What is medical marijuana, and is it legal?
Marijuana is a drug that is made up of the leaves, flowers, and buds of the hemp plant Cannabis sativa. Medical marijuana is the use of this drug to help treat symptoms like pain, muscle stiffness (spasticity), nausea, and lack of appetite. It may be used by people who have conditions like cancer, AIDS, or multiple sclerosis.
In the United States, it is against federal law to possess, sell, give away, or grow marijuana for any purpose. Many states have passed laws that allow people with certain health problems to buy or grow marijuana for their own use. Some states allow or license people to provide medical marijuana to those who need it. And in some states your doctor can write a certificate for you to be able to buy medical marijuana from a state-licensed dispensary.
If you use medical marijuana to treat an approved medical condition, the federal government might not prosecute you. But there's no guarantee.
Medical marijuana laws vary from state to state. If you think you might want to try medical marijuana, talk to your doctor. You can also call your state department of health or health services to learn more about the laws in your state.
What do the experts say?
The medical use of marijuana has been studied for decades. But experts still don't agree on how safe it is or how well it works.
Some medical experts don't recommend marijuana because:
- It hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Marijuana may impair your memory, judgment, and coordination. It can increase your risk of being in a car crash.
- Marijuana smoke may harm your lungs.
- There are legal drugs that may work just as well, such as new kinds of pain and nausea medicines.
Other medical experts do recommend marijuana because:
- It can provide pain relief when normal pain medicines don't work or have unwanted side effects.
- It can improve appetite and relieve nausea in people who have cancer or AIDS.
- It may help relieve symptoms such as pain and muscle stiffness (spasticity) in people who have multiple sclerosis.
Be sure to let your doctor know if you are using medical marijuana. If you're pregnant, it is not safe to use alcohol or drugs, including marijuana.
How do you use medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana should only be used after treatments with commonly used medicines have been tried. Marijuana interacts with many other medicines. It can be dangerous if taken with medicines that cause sleepiness or control mood, such as sedatives, anxiety drugs, or antidepressants. Marijuana lowers blood sugar and blood pressure, so use caution if you take medicines for these conditions. It also increases the chance of bleeding if you are taking blood thinners.
Marijuana is usually smoked. It can also be brewed into tea, vaporized, sprayed under the tongue, applied to the skin, or cooked in food.
You may be affected for hours after you use marijuana. How soon you feel the effects of marijuana and how long they last depends on many things, including:
- How much you used.
- How you took it.
- How your own body responds to it.
Unwanted side effects may include:
- Dry mouth.
- Red eyes.
- Anxiety or paranoid thoughts.
- Faster heart rate.
- Nausea and vomiting.
What are the health effects and risks of marijuana?
- Distorted perceptions
- Impaired coordination
- Difficulty thinking and problem solving
- Problems with learning and memory
- Respiratory conditions (examples include bronchitis, emphysema, and bronchial asthma)
- Anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia
- Increased heart rate
- Hallucinations, delusions, and/or psychosis (when taken in high doses)
Signs of marijuana use include:
- Red, bloodshot eyes
- Difficulty walking
- Having difficulty remembering things that just happened
- Acting silly for no apparent reason
- Smell of marijuana on hair and clothes
What are the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana?
- Decreased appetite
Is marijuana safe?
Marijuana can be laced with substances such as fentanyl, PCP, formaldehyde, or codeine cough syrup without your knowledge. "Blunts", hollowed-out cigars filled with marijuana, sometimes have crack cocaine added. These added substances can increase the harm caused by using marijuana.
Is it possible for someone to become addicted to marijuana?
Yes, about 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using younger than 18, that number rises to 1 in 6. For more information visit Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s website information on addiction or the National Institute on Drug Abuse's pages on addiction science.
How do I know if I am addicted to marijuana?
Some of the signs that someone might be addicted to marijuana include:
- Trying but failing to quit using marijuana.
- Giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.
- Using marijuana even when it is known that it causes problems at home, school, or work.
Compared to marijuana users who are not addicted, people who are addicted to marijuana are at a higher risk of the negative consequences of using the drug, such as problems with attention, memory, and learning. For more information visit CDC's website information on addiction or the National Institute on Drug Abuse's pages on addiction science.
Is it possible to overdose or have a bad reaction to marijuana?
A fatal overdose is unlikely, but that doesn't mean marijuana is harmless. The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting. In some cases, these reactions can lead to unintentional injury such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning.
Synthetic marijuana use increases the chance of fentanyl consumption that can be fatal.
What are the effects of mixing marijuana with alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs?
Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time is likely to result in greater impairment than when using either one alone. Using marijuana and tobacco at the same time may also lead to increased exposure to harmful chemicals, causing greater risks to the lungs, and the cardiovascular system.
Also, be aware that marijuana may change how prescription drugs work. Always talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking and possible side effects when mixed with other things like marijuana.
Does marijuana use lead to other drug use?
Most people who use marijuana do not go on to use other, harder, substances. More research is needed to understand if marijuana is a gateway drug, a drug that is thought to proceed use of more dangerous drugs (such as cocaine or heroin).
Can secondhand marijuana smoke affect nonsmokers, including children?
Secondhand marijuana smoke contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, and many of the same toxic chemicals in smoked tobacco.
Smoked marijuana has many of the same cancer-causing substances as smoked tobacco, but there are still many unanswered questions around secondhand marijuana smoke exposure and its impact on chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and lung diseases.
How is eating and drinking foods that contain marijuana (edibles) different from smoking marijuana?
Because marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), there are health risks associated with using marijuana regardless of the how it is used. Some of these negative effects include having difficulty thinking and problem-solving, having problems with memory, learning and maintaining attention and demonstrating impaired coordination. Additionally, frequent use can lead to becoming addicted to marijuana. However, some risks may differ by the way it is used.
Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production. Whereas edibles, which take longer to digest, take longer to produce an effect. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster. This may lead to people consuming very high doses and result in negative effects like anxiety, paranoia and, in rare cases, an extreme psychotic reaction (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, talking incoherently, and agitation) which can last for an extended period of time.
How does marijuana affect driving?
Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.
Marijuana is the illicit drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones.
What is Michigan Proposal 1?
Proposal 1 legalizes the possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes for residents 21 years or older. The measure creates an excise sales tax of 10 percent, which is levied on marijuana sales at retailers and microbusinesses. Revenue from the tax is allocated to local governments, K-12 education, and road and bridge maintenance. Proposal 1 also legalizes the cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale of industrial hemp. Municipalities are allowed to ban or limit marijuana establishments within their boundaries. It was approved by Michigan voters on November 6, 2018 and went into effect on December 6, 2018.
If you or someone you know may be thinking of suicide, going through a hard time, or just need to talk, call or text the Common Ground Resource and Crisis Helpline, available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
- Call/Text: 1-800-231-1127
- Online Crisis Helpline Chat
#1: Locking Up Your Weed Can Help Keep Your Kids Safe
While medical marijuana can have certain benefits for adults, studies have shown that it may be detrimental to a teen's brain development. If you keep marijuana in the house, make sure it's stored safely in order to help protect your kids from experimentation, or worse.
#2: Help Prevent Accidental Poisoning
Just like storing your prescriptions safely, locking up your weed helps prevent accidental poisoning.
#3: Protect Yourself From Theft
Unsecured marijuana can be tempting, and not just to unknown thieves or criminals. Locking up your weed can help protect you from theft and possible break-ins. It's just as important to lock up your marijuana as it is your other medications.
- Keep marijuana up and away, and out of sight from curious children.
- Pick a place your children cannot reach. Any kind of medicine or vitamin can cause harm if taken in the wrong way, even medicine you can buy without a prescription. Walk around your house and find a storage place too high for a child to reach or see. This is also important to remember when families are away from home and staying in hotels, or as guests in others’ homes.
- Put marijuana away every time. Never leave it out on a kitchen counter or at a bedside, even if you anticipate using it again in a few hours. Always put every marijuana product and other medicine away every time you use it, including those you use every day.
- Consider purchasing a medication lock box. Children, even young children, can easily access marijuana products in their original packaging. A lock box provides a safe, convenient and affordable method for securing marijuana products in the home or while traveling.
We believe everyone has a responsibility to safeguard their medicines and marijuana products, and protect children from gaining access to potentially harmful substances. Please stay tuned to this page for future opportunities to obtain a lock box from the Saginaw County Health Department.
Information for Parents
- Have conversations with your children about alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana. It’s best to start having conversations early and continue throughout the teen years.
- Know your child's friends and supervise activities.
- Monitor your child's spending habits.
- Set a good example around substance use.
- Know current trends in teen substance use.
- Recognize the signs of drug use.
- Seek professional help for prevention and intervention services.
- Changes in behavior, mood, or grooming habits
- Changes in academic performance and school attendance
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Finding drug paraphernalia such as: rolling papers, pipes, ashtrays, and material or substances that appear to be potpourri or incense.
- Strange smelling clothes or bedroom
- Using incense and other deodorizers
- Clothing, jewelry, music, or posters that promote drug use
- Unexplained lack of money or surplus of cash on hand
onversations can be a powerful way parents can connect with and protect their kids. When tackling a tough topic, such as marijuana, figuring out what to say can be challenging. Here are some sample conversations that may be helpful.
Teens May Say: "Michigan has medical marijuana, so if doctors can prescribe weed, it can’t hurt me."Parent Response: "Doctors prescribe it for serious medical conditions, but that doesn’t make it 'good' for you. All drugs have side effects, and all drugs can be harmful if abused, even those that are prescribed by doctors. Besides, it’s not legal for you. You have to break the law to get it."
Teens May Say: "You’re just saying it’s bad for me because you don’t want me to smoke pot."Parent Response: "You’re right. I don’t want you smoking pot or making other choices that have a negative impact on your future. Your brain is still developing, and smoking pot changes your brain in a bad way. These changes make it difficult to think, solve problems, and remember information. Substance use of any kind means you’re more likely to have emotional problems – including depression and anxiety."
Teens May Say: "Pot isn’t even addictive."Parent Response: "People who want to keep smoking always say that, but research shows marijuana is addictive. Smoking pot changes the brain – just like other drugs. I’ll bet you know kids who obsess about how and when they’re going to get high again. Some will steal money or do other things they aren’t proud of to get money for it. They might blow off things they used to care about, including school. That’s addictive behavior."
Teens May Say: "I’m just trying it out, like everybody else my age. It’s not like I’m going to smoke weed forever."Parent Response: "Not everybody’s doing it. Do you know that the earlier you start smoking pot, the more likely you are to get addicted? The consequences can be deep and long-term. Many studies show that pot smokers don’t do as well in life as other people. They get worse grades and drop out of school more often; fewer pot smokers go to college."
Teens May Say: "Smoking a little pot doesn’t mean I’ll end up using heroin."Parent Response: "I hope not! But smoking pot, especially as a teenager, means you are many more times likely to use other drugs. It’s just a fact. The more a person gets into smoking pot, the more likely it is they’re hanging out with people who also do other drugs. Almost all of the teenagers who go through treatment start out using some combination of nicotine, alcohol and marijuana."
Teens May Say: "I’ll bet you smoked pot when you were my age! What’s the difference?"Parent Response: "There is a difference. Marijuana has changed. It’s much stronger than it used to be and way more addictive. My job is to protect and teach you. I can tell you that my life is no better I smoked pot. I admit to making some poor decisions when I was your age, but I made some good ones too. One of them was moving beyond that risky behavior. I hope you will let me help you make good decisions for your health and safety and your future. OR I didn’t smoke marijuana because i was afraid of where it could lead, and I didn’t want to risk getting in trouble with police, school, or my parents. And, I didn’t want to risk getting addicted. I do know that today’s marijuana is far stronger than it was back then, and many other drugs are more available to kids today. As your parent, I want to help you make good decisions."
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Deterioration of personal hygiene or appearance
- Frequent, unexplained bruises or other injuries
- Skipping class or declining grades
- Sudden change in relationships and friends
- Missing money / stealing
- Sudden mood changes – irritability or outbursts
- Appearing withdrawn, anxious or paranoid
Information for Youth and Young Adults
Unlike adults, the teen brain is actively developing and often will not be fully developed until the mid 20s. Marijuana use during this period may harm the developing teen brain.
Negative effects include:
- Difficulty thinking and problem solving.
- Problems with memory and learning.
- Impaired coordination.
- Difficulty maintaining attention.
Marijuana use in adolescence or early adulthood can have a serious impact on a teen’s life.
- Decline in school performance. Students who smoke marijuana may get lower grades and may more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who do not use.4
- Increased risk of mental health issues. Marijuana use has been linked to a range of mental health problems in teens such as depression or anxiety.5 Psychosis has also been seen in teens at higher risk like those with a family history.6
- Impaired driving. Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous. Marijuana negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving, such as reaction time, coordination, and concentration.7, 8
- Potential for addiction.a Research shows that about 1 in 6 teens who repeatedly use marijuana can become addicted, which means that they may make unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana or may give up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana.
Information for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Mothers
Data are insufficient to say yes or no. Chemicals from marijuana in any form (including edibles, oils, or other concentrates) can be passed from a mother to her infant through breast milk. These chemicals have the potential to affect a variety of neurodevelopmental processes in the infant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active component of marijuana, is stored in body fat and slowly released over time, meaning an infant could be exposed to an unknown amount and for an extended period of time. In addition, some products, including cannabidiol (CBD) products, may contain other contaminants (e.g., pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and fungus) that could be dangerous to a mother and her infant.
Data on the effects of marijuana and CBD exposure to the infant through breastfeeding are limited and conflicting. To limit potential risk to the infant, breastfeeding mothers should be advised not to use marijuana or marijuana-containing products in any form, including those containing CBD, while breastfeeding.
If a mother continues to use marijuana or CBD while breastfeeding, she should be encouraged to significantly reduce her intake. To minimize secondhand smoke exposure, marijuana products should not be smoked around babies or children. Marijuana use may also impair a mother or other caregiver’s judgement and ability to care for an infant.
Research shows marijuana use during pregnancy may
make it hard for your child to pay attention or to learn,
these issues may only become noticeable as your child
- Some research shows that using marijuana while you
are pregnant can cause health problems in newborns—
including low birth weight and developmental
- Breathing marijuana smoke can also be bad for you
and your baby. Marijuana smoke has many of the same
chemicals as tobacco smoke and may increase the
chances for developmental problems in your baby.