How does cannabis make someone high?

There are hundreds of chemical compounds contained in the cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical that makes people feel high. THC can cause feelings of well-being, relaxation and increased appetite, as well as paranoia, anxiety, and depression. Cannabidiol (CBD) is known for its medicinal qualities to manage pain, nausea, inflammation and anxiety, but is not psychoactive (does not make you feel high).

Pot potency

When consuming alcohol, most users know that beer, wine, and spirits contain different amounts of alcohol. The same is true for cannabis. Some products may contain very little THC or CBD, while others may contain very high amounts of one or both of these compounds.

The ratio of CBD-to-THC concentrations can affect how the product will make a person feel. The Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines recommend using cannabis products with a higher CBD-to-THC ratios.

Similar to alcohol consumption, there is a spectrum of effects when consuming cannabis. The more you consume (or the more THC is in the product) the stronger the effects. It is possible to take very little cannabis and experience mild effects, and it is possible to take too much and become sick.


Unlike alcohol, there is currently no official “dose” of cannabis. In Colorado, one dose of an edible product contains 10 milligrams of THC. For some people, this may cause very intense effects, while for others the effects will not be as strong. Eating other foods, drinking alcohol or taking other drugs, and your tolerance to THC are all factors that can affect how strongly cannabis affects you.

If you are new to cannabis, start with smaller doses before taking a full dose of the product. This will help you gauge how cannabis will affect you.

Timing of effects

Smoking or vaping: When smoking or vaporizing cannabis, the effects will appear quickly, and will be fully felt within five minutes. It is recommended to take a few minutes between each “puff” or “hit” in order to gauge how each dose affects you. The effects of smoked or vaporized cannabis can be felt for up to six hours.

Edibles: When consuming cannabis edibles, the effects take more time to appear – between 30 minutes and two hours, and can come on very suddenly. Unlike smoked and vaporized cannabis, the effects of cannabis edibles can gradually intensify hours after they start; they may not come on all at once. It can take up 12 hours or sometimes longer before the effects of edibles wear off.

Safe storage to prevent accidental consumption and overdoses

Keep your cannabis products out of sight and reach of children and pets. A lockable storage system is strongly recommended. Parents and caregivers should also educate children about cannabis, its effects, and the repercussions of eating it.

All cannabis products should be kept in their original packaging to avoid accidental consumption.

Accidental consumption by children

Accidental overdoses in children who unknowingly consume cannabis products result in drowsiness or lethargy, dizziness, agitation, vomiting, very rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing and seizures. A child that has accidentally ingested cannabis should be taken for immediate medical attention.

You should never give cannabis to someone without consent

This means asking someone if they want cannabis before giving it to them. If you give someone an edible cannabis product without permission, you may be putting that person in a dangerous situation. They may need to work in a job where personal safety or the safety of others is at risk; where driving is required; where interaction with medications may result in harm to that person; and ultimately, you are disrespecting someone’s personal decision.

If you have edible cannabis products in your home, or give them to someone else, it is important that these be clearly marked and kept safely away children and pets.

Cannabis as medicine

Some people use cannabis to stimulate their appetite, treat chronic pain symptoms, nausea, insomnia, and to reduce spasticity for conditions such as multiple sclerosis. For more information, see the Health Canada website and speak with your health care practitioner. The existing medical cannabis program will not change after retail cannabis becomes legal, and patients will continue to access their medication from licensed producers through the established Health Canada process.