Cannabis Awareness

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What is cannabis?

  • Cannabis sativa, also known as hemp, is a species of the Cannabinaceae family of plants.

  • Cannabis is also known as Ganja, grass, Hashish, Hemp, Indian hemp, marijuana, Pot, reefer, weed, dagga.

  • Cannabis contains the chemical compound THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol), which is believed to be responsible for most of the characteristic psychoactive effects of Cannabis.

  • The dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis plant are known as marijuana, which can be smoked (through a pipe or bong or hand-rolled into a joint) or taken orally with food (baked in cookies).

  • The resinous secretions of the plant are known as hashish, which can be smoked or eaten.

  • The fiber of the Cannabis plant is cultivated as industrial hemp with uses in textile manufacturing.


What are the effects of cannabis?

  • The effects experienced by the Cannabis user are variable and will depend upon the dose, method of administration, prior experience, any concurrent drug use, personal expectations, mood state and the social environment in which the drug is used.

  • Effects of Cannabis include:

o    an altered state of consciousness. The user may feel "high", very happy, euphoric, relaxed, sociable and uninhibited.

o    distorted perceptions of time and space. The user may feel more sensitive to things around them and may also experience a more vivid sense of taste, sight, smell and hearing.

o    increased pulse and heart rate, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and often increased appetite.

o    impaired coordination and concentration, making activities such as driving a car or operating machinery difficult and dangerous.

o    negative experiences, such as anxiousness, panic, self-consciousness and paranoid thoughts.

  • People who use large quantities of cannabis may become sedated or disoriented and may experience toxic psychosis - not knowing who they are, where they are, or what time it is. High doses may also cause fluctuating emotions, fragmentary thoughts, paranoia, panic attacks, hallucinations and feelings of unreality.

  • The effects of Cannabis are felt within minutes, reach their peak in 10 to 30 minutes, and may linger for two or three hours. THC is highly lipid soluble and can be stored in fat cells potentially for several months. The stored THC is released very slowly, and unevenly, back into the bloodstream.


Cannabis side effects

Long term effects of heavy use can include:

  • irritation to the lungs, risk of developing chronic bronchitis and an increased risk of developing cancer of the respiratory tract (more likely to do with smoking).

  • exacerbation of pre-existing cardiovascular disease, as Cannabis use significantly raises the heart rate.

  • decreased concentration levels, reduced short-term memory and difficulties with thinking and learning (resolved if cannabis use stops).

  • decreased sex drive in some people. Chronic use can lower sperm count in males and lead to irregular periods in females (resolved if cannabis use stops).

  • dependence on Cannabis - compulsive need to use the drug, coupled with problems associated with chronic drug use.


What should I avoid?

  • Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform other hazardous activities while using Cannabis. Cannabis may cause dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment.

  • Do not drink alcohol while using Cannabis. Alcohol will increase dizziness, drowsiness, and impaired judgment.

  • Cannabis may increase the effects of other drugs that cause drowsiness, including antidepressants, alcohol, antihistamines, sedatives (used to treat insomnia), pain relievers, anxiety medicines, seizure medicines, and muscle relaxants.

  • Do not use cannabis if you are pregnant or could become pregnant. There is some evidence that women who smoke Cannabis during the time of conception or while pregnant may increase the risk of their child being born with birth defects. Pregnant women who continue to smoke Cannabis are probably at greater risk of giving birth to low birthweight babies.

  • Do not use Cannabis if you are breast-feeding a baby.


What to do if I overdose?

  • Seek emergency medical attention.

  • Symptoms of overdose include fatigue, lack of coordination, paranoia and psychosis.



How long can you detect Cannabis in the body?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in Cannabis that makes people feel "high," can stay in the body for several days or even weeks.

The length of time this chemical stays in the body or continues to show in a drug test depends on many factors. These include:

  • how much body fat a person has

  • how often they consume the drug

  • how much someone smokes

  • the sensitivity of the drug test

Drugs such as alcohol may completely disappear from the body in just a few hours. In comparison, Cannabis lingers much longer.

Drug tests can detect tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in urine, blood, and hair for many days after use, while saliva tests can only detect THC for a few hours. This is because of the way the body metabolizes THC.

THC is a lipid-soluble chemical. This means that it binds to fat in the body, which increases the length of time it takes for someone to eliminate THC completely.


Cannabis detection windows

Cannabis can stay in the body from 3 to 30 days and sometimes longer.

Research on the amount of time a test can detect Cannabis shows a wide range of averages. Research from 2017 estimates a detection window for a single Cannabis cigarette of about 3 days.


The same study emphasizes that detection windows vary and depend on how often a person smokes. It showed:

  • For someone smoking Cannabis for the first time, tests may detect it for about 3 days.

  • In someone who smokes Cannabis three or four times per week, the detection window is 5–7 days.

  • For people who smoke Cannabis once a day or more, tests may detect it in their system for 30 days or longer.


Detection windows also depend on the kind of test a person undertakes. General estimates for various Cannabis tests are as follows:

  • Urine tests can detect Cannabis in the urine for approximately 3–30 days after use.

  • Saliva tests can detect Cannabis for approximately 24 hours after use. Some saliva tests have detected Cannabis for up to 72 hours.

  • Hair tests are the most sensitive tests, detecting THC for up to 90 days after use. However, these tests are testing the oil in skin that transfers to hair, and so they may occasionally show a false positive. A person who comes into contact with a THC user could, theoretically, test positive on a hair test.

  • Blood tests can only detect THC for 3–4 hours.


There is no way to accurately predict the amount of time it will take an individual to metabolize Cannabis and eliminate it from their bodies. Home tests can help people test themselves for the presence of Cannabis in their system.

For almost all people, Cannabis should disappear or be very low in concentration within 30 days. For infrequent users, it may take 10 days or less for marijuana to leave the body.



How South Africa’s new Cannabis ruling affects employees

 – 6 big legal questions answered


On 18 September 2018, the Constitutional Court handed down its much-anticipated judgment on the private use of Cannabis in South Africa.

Given that the Cannabis judgment does not strictly locate private to an adult person’s home or private dwelling, the implications for the workplace (both from the perspectives of the employer and employee) should be considered.

The legal experts at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr considered the general implications for employers and employees through a series of six questions and answers below.


1. What does it mean to use, possess or cultivate Cannabis ‘in private’?

The judgement makes it clear that ‘in private’ is not confined to one’s “home or private dwelling”.

Put differently, provided that an adult person uses, possesses or cultivates Cannabis in a private space (that is not in the public), such conduct will not be subject to criminal sanction.

Although many workplaces are located in private property, it is difficult to argue that workplaces should be considered as private enough for employees to use, possess or cultivate Cannabis whilst at work.

In fact, given that workplaces generally have other employees (some of whom may be non-consenting employees), workplaces should be seen as public spaces in this context.


2. Is a workplace classified as a private space?

No. It will be difficult to sustain this argument, particularly in circumstances where the employer has numerous employees in the workplace.


3. Can an employee use, possess or cultivate Cannabis in the workplace?

The employer should regulate the issue within its disciplinary code.

The possession and cultivation of Cannabis at the workplace should expressly not be permitted and subject to disciplinary action if contravened by an employee. Such an employee may also be subject to criminal proceedings.

The use (particularly smoking) of Cannabis (and other drugs) at the workplace should be prohibited by the employer.

The basis of the prohibition would be that the workplace is a public space and that there are non-consenting employees who will be exposed to Cannabis. Further, that the use of Cannabis (or other drugs) whilst at work will in all likelihood have an impact on the conduct and/or capacity of the employee.

Most employers already have policies in place that deal with alcohol and drug abuse. Following the Cannabis judgement, it may be a worthwhile exercise to reconsider those policies to ensure that they adequately deal with the issue of Cannabis use in the workplace.


4. What action can an employer take if an employee is found to use, possess or cultivate Cannabis in the workplace?

The employer may, depending on the terms of the disciplinary code and procedure, take disciplinary action against such an employee.

Most employers adopt a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol and drug use in the workplace.

It may be worthwhile to consider whether such a policy includes provisions relating to testing of employees in defined circumstances.


5. How should an employee found in possession of Cannabis at work be handled by the employer?

In this case, the circumstances surrounding the possession should be investigated by the employer.

Likely, possession may mean that the employee is using cannabis whilst at work or dealing Cannabis whilst at work.

The Cannabis judgment is clear in holding that an adult person is now permitted to use, possess and cultivate Cannabis in private for personal consumption only.

An employee who is found of Cannabis whilst in the workplace should be investigated and depending on the outcome of that investigation, the employer may elect to institute disciplinary action against such an employee.


6. What happens if the performance of an employee declines due to the use of Cannabis?

Substance abuse can constitute a dismissible offence, particularly where it has resulted in an employee breaking a rule in the workplace (misconduct) or failing to meet performance standards (incapacity).

Depending on the facts and circumstances surrounding each case, an employee who is guilty of Cannabis abuse may be disciplined by the employer.

Unlike alcohol, the effects of cannabis use on the employee’s ability to perform in the workplace are not as well known.

This, however, does not detract from the ability to of the employer to investigate and take action against an employee found to be under the influence of cannabis at work.