800) 222-1222) or, if it’s an emergency, call 9-1-1.
- Peer Navigation & Treatment Support
- Naloxone (Narcan) Access
- Harm Reduction Resources
- Erie County Opiate Epidemic Task Force
- Medication Disposal & Needle Access/Disposal
- Harm Reduction Terms & Definitions