Let's Talk Cannabis



  • Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa). 6
  • The most active chemical in marijuana is THC. 6
  • People who use marijuana regularly for a long time report decreased overall life satisfaction, including poorer mental and physical health, memory, and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success. 5
  • Research shows that using cannabis may harm your memory, learning, and attention. 44
  • Though rare, long term marijuana usage can to lead to recurring nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. 6
  • Approximately 4.4 million people aged 12 or older in 2018 were diagnosed with a marijuana use disorder in the past year. 37
  • At least 33 chemicals found in marijuana smoke have been identified as carcinogens (causing cancer). 7
  • Marijuana smoke exposes users to heavy amounts of ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and other toxic chemicals that are also found in tobacco smoke. 8
  • Marijuana smoke has many of the same toxins and chemicals found in tobacco smoke, and when inhaled, can increased the risk of developing lung problems. 8,14
  • THC’s chemical structure is similar to endocannabinoids, chemicals that the body produces naturally, and marijuana disrupts endocannabunoid’s normal function. 5
  • Cannabis is stronger than it used to be because plants contain higher amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 20, 21
  • The levels of THC in marijuana have increased dramatically over the last decade, having nearly doubled from 2008 to 2017. 21, 22
  • According to the CDC, a majority of patients hospitalized with a vaping related lung injury reported using THC-containing products. 3
  • Researchers do not fully understand how vaping [cannabis] can affect your health. 24, 25
  • Vaporized and concentrated waxes and oils can contain significantly more THC, which may increase the potential for harmful effects. 26
  • The processes of heating THC vaping devices can expose users to carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde, and toxic metals like lead that can cause brain damage. 32, 33, 34, 35
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (K2, spice, spike) are made from another type of plant (not cannabis) that’s sprayed with chemicals. 27, 28
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (K2, spice, spike) are illegal in Illinois. 29
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (K2, spice, spike) are extremely dangerous and have even been linked to deaths in Illinois. 30, 31
  • One study estimates that drivers under the influence of marijuana are 83 percent more likely to crash, versus drivers who are not. 4
  • Marijuana impairs your judgment and ability to operate a vehicle. 5
  • THC can affect your body’s movement, balance, coordination, and your judgement: all essential components of driving. 9
  • Marijuana and alcohol consumed together can have a larger impact on the quality of one's driving, than either substance individually. 10
  • High concentrations of THC can impair your judgement, coordination and reaction time, which can increase the risk of getting into a car crash. 16, 17
  • Driving while under the influence of marijuana has shown an increase in lane weaving, poor reaction time, and altered attention to the road. 46


  • It takes the average person 30 minutes to feel anything at all from edibles, and 2 hours to feel the full effect of their dose, so it’s important to wait at least 2 hours before taking more. 1, 2
  • Pet owners should keep cannabis, including cannabis containing edibles, out of the reach of pets. Pet owners should contact their veterinarian immediately for advice on treatment if they suspect their pet has ingested a cannabis-containing product. 23
  • In 2018, 18.5 million adults aged 26 or older were current users of marijuana. 36
  • In 2018, over 1 in 5 young adults aged 18 to 25 were current users of marijuana. 36
  • In 2018, over 27 million Americans, aged 12 or older, were current marijuana users. 37


  • Teens who use marijuana are almost twice as likely to develop marijuana addiction compared to adults. 5
  • When older siblings use substances, their younger siblings are more likely to use those substances too. 45
  • Research has shown that using marijuana heavily as a teen can cause a permanent loss of up to 8 IQ points by mid-adulthood. 5
  • Teens who begin using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a cannabis use disorder. 6
  • Adolescent marijuana users perform worse on tests of attention, learning, and memory. Poorer performance has been associated with more days of cannabis use in the past month. 11
  • Teenagers who used marijuana demonstrated poorer verbal learning and memory. 11
  • Stopping regular marijuana usage will not necessarily restore neuropsychological functioning caused by marijuana usage in adolescent years. 12
  • Research shows long-term, heavy cannabis users consistently perform worse on neuropsychological tests. 12
  • Research demonstrates persons with more persistent marijuana dependence show greater IQ decline. 12
  • Marijuana users who become dependent on it in adolescence, rather than in adulthood, show greater decline in IQ due to persistent use. 12
  • Persistent marijuana use in early-onset years can impact changes in brain matter and composition. 12
  • Adolescent marijuana users perform worse on tests of memory and learning because marijuana can alter brain structures that affect these abilities. Changes in these parts of the brain can also put the user at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and impaired executive functioning. 11, 13
  • Research shows that if you use cannabis you may be less likely to graduate from high school or college. 15
  • Using marijuana as a teen has been linked to unemployment later in life. 15
  • In 2019, about 1 in 5 [or, 21.8%] high-schoolers in Illinois reported using cannabis in the past 30 days. 18
  • In 2018, 43% of high-schoolers in Illinois reported believing using marijuana 1-2 a week carries a low risk. 19
  • In 2018, 1.7 million adolescents, ages 12-17 were current marijuana users. 36
  • Using cannabis regularly in your teens and early 20s may lead to physical changes in your brain. 43
  • About 45 percent of high school students have used marijuana before they graduate. 5
  • Children who accidentally eat cannabis products may need to go to the emergency room for emergency medical care. 2
  • Marijuana users may be more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. 47

  Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

  • THC can be detected in breast milk up to 6 days after use. 38, 39
  • Because THC is stored in body fat, it can stay in your body for a while. A baby’s brain and body are made with a lot of fat. 40
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends women who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid marijuana use. 40
  • Using marijuana while you’re pregnant can lead to your baby being born with a lower birth weight. 41, 42


  1. TripSafe. (2020). How long do edibles take to kick in? Retrieved from https://tripsafe.org/how-long-do-edibles-take-to-kick-in/.
  2. Barrus, D. G., Capogrossi, K. L., Cates, S. C., Gourdet, C. K., Peiper, N. C., Novak, S. P., Lefever, T. W., & Wiley, J. L. (2016). Tasty THC: Promises and Challenges of Cannabis Edibles. Methods report (RTI Press), 2016, 10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611. https://doi.org/10.3768/rtipress.2016.op.0035.1611
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.htm
  4. Compton, R. P. & Berning, A. (2015, February). Drug and alcohol crash risk. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. DOT HS 812 117). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). “Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know.” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/parents_mj_brochure_2016.pdf
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). “What is marijuana?” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana
  7. Tomar, Beaumont, & Hsieh. Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Branch Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Evidence on the Carcinogenicity of Marijuana Smoke. California Environmental Protection Agency, California; 2009
  8. Moir, D., Rickert, W. S., Levasseur, G., Larose, Y., Maertens, R., White, P., & Desjardins, S. (2008). A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chemical research in toxicology, 21(2), 494-502. https://doi.org/10.1021/tx700275p
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). “What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Driving”. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/factsheets/driving.htm
  10. Li, G., Brady, J. E., & Chen, Q. (2013). Drug use and fatal motor vehicle crashes: a case-control study. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 60, 205-210.
  11. Jacobus, J., & F Tapert, S. (2014). Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain. Current pharmaceutical design, 20(13), 2186-2193.
  12. Meier, M. H., Caspi, A., Ambler, A., Harrington, H., Houts, R., Keefe, R. S., … & Moffitt, T. E. (2012). Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(40), E2657-E2664.
  13. Solowij, N., Jones, K. A., Rozman, M. E., Davis, S. M., Ciarrochi, J., Heaven, P. C., … & Yücel, M. (2011). Verbal learning and memory in adolescent cannabis users, alcohol users and non-users. Psychopharmacology, 216(1), 131-144.
  14. Lee, M. H., & Hancox, R. J. (2011). Effects of smoking cannabis on lung function. Expert review of respiratory medicine, 5(4), 537–547. https://doi.org/10.1586/ers.11.40
  15. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). “How does marijuana use affect school, work, and social life?.” Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/how-does-marijuana-use-affect-school-work-social-life.
  16. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Does marijuana use affect driving?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/does-marijuana-use-affect-driving.
  17. Hartman, R. L., & Huestis, M. A. (2013). Cannabis effects on driving skills. Clinical chemistry, 59(3), 478–492. https://doi.org/10.1373/clinchem.2012.194381
  18. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data. Available at: www.cdc.gov/yrbs.
  19. Center for Prevention Research and Development. (2020). Illinois Youth Survey: Youth Alcohol, Tobacco, and Marijuana Use in Illinois. Retrieved from https://iys.cprd.illinois.edu/UserFiles/Servers/Server_178052/File/2018/Youth%20Substance%20Use%20FINAL.pdf
  20. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). “Learn About Marijuana Risks.” Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/marijuana.
  21. ElSohly, M. A., Mehmedic, Z., Foster, S., Gon, C., Chandra, S., & Church, J. C. (2016). Changes in Cannabis Potency Over the Last 2 Decades (1995-2014): Analysis of Current Data in the United States. Biological psychiatry, 79(7), 613–619. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2016.01.004
  22. Chandra, S., Radwan, M. M., Majumdar, C. G., Church, J. C., Freeman, T. P., & ElSohly, M. A. (2019). New trends in cannabis potency in USA and Europe during the last decade (2008-2017). European archives of psychiatry and clinical neuroscience, 269(1), 5–15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-019-00983-5
  23. Fitzgerald, K. T., Bronstein, A. C., & Newquist, K. L. (2013). Marijuana poisoning. Topics in companion animal medicine, 28(1), 8–12. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.tcam.2013.03.004
  24. Budney, A. J., Sargent, J. D., & Lee, D. C. (2015). Vaping cannabis (marijuana): parallel concerns to e-cigs?. Addiction, 110(11), 1699–1704. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.13036
  25. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General—Executive Summary. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.
  26. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). "Marijuana Concentrates DrugFacts." Retreived from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-concentrates.
  27. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24625.
  28. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). "How harmful is K2/Spice (synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids)?" Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/how-harmful-is-k2-spice.html.
  29. Senate Bill 2341, 100th General Assembly. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/billstatus.asp?DocNum=2341&GAID=14&GA=100&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=108856&SessionID=91
  30. Illinois Department of Public Health. (2018). Fourth Death Related to Synthetic Cannabinoids. Retrieved from http://www.dph.illinois.gov/news/fourth-death-related-synthetic-cannabinoids
  31. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). "Synthetic cannabinoids: What are they? What are their effects?" Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/hsb/chemicals/sc/default.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fnceh%2Fhsb%2Fsynthetic_marijuana.htm
  32. Giroud, C., de Cesare, M., Berthet, A., Varlet, V., Concha-Lozano, N., & Favrat, B. (2015). E-Cigarettes: A Review of New Trends in Cannabis Use. International journal of environmental research and public health, 12(8), 9988–10008. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph120809988
  33. Goniewicz, M. L., Knysak, J., Gawron, M., Kosmider, L., Sobczak, A., Kurek, J., Prokopowicz, A., Jablonska-Czapla, M., Rosik-Dulewska, C., Havel, C., Jacob, P., 3rd, & Benowitz, N. (2014). Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapour from electronic cigarettes. Tobacco control, 23(2), 133–139.
  34. Olmedo, P., Goessler, W., Tanda, S., Grau-Perez, M., Jarmul, S., Aherrera, A., Chen, R., Hilpert, M., Cohen, J. E., Navas-Acien, A., & Rule, A. M. (2018). Metal Concentrations in e-Cigarette Liquid and Aerosol Samples: The Contribution of Metallic Coils. Environmental health perspectives, 126(2), 027010.
  35. World Health Organization. (2019). Lead poisoning and health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/lead-poisoning-and-health.
  36. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed tables. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved
    from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-detailed-tables
  37. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-annual-national-report
  38. Bertrand, K. A., Hanan, N. J., Honerkamp-Smith, G., Best, B. M., & Chambers, C. D. (2018). Marijuana use by breastfeeding mothers and cannabinoid concentrations in breast milk. Pediatrics, 142(3).
  39. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Cannabis. [Updated 2020 Jul 20]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501587/
  40. Ryan, S. A., Ammerman, S. D., & O’Connor, M. E. (2018). Marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding: implications for neonatal and childhood outcomes. Pediatrics, 142(3). Retrieved from 1. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/3/e20181889
  41. Gunn, J. K., Rosales, C. B., Center, K. E., Nuñez, A., Gibson, S. J., Christ, C., & Ehiri, J. E. (2016). Prenatal exposure to cannabis and maternal and child health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open, 6(4), e009986. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009986
  42. Conner, S. N., Bedell, V., Lipsey, K., Macones, G. A., Cahill, A. G., & Tuuli, M. G. (2016). Maternal Marijuana Use and Adverse Neonatal Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 128(4), 713–723. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000001649
  43. Batalla, A., Bhattacharyya, S., Yuecel, M., Fusar-Poli, P., Crippa, J. A., Nogue, S., ... & Martin-Santos, R. (2013). Structural and functional imaging studies in chronic cannabis users: a systematic review of adolescent and adult findings. PloS one, 8(2), e55821.
  44. Broyd, S. J., van Hell, H. H., Beale, C., Yuecel, M., & Solowij, N. (2016). Acute and chronic effects of cannabinoids on human cognition—a systematic review. Biological psychiatry, 79(7), 557-567.
  45. Low, S., Shortt, J. W., & Snyder, J. (2012). Sibling influences on adolescent substance use: The role of modeling, collusion, and conflict. Development and psychopathology, 24(1), 287.
  46. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). ”Drugged Driving DrugFacts”. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drugged-driving
  47. Borges, G., C. L. Bagge, and R. Orozco. 2016. “A literature review and meta-analyses of cannabis use and suicidality .” J A ̃ ect Disord 195:63-74. doi: 10.1016/j. Jad.2016.02.007

    All information regarding the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act can be found here: Public Act 101-0027 (2020). Retrieved from https://ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/101/101-0027.html