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All about Cannabis

A Community Conversation brought to you by the Drug Education Network.
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Last Updated:
April 2022

The Conversation

Cannabis is a commonly known drug in Australia and across the world. Cannabis has been used by people for thousands of years, dating back as early as 500 BCE.

In this conversation, we look at this ancient substance and what considerations there are for modern life.

A close up photo of an untrimmed cannabis bud, covered in psychoactive crystals. Image by Brent Barnett from Pixabay.

About Cannabis

Cannabis is the short name for the plant Cannabis Sativa. The cannabis plant has palm-shaped leaves with 3 to 11 leaflets (fingers), which are jagged on the edges. When purchased, cannabis usually looks like dry plant matter in colours ranging from light green to brown.

For an excellent overview about cannabis, we recommend starting with Cannabis... is it just a weed?

<center><a href="" class="rich-btn orange">Read Cannabis... Is it just a weed?</a></center><p>

Cannabis is used both recreationally (for enjoyment) and as medicine. Cannabis is sometimes confused with Hemp, but only Cannabis contains enough of the active ingredients to have psychoactive effects. As we mentioned in the introduction, there is evidence for the use of Cannabis from 2,500 years ago, but evidence of Hemp use for cloth and other items goes back even further.

Like any drug, Cannabis comes with its own set of side-effects and risks.

Medicinal Use

The difference between recreational and medicinal cannabis is how the drug is produced. Medicinal cannabis is grown carefully and tested by labs to ensure that there are no contaminants and that there is a known amount of the active ingredient. With recreational cannabis one dose could be larger than the next; with medicinal cannabis, you know what you're getting every single time.

Medicinal Cannabis is useful for many conditions, including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Chemotherapy-related Nausea and Vomiting
  • Chronic Pain
  • Palliative Care

There are many rumours about medicinal cannabis being useful for other conditions, but the evidence currently only supports the use of this medicine for specific conditions.

To access medicinal cannabis, you will need a prescription from your doctor.

<center><a href="" class="rich-btn orange">Learn more about accessing medicinal cannabis</a></center><p>


Cannabis use while pregnant can cause complications during pregnancy, such as pre-term labour; and harm to unborn babies, such as low birth weight and potential brain development issues. These effects aren't very well known by most people; many people believe that cannabis during pregnancy is neutral or even beneficial - for example, some people believe that cannabis can be used to help with morning sickness. The safest option during pregnancy is to avoid using cannabis at all.

If you want to know more about cannabis during pregnancy, take a look at Questions about Cannabis.

<center><a href="" class="rich-btn orange">Read Questions about Cannabis</a></center><p>

Young People

Experimenting with cannabis is fairly common amoung young people, with around 25% of young people having used cannabis recently, but most young people don't use cannabis at all. Cannabis is sometimes called a 'gateway drug' - that is, it is assumed to be a drug that, once tried, leads people to more intense drug use - but there is little to no evidence to support this.

Like with most drugs, cannabis during adolesence can have an impact on how the brain and body develops, with potential short and long-term impacts on memory, motivation, and impulse control. It is safest for young people to avoid cannabis altogether, or delay their use as long as possible to give their brain and body the best chance to develop healthily.

For parents wanting to know more about cannabis use and young people, the Australian Drug Foundation has an excellent factsheet to get you started.

<center><a href="" class="rich-btn orange">Read more about Cannabis and Young People</a></center><p>

Keeping Safe

Although it is not possible to die from cannabis overdose, there are other risks to using cannabis.

Driving while stoned might seem safe compared to driving while drunk, but cannabis slows your reaction time and increases your risk of having an accident by up to 300%. Like with most drugs, cannabis can also make it more likely that you experience falls and other accidents.

Although cannabis smoke doesn't contain as many chemicals as tobacco smoke, any form of smoke inhalation is risky for your lung health, and lung injury is possible if you take big hits using a bong. The risk of lung health issues increases if you mix tobacco with cannabis.

Eating cannabis doesn't have lung health risks, but care should be taken when eating it as it is harder to judge the correct dosage, and taking too much can lead to accidents as well as just feeling quite unwell.

Cannabis use is strongly discouraged for people who have a diagnosis of or a family history of schizophrenia. Smoking cannabis can lead to the early onset of schizophrenia symptoms, and in some cases can leave to psychosis which is a serious mental health issue.

For more information on keeping safe around cannabis use, Family Drug Support (FDS) has an excellent fact sheet.

<center><a href="" class="rich-btn orange">Read 'Cannabis' by FDS</a></center><p>

Finding Help

If you or someone you love is seeking help for issues with cannabis, take a look at the Services and Helplines section. Most services that provide alcohol and other drug counselling or treatment are able to help with cannabis issues.

Other Names

Also Known As: Cannabis

Cannabis is a drug that has many different effects on the body.

It might also be referred to as:

Acapulco Gold, Ace, Afghan, Afghan Black, African Niger, Bar, Bhang, BHO, Black, Black Mamba, Black Rock, Blaze, Bliss, Blond Hash, Blunt, Bob Hope, Bombay Blue, Bong, Bonzai, Boo, Boom, Brass, Broccoli, Bud, Buddha, Buddha Grass, Buddha Sticks, Buds, Bush, Business, Butane Honey Oil, Butter, Canadian Black, Caramello Eggs, Charas, Charge, Chera, Choof, Chronic, Columbian, Cone, Cooch, Cung, Dagga, Dak, Dakka, Delta-9 Tetrahydro-Cannabinol, Dirty, Doobie, Dope, Double Zero, Drabinol, Dry High, Dubbe, Duby, Durban Poison, Edibles, Elephant Weed, Fingers, Gage, Ganga, Gangster, Ganja, Genie, Grammies, Grass, Green, Griffo, Gunga, Happy Tobacco, Hash, Hash Brownies, Hash Cake, Hash Cookies, Hash Oil, Hashish, Hay, Heads, Hemp, Herb, Honey, Hooch, Hutch, Hydro, Hydroponic, Indian Hemp, Jamaican, Jive, Johnny Cash, Joint, Kief, Kiff, L and T, Leaf, Leaf and Tip, Lebanese Gold, Loco Weed, Marihuana, Marijuana, Mary, Mary Jane, Maui Wowie, Mexican, Moon Rocks, Mota, Mow the Grass, Mull, Mullumbimby Madness, Nimbin Heads, Northern Lights, Number, Olja, Panama Gold, Panama Red, Peace Weed, Pod, Poop, Pot, Primo, Queensland Heads, Ragweed, Red Seal, Reefer, Roach, Roach Clip, Rocky, Rope, Sativa, Scoob, Scunga, Shit, Sinsemilla, Skin, Skunk, Skunk Weed, Smoke, Smoko, Soles, Spice, Spot, Stash, Sticks, Stuff, Super Skunk, synthetic cannabinoids, T, Takrouri, Tea, Temple Balls, Tetrahydrocannabinols, Texas Tea, Thai Sticks, THC, Toke, Tooting, Torch Up, Wacky Backy, Wacky Terbacky, Wasch, Weed, Whackee Backee, Yarhndi, Yarni, Yarnie, Yesca, Yucatan Fire, Yundi, Zani, Zohai

Heard of another slang term? Let us know by clicking 'Report an Issue'!

More Information


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Services and Helplines

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Alcohol and Drug Foundation (n.d.) Cannabis use and young people,    

Alcohol and Drug Foundation (n.d.) Medicinal Cannabis,

Australia H (2022) Medicinal cannabis,

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (n.d.) Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, Younger people, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,

Cannabis Information and Support (2019) ‘driving stoned the facts’,

Drug Education Network Inc. & Australian Lions Wellness Foundation (2019) ‘Cannabis... Is it just a weed?’,

Family Drug Support (n.d.) Cannabis,

Global Drug Survey (n.d.) High Way Code: Cannabis,

ReachOut (n.d.) Cannabis and a teenager’s developing brain: what you need to know,

Ren M, Tang Z, Wu X, Spengler R, Jiang H, Yang Y, & Boivin N (n.d.) ‘The origins of cannabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs’, Science Advances, 5(6):eaaw1391, doi:10.1126/sciadv.aaw1391.