Everything You Need To Know About Marijuana In Australia | Men's Health Magazine Australia

Everything You Need To Know About Cannabis Now It’s Been Legalised In The ACT

It’s wall-to-wall Aussie pollies and home to the iconic Questacon, but now our capital Canberra is known for another thing – legalising marijuana.

The ACT has officially become the first Australian jurisdiction to legalise the possession, use and cultivation of small amounts of cannabis.

So what’s allowed?

Adults in the ACT will be able to grow two cannabis plants per person, up to a maximum of four plants per household. They will also be able to posses up to 50 grams of dry cannabis or 150 grams of wet cannabis. 

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But before you dig out the shovel and get gardening, you could still run into trouble…

Growing and possessing cannabis is still a federal offence and the ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday morning that the risk of prosecution was “not entirely removed”. However, “in practice” the laws would not apply.

“The ACT’s legislation attempts to provide a clear and specific legal defence to an adult who possesses small amounts of cannabis in the ACT, but is prosecuted under Commonwealth law,” he said.

“But unfortunately it cannot stop someone being arrested and charged if the Commonwealth officials were minded to do so, or prosecuted if the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions thought it were appropriate to do so.”

ACT Policing has indicated that it understands the position of the ACT Government and intends to respect it, focusing less on cannabis consumers and more on organised crime dealing large volumes. 

So, is smoking weed bad for you?

Overall, it’s a pretty complicated subject.

“It depends,” says Gary L. Wenk, Ph.D., a professor at The Ohio State University who teaches pharmacology and has written extensively about the effects of medical marijuana.

The chemical compounds – or cannabinoids – found in the marijuana plant have different effects. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is marijuana’s main psychoactive, mind-altering ingredient and CBD, or Cannabidiol, is the plant’s buzzy non-psychoactive ingredient. Both THC and CBD have been shown to preliminary health benefits, says Wenk.

However, these effects are also dependent on the mechanism for delivery i.e. smoking, vaping, edibles, and skincare products. 

Another factor complicating the issue? Because marijuana is illegal in most places gold standard research hasn’t been easy. 

Negatives

There are a number of negative side effects from using marijuana. 

1. Lungs

Research highlights that the long-term respiratory effects of cannabis differ from traditional tobacco smoking and a significant study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marijuana does not impair lung function in the doses inhaled by the majority of users. However, research has also found that chronic marijuana smoking often produces symptoms similar to those of chronic tobacco smoking like coughing, sputum production, shortness of breath and wheezing. At the moment there no clear association between cannabis smoking and lung cancer, although the research is currently limited.

2. Brain

Research published in the journal Health has found those who start smoking weed at a younger age tend to have worse health consequences later on. Those who smoked daily or started before age 20 – and particularly before age 15 – experienced the most health problems, even if they’d stopped smoking. They found that pot smokers were more likely to suffer from memory loss, mental illnesses, breathing problems, and some cancers. They also scored lower on IQ tests and didn’t do as well in school. Another recent study found that only those who started smoking before age 17 still had cognitive impairments when they were 20.

3. Mental health 

If you carry a genetic risk for psychosis, daily use of high doses of marijuana will likely unmask symptoms, Wenk explains.

“Everyone who decides to use marijuana has to ask themselves: Do they feel lucky? Do they carry the risky genes? The answer is almost always ‘I don’t know,’” says Wenk.

If you have bipolar disorder, near-daily smoking could worsen mania-like symptoms, some research finds, and heavy users may also have more thoughts of suicide more often than non-users, another study indicated.

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Positives

1. Pain relief

One of the most widely recognised benefits of marijuana is its role in pain relief. Despite suggestions medicinal cannabis may help with chronic pain, research to date is largely inconclusive. However, due to growing interest in using the drug as a treatment option for various diseases and conditions, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) conducted a systematic review of medicinal cannabis in 2017, which formed the basis of current TGA guidelines.

They found the strongest evidence the use of CBD products in children and young adults with drug-resistant epilepsy, which reduced frequency of seizures by 50 per cent or more in up to half of patients. The review also found “low to moderate” proof that medicinal cannabis products could help with the pain symptoms of multiple sclerosis.  

The prescription of medicinal cannabis legal in Australia through a GP or specialist to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition.

A large-scale 2017 review from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the US found “substantial evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults”.

2. Weight loss and fitness

In fact, people who regularly use cannabis are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to those who don’t, according to a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. The study included more than 30,000 participants. All put on weight during the three year study, but those who used marijuana gained the fewest pounds.

A 2011 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology, concluded that even if weed consumption increases appetite, “people using cannabis are less likely to be obese than people who do not use cannabis.” Other studies indicate that many cannabis users have trimmer waistlines than non-users, as well as lower cholesterol levels. What’s more, these results have proven to be true regardless of sample size or factors like age and gender.

Research published in Frontiers in Public Health suggests that many cannabis users believe it increases enjoyment of, recovery from, and to some extent the motivation to engage in exercise.

3. Mental health

As previously mentioned, marijuana’s impact on mental health is contentious. Although a review published in Clinical Psychology Review found some evidence supporting the use of marijuana to relieve depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, it stressed that marijuana is not an appropriate treatment for other mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and psychosis.

Can you overdose on marijuana?

The US’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even says that “a fatal overdose is unlikely.” But don’t hit the bong just yet. Excess of anything is never a good idea. Signs of overuse include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, severe nausea and vomiting, and unintentional injury, CDC warns. Marijuana use also increases your risk of being involved in a car accident, research finds.

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