Marijuana basics

  • Marijuana is usually smoked in cigarettes (joints), pipes or water pipes (bongs), vaporized (vaped) or dabbed.
  • Marijuana can be consumed in food or drink products called edibles.
  • It also can be used through tinctures, creams, oils, suppositories, or inhalers.
  • Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive odor, often referred to as sweet-and-sour or skunky.
  • The primary active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that makes you feel “high.”
  • Typical marijuana plants contain more than 400 chemicals, including about 60 that can interact with the body’s nervous system.
  • Marijuana also can be contaminated with mold, insecticides or other chemicals. The health effects of many of these chemicals are still being studied. 
  • Currently, retail marijuana is tested for THC concentration, consistency, and contaminants. 
    • All marijuana products must have labels listing any chemicals that were used during growing or production, and whether the product has been tested for contaminants. Products that haven’t been tested for contaminants must be labeled as “not tested.”
  • Contaminant testing includes microbials, heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and mold. All legal retail and medical marijuana products must pass state laboratory testing on all contaminants before sale. 


THC Concentration (often called ‘potency’)

  • THC concentration (often called ‘potency’) means the content or amount of THC in a marijuana product. Concentration is usually seen on the label as percent (%) THC or milligrams (mg) THC. People can purchase marijuana products in a variety of concentrations. Some of these products contain significantly more THC than other products.
    • Be aware of the concentration you’re purchasing or ask before using someone else's product to avoid accidentally consuming too much.
    • A 2020 study conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the THC concentration of Marijuana in Colorado included recommendations beginning on page 49. 
      • Findings include that symptoms like psychosis — seeing or hearing things that aren't real — are more common with higher doses of THC.


Synthetic marijuana

Synthetic marijuana, also known as spice or K2, is not a natural product. It's made of dried plant material sprayed with chemicals and may cause:

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Agitation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Seizures.
  • Tremors (shaking).
  • Vomiting.
  • Paranoia.
  • Loss of physical control.
  • Coma.


Differences between medical and retail marijuana product

  • Retail marijuana sellers use many of the same types of marijuana as those for medical marijuana. However, different rules apply to each type of retailer.
  • There are a number of different strains of marijuana. Some strains have lower levels of THC and higher levels of other chemicals believed to help with certain medical conditions.