What Marijuana Is
Marijuana refers to the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant. The cannabis plant contains more than 100 compounds (cannabinoids). Two of these compounds are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is responsible for the mind altering “high” and could cause feelings of relaxation, euphoria, creativity, or other “feel good” psychological responses. Some people, however, might have a very different response such as anxiety or paranoia. CBD is not impairing meaning it does not cause a “high”. Marijuana plants contain more than 0.3% THC. Hemp plants have less than 0.3% THC.
Many things contribute to how marijuana makes a person feel and can include:
- Individual physical characteristics (e.g., weight, metabolism, age)
- Dose (quantity and frequency)
- Method of consumption
- Experience of use
- Other substance use (current or past)
There are four main types of marijuana
All forms except topical marijuana are mind-altering.
Marijuana flower is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the cannabis plant. It goes by many different names including but not limited to pot, bud, weed, and grass. This form of marijuana is usually smoked. Like tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke irritates the throat and lungs. In addition, smoking around other people exposes them to secondhand smoke.
Marijuana concentrates are made by removing strong cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Concentrates are usually consumed by vaporizing (vaping) the product although they can also be smoked or ingested. They are found in different forms and go by a variety of names including dabs, shatter, hash oil, BHO, wax, budder, honey, and sap. These forms of marijuana often have high levels of THC which can be dangerous.
Edibles are food products that have had marijuana added. Examples include candies, cookies, brownies, drinks, and other snack foods. Unlike smoking or vaping marijuana where the effects begin after only a few minutes, the body slowly digests edibles like regular food, so it takes longer (1-3 hours) to feel the effect. Since the effects are not felt right away, a user may consume large amounts of the drug while thinking the drug is not working. This could lead to a marijuana overdose.
Topicals are non-edible products such as lotions, oils, balms, and salves that are absorbed through the skin. They may be used to treat skin problems or for pain relief but are non- psychoactive so they will not get the user high.
It is important to remember that marijuana, while legal in Michigan, is still illegal at the federal level and is classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. That means it has no current accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.
In November 2018, Michigan voters passed the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA). That means adult use - sometimes called recreational - cannabis is legal for all adults 21 years of age and older.
The first adult use marijuana retail shops opened in Michigan to the public on December 1, 2019. To make a purchase, a person needs to be 21 years or older and will have to show identification, not unlike when buying alcohol.
Plants, plant containers, bags or products holding marijuana product in licensed shops must have the universal symbol on it. Products in licensed shops will have been tested for pesticides, molds, and other harmful contaminants.
Marijuana is not available for purchase everywhere in Michigan. Many cities, towns, villages, and townships have opted out of the MRTMA. Where legal, anyone over 21 years of age can buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. However, an individual cannot have more than 15 grams of marijuana concentrate at one time. When buying edibles, 16 ounces is considered one ounce of marijuana for the purposes of the daily limit.
Under 21 Years of Age?
Using or possessing marijuana is illegal unless a person has a Patient Registry Card issued by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program. An underage person caught in possession of marijuana may receive a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge - which comes with a fine, community service, and possibly even court-ordered drug treatment.
The MRTMA allows adults 21 years of age and older to grow as many as 12 plants per household. This means that even if two adult residents live in one home, the limit is still 12 plants (and not 24). Growing marijuana is not permitted if the plants are visible from a public place or if they are not in a secure location.
Michigan residents not growing their own marijuana can legally have up to 10 ounces of flower in their home. Any amount over 2.5 ounces must be locked up.
While marijuana is legal in Michigan, consuming it in public and in vehicles is not permitted.
Keeping Others Safe
If adults choose to use marijuana, they should be mindful of the safety of their children and any children who might visit their home. It is best practice to lock all marijuana products in a lock box, bag, or safe to prevent accidental ingestion.
Accidental ingestion and poisoning can be prevented by:
- Keeping marijuana locked away where small children and teens cannot get to it. Remember that - like alcohol - teens may search for marijuana products at home. Locking it up is a good way to prevent underage use.
- Keeping marijuana out of sight. It cannot be used in public, and it is a good idea to consume marijuana out of the sight of young people. Children and teens learn by watching the adults in their lives.
- Storing marijuana in its original retail package or container to prevent confusion.
If a child accidentally ingests marijuana, call the poison control hotline at 1-800-222-1222 and watch for the following signs:
- Problems waking or sitting up
- Trouble breathing
- Sleepiness or drowsiness
If the reaction seems severe, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
Lock It Up
Using grant funds, the Kent County Health Department purchased a supply of locked bags for the safe handling and storage of marijuana products. The bags are free and can be picked up at the Kent County Health Department at 700 Fuller Avenue NE.
While much is known about the health risks associated with secondhand cigarette smoke, less is known about the risks of being exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke.
In addition to containing some of the same chemicals found in tobacco smoke, secondhand marijuana smoke also contains THC. As a result, people exposed to the smoke could feel high and children might be at risk for negative health effects.
More research is needed to understand the effects of marijuana secondhand smoke.
Just because vaping is seen as an alternative to smoking, it does not mean that it is safe. Vaping marijuana could result in consuming an extremely high dose of THC - possibly triggering anxiety or paranoia.
Vape devices can be harmful. It is not just "water vapor". Whether used for marijuana or nicotine, vape products can contain:
- Ultrafine particles
- Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds such as benzene which can be found in car exhaust
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
While vaping products have grown in popularity, outbreaks of lung illnesses that have led to hospitalizations and death have been linked to vaping. The long-term health effects of vaping are unknown, and more research is needed to understand what those are.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does Michigan sometimes spell marijuana with a “j” and at other times
with an “h”?
Historically, Michigan chose the spelling with an “h” when passing the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 using the federal spelling, marihuana.
Governing state laws spell marihuana with an “h”. In addition, legal communication, references to statutes (laws), and administrative rules relating to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, the Michigan Medical Facilities Licensing Act, or the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act use an “h” in the spelling of marihuana.
In non-formal communication, "j" will generally be used. However, both spellings - marijuana and marihuana - are acceptable.
An act of the Michigan Legislature would be needed to change the spelling of marijuana in Michigan statues.
Is marijuana safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding?
Simply put, there is no known safe amount of marijuana while pregnant. Using marijuana during pregnancy or breastfeeding could harm the baby, just like alcohol or tobacco.
“Pumping and dumping” breastmilk after using marijuana does not work the same way it does with alcohol. THC is stored in body fat and stays in the body for a long time. Since a baby's brain and body are made up of a lot of fat, THC is stored for a long time.
No matter if it is smoked, vaped, or eaten, THC gets passed to the baby and may have a long- term impact on the child's ability to learn.
Can marijuana be used to treat morning sickness?
No matter how it is used or what it is being used to treat, THC always gets passed to the baby. Talk to a health care provider about safer options to control nausea during pregnancy.
Can a person become addicted to marijuana?
Some, although not all, people who use marijuana will develop marijuana use disorder, meaning they are unable to stop using marijuana even though it is causing health and social problems in their lives. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, recent data suggest 30% of those who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder. People who start using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults.
How does marijuana impact mental health?
Many mental health professionals agree that marijuana is not helpful and could be harmful for people with mental illness. The National Alliance of Mental Illness reports the use of marijuana can directly worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia through its actions on the brain. People who smoke marijuana are also less likely to actively participate in their treatment than people who do not use the drug.
Marijuana is increasingly being marketed as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. This is worth noting as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that marijuana use, especially frequent (daily or near daily) and high doses, has been linked to depression, anxiety, disorientation, paranoia, thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and deaths by suicide.
Scientists do not yet completely understand how marijuana use may impact mental health and if it could, one day, be a viable treatment method for mental health diseases. More research is needed to answer these questions.
If you, or someone you know, is in a mental health crisis, Network180 has crisis services available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.
Someone struggling with any of the following should call Network180 at 616-336-3909 for assistance:
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Suicidal thoughts
- Severe depression or anxiety
- Problems with substance use
What is Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS)?
Though it is true marijuana does not cause the same kind of immediate overdose that other drugs may cause, cases of CHS are on the rise. This rare illness is seen most often in long-term, heavy, daily users of marijuana and typically causes frequent severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting. Most people self-treat using hot showers to reduce their symptoms. The only known treatment and cure for CHS is to stop using marijuana completely.