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Cannabis will be legalized in the State of Illinois as of Jan. 1, 2020, and the City of Chicago wants to ensure that implementation is done in a safe and responsible way. While those over 21 years of age will be able to purchase cannabis products at licensed dispensaries, the Chicago Department of Public Health advises caution for anyone who chooses to do so. Here are some health and safety tips on cannabis consumption.
Protect Your Brain – Your brain continues to develop until age 25 and studies have shown that cannabis use in young people can impair brain development.[i] Cannabis use, particularly heavy use by young people, can impair short term memory, learning ability and even intelligence.[ii], [iii], [iv] The purchase and use of cannabis is also illegal for those under 21.
Know Your Dose – Cannabis affects everyone differently. Go slow and know your limits. Cannabis now comes in many different forms and can be much more potent than in the past with levels of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, three times what they were about 25 years ago.[v] The impact of edibles in particular can be uncertain.
Over-consumption can result in hallucinations, paranoia, increased heart rate, confusion, poor judgment, panic attacks, nausea and vomiting.[vi] States and municipalities that have legalized cannabis have seen an increase in emergency department visits and hospitalizations with people experiencing such symptoms.[vii] Always be sure to know what dose of THC you are putting in your body, and keep in mind that how you consume cannabis can affect the severity and duration of its effects.
Avoid Frequent Use – Daily cannabis use, particularly in high doses, can impair your memory and has been associated with an increased risk of psychosis.[viii] People with a family history of mental illness are advised to consult a medical provider before consuming cannabis.
Potential for Addiction – Cannabis use can, in some cases, lead to addiction.[ix], [x] This means a person isn’t able to control or stop cannabis use even though it interferes with daily life. Studies have shown that the earlier in life you begin using cannabis, the more likely you are to become addicted.[xi]
Don’t Consume Cannabis if Pregnant or Breastfeeding – There is no safe amount of cannabis while pregnant or breastfeeding, regardless of how you consume it. THC can be transferred to your baby through your placenta or your breast milk. Cannabis use during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight babies, which carries a number of health risks.[xii] If you are a current medical cannabis user or need assistance addressing morning sickness, call your medical provider.
Don’t Drive While High – Driving while high is not just dangerous to yourself and others,[xiii] it’s illegal and considered a DUI. Cannabis, like alcohol, can cause impairment and should not be consumed prior to operating a vehicle or performing any task that has other inherent risks. States that have legalized cannabis have seen an increase in motor vehicle accidents related to cannabis use.[xiv]
Also, having an open container of cannabis in a vehicle is illegal, even if you’re a passenger. If you or someone you’re with has been using cannabis don’t risk vehicular harm or arrest, take public transportation, ride share, or call a sober friend to drive.
Keep it Safe – Ensure that the only person using your cannabis is you. Unintentional cannabis ingestion can affect kids, pets, and visitors to your home. Edibles can come in the form of candy, chocolate or beverages that might be attractive to children. Keep your cannabis in a child-resistant container and consider storing in a lockbox or safe.
If you think your child has ingested cannabis, call the Illinois Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. If someone is having a severe reaction, always call 911 first.
Keep it to Yourself – Remember, kids are impressionable so limit your use to situations where kids aren’t present. And avoid exposing others to secondhand cannabis smoke or vapor; [xv] secondhand smoke can be dangerous to your child’s health. It is also illegal to consume cannabis in a public place.
Stay Away from Synthetic Cannabinoids – Synthetic cannabinoids are man-made chemicals that can have a similar effect on the brain as cannabis but are also considered a health risk because of a lack of regulation. The use of synthetic cannabis is illegal in the state of Illinois. xvi They come in different forms and can be sprayed on dried plant materials to be smoked or sold in liquid form to be consumed using vaping products. Synthetic cannabinoids are more commonly known as K2, spice, Kronic, Black Momba, or Kush.xvii
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Marijuana and Public Health: https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/index.htm
U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain: https://www.hhs.gov/surgeongeneral/reports-and-publications/addiction-and-substance-misuse/advisory-on-marijuana-use-and-developing-brain/index.html
National Academies of Sciences Engineering and Medicine report on The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
Illinois Department of Human Services, Facts You Should Know About Cannabis: https://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=32147