Children's Hospital Colorado

The Facts About Marijuana

What is marijuana?

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds from the hemp plant Cannabis sativa, which contains the psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as well as other related compounds. This plant material can also be concentrated in a resin called hashish or a sticky black liquid called hash oil.

Marijuana is usually smoked in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). It is also smoked in blunts—cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour, odor.

What are marijuana edibles?

Marijuana can also be mixed into a wide variety of foods such as candy, baked goods, and even sauces. These are called edibles. Marijuana can also be brewed as a tea. 

What should parents know about marijuana?

  • Marijuana can affect the brain, particularly the vulnerable, developing brain (up to 25 years old). Learn more about marijuana intoxication.
  • The brains of teens that smoke marijuana work abnormally hard to complete simple tasks.
  • On average, chronic marijuana-using teens have one point lower grade point average (GPA) than those who don’t smoke.
  • Marijuana smoke contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke.
  • Marijuana may increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Marijuana can affect learning, memory and sleep patterns. It can contribute to an increase in depression, anxiety, panic and paranoia over time, and there is evidence that marijuana can permanently decrease IQ.
  • Marijuana is addictive and, with chronic use, can cause withdrawal symptoms.
  • If used in excess, marijuana can cause harm.
  • Marijuana use can affect a person’s ability to effectively deal with emotions.
  • Smoking marijuana as a teenager is also linked with poor grades, criminal behavior and increased risk of dropping out of school.

"Edibles" vs. regular food: It's hard to tell the difference

In the series of images below, our photographer took pictures of marijuana edibles (pictured right) next to regular candy and treats (pictured left). Can you tell which is which?

Two sets of similar brownies set up side by side with the caption: Can you tell the difference?
Two sets of similar swedish fish set up side by side with the caption: Can you tell the difference? 
Two sets of similar chocolate pieces set up side by side with the caption: Can you tell the difference?
Two sets of similar gummy bears set up side by side with the caption: Can you tell the difference?
Two sets of similar cookies set up side by side with the caption: Can you tell the difference?

For more information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides information on what marijuana is and what it does to the body. Find out the legal parameters of pot from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Sources: National Institute of Health/National Institute on Drug Abuse, New England Journal of Medicine, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Colorado’s “Don’t Be a Lab Rat” campaign aimed to increase the perception of risk among youth regarding underage marijuana use.


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