Cannabis and Your Health
This page provides information on the health effects on cannabis. To learn more about medical cannabis, visit Minnesota Department of Health: Medical Cannabis.
Cannabis—which may also be called marijuana, weed, or pot—refers to the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant.
The Minnesota Department of Health uses the term cannabis instead of marijuana, which came into usage in the U.S. as a word to leverage anti-immigrant sentiments. The use of stigmatizing language and negative attitudes about substance use can adversely impact all aspects of an individual’s life, including health care quality and outcomes.
Cannabis is a plant that contains more than 100 compounds (or cannabinoids), including:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is impairing or mind-altering, meaning it causes a “high.” THC can cause intoxication and affect how you perceive and think about things, how you feel, and how you make decisions.
- For more information on how THC works in the body, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse: Cannabis Drug Facts.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) does not cause a “high,” but still can affect the user.
Cannabis is often smoked, vaped, or consumed as edibles. Edibles are products made with cannabis that you can eat or drink. Edibles can resemble food products such as gummy candy, cookies, chocolate, and beverages.
Cannabis products are constantly evolving and are available in many forms. While products that are smoked or vaped usually take effect in a matter of minutes, edible products and drinks can take up to two hours to kick in. Effects can last for several hours and may vary by product.
Prevent cannabis related harms
If a person chooses to use cannabis, there are several ways to decrease harms.
- Do not use cannabis if you are under the age of 21 unless you are certified medical cannabis patient.
- Do not drive after using cannabis. Cannabis can slow reaction time and ability to make decisions, impair coordination, and can impact your ability to drive and do other activities.1 Driving under the influence of drugs, including cannabis, is dangerous and illegal. For more information visit:
- Do not use cannabis if you are pregnant or may become pregnant. Talk to a health care provider about the risks. Breastfeeding parents should reduce use, minimize exposure to baby, and consider their ability to care for baby while using cannabis. Chemicals can be passed to an infant through breastmilk or secondhand smoke exposure. For more information, visit:
Many people of all ages use cannabis for medical purposes. Talk to a health care provider before using cannabis.
Effects on the brain
Cannabis use directly affects the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time.2 The impact of cannabis use depends on many factors including amount of THC (strength), how often it is used, age of first use, and whether other substances like alcohol are used at the same time.
Research has shown that long-term and daily or near daily use of cannabis can cause:3
- Memory damage. This damage can last a week or more after the last time you used.
- Hallucinations and paranoia. This is called temporary psychosis.
- Development of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia.
Risks for youth and mental health
Youth are at higher risk of harm from cannabis use.
- Adult-use cannabis is illegal in Minnesota for anyone under the age of 21.
- Because the brain is still developing, using cannabis before age 25 may affect how the brain builds connections for functions like attention, memory, and learning.4
- Cannabis can become addictive, especially when started at a young age.4
- Youth who use cannabis may not do as well in school and may have problems with memory.4
- Youth who use cannabis are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.5
More research is needed to understand the long-term and permanent effects of cannabis on young people.
To prevent cannabis-related harms among young people:
- Know the risks of cannabis use and the different types of products kids may be using.
- Talk to your kids about these risks and set firm expectations that they do not use any type of cannabis product, including edibles and vapes.
- Understand that vaping is not harmless.
Learn more: CDC: Marijuana and Public Health: Brain Health.
Recent studies show daily use of cannabis may increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, or heart attack.6 Individuals with underlying cardiovascular diseases should talk with a health care provider before using cannabis and assess the risk of drug-drug interactions.
More research is needed to better understand the effects of cannabis on brain and heart health.
Using cannabis with other substances
Mixing cannabis with substances like alcohol can make the effects stronger, increase the amount you consume, and negatively affect your behavior and mental health. It can increase the risk of unsafe behaviors and injuries, like driving while impaired.7
Combining substances can also lead to a greater likelihood of developing substance misuse problems and mental health issues. For safest use, avoid using these substances together.
If you have questions about how cannabis may interact with medications, talk with a health care provider.
Prevent THC poisoning
Consuming too much THC can lead to poisoning or serious injury.8 It can be difficult to know how the amount of THC, or strength of the product, will affect you. Different strains of cannabis products (e.g., indica, sativa, or hybrid) and THC analogues may also cause different effects.
While products that are smoked or vaped usually take effect in a matter of minutes, edible products and drinks can take up to two hours to take full effect. Whatever way it is ingested, the effects of THC can take many hours to wear off. It is important to allow time for the products to take effect before taking more.
- To prevent unintentional poisonings, carefully review packaging to make sure you understand the THC content. Start with small doses and allow plenty of time before taking more.
- Store cannabis products out of sight and reach of children and keep in child-resistant containers.
- For more information, visit Prevent Unintentional Poisonings from Cannabis Products.
- CDC: Health Effects of Marijuana
- National Institutes of Health: Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know
- SAMHSA: Cannabidiol (CBD) – Potential Harms, Side Effects, and Unknowns
- University of Minnesota Cannabis Research Center
- Dakota County: Facts about Marijuana and THC Products
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. MARIJUANA USE AND DRIVING (cdc.gov). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/factsheets/pdf/MarijuanaFactSheets-Driving-508compliant.pdf.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Health Effects of Marijuana | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects/index.html.
- Sagar KA, & Gruber SA (2018). Marijuana matters: reviewing the impact of marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, & exploring policy implications and barriers to research. Int Rev Psychiatry, 30(3), 251–267.
- National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine, The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research, Washington, DC, 2017.
- Hammond CJ, Chaney A, Hendrickson B, Sharma P. Cannabis use among U.S. adolescents in the era of marijuana legalization: a review of changing use patterns, comorbidity, and health correlates. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2020 May;32(3):221-234.
- Franz CA, Frishman WH. Marijuana use and cardiovascular disease. Cardiology in Review. 2016;24(4):158-162.
- Yurasek AM, Aston ER, Metrik J. Co-use of Alcohol and Cannabis: A Review. Curr Addict Rep. 2017 Jun;4(2):184-193. doi: 10.1007/s40429-017-0149-8. Epub 2017 Apr 27.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Poisoning | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects/poisoning.html