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Marijuana: What UW Students Need to Know

Marijuana: What UW students need to know

Note: This brochure uses several words to describe marijuana including weed, pot, and cannabis.

marijuana-34353_640What does the law say about marijuana use?

In 2012, Washington State voters passed a law making it legal for adults over 21 years of age to possess and use small amounts of marijuana.

On-campus marijuana use

Marijuana – including medical marijuana – use by UW students, employees, or the general public is not allowed anywhere on the UW campus, including in residence halls. Even though legal in Washington State, marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Off-campus marijuana use

The state of Washington sets a limit on the amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that you can have in your bloodstream when you drive (at 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter). This level may be exceeded when you smoke three-tenths of a gram of marijuana. It is illegal to drive while stoned if underage; there is zero tolerance for drivers under 21. Use of weed is illegal in public, even off-campus.

Consequences of illegal marijuana use

Pot use on the UW campus has consequences under the UW Student Conduct Code and state law. Disciplinary measures may include probation, suspension, or dismissal, as well as criminal charges. Penalties for breaking Washington State law depend on the type and severity of the crime; they can range from fine for public pot use to imprisonment for drugged driving.

Marijuana basics

Marijuana is a term that describes parts of the hemp plant known as cannabis sativa. These parts – flowers, stems, leaves, and seeds – contain the chemical THC. Concentrated marijuana is called hashish or hash. Marijuana can be smoked, vaped, or eaten; consuming pot will result in the slowest onset of side effects.

How does marijuana compare to other drugs?

  • Addictiveness: While marijuana is less addictive than nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, meth, and heroin, approximately 9% of users will become addicted.
  • Physical harm: While not as harmful as alcohol, cocaine, meth, or heroin, some users experience negative outcomes. Marijuana is more harmful than caffeine.

What are the effects of marijuana use?

Marijuana is associated with both pleasurable and undesirable outcomes. Research has focused primarily on its negative effects, but users experience some positive things, including:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Altered sensory perception

Marijuana use also carries with it some mental and physical health hazards:

  • Impaired learning
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Cough
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Possible mental health decline
  • Lower IQ and mental functioning in adulthood when used during adolescence

Who uses marijuana?

This might be fewer than you think; 34 percent of college students actually used marijuana in the last year. That means that most students – 66 percent – actually don’t partake.

FAQ for marijuana users

What are the things people don’t like about using marijuana?

For some marijuana users, the drawbacks of use include:

  • Long term cognitive side effects, such as lower intellectual functioning, memory loss and difficulty focusing, even when you’re not high
  • Impairment when driving a vehicle. It’s best not to drive for at least five hours after last use.
  • Sleep disruption when THC interrupts the most restorative part of the sleep cycle
  • More frequent respiratory infections
  • Overeating, spending too much money, and mental health effects
  • Interaction with other drugs (including alcohol) can lead to negative effects

What are the things people like about using marijuana?

Users report that marijuana may:

  • Reduce anxiety (it may increase anxiety for some)
  • Heighten enjoyment of social situations
  • Increase appetite and improve flavor of food
  • Decrease symptoms of certain health conditions (i.e., medical marijuana)

How would your life be different if you experienced fewer of the negative effects of marijuana?

Reducing or eliminating pot use can improve grades and increase the odds that you’ll finish your degree. You are also at lower risk for chronic cough and other respiratory problems. You’re more likely to make healthy food choices when you use less, and cutting down on weed will probably help you sleep better.

What changes could you consider in order to use less weed?

  • Understanding that change is a process
  • Identifying and coping with high-risk situations
  • Making an appointment at one of the resources listed in this brochure to get help
  • Planning for damage control during a lapse
  • Continuing the effort to reduce or quit after a lapse – Learning how to create a more balanced lifestyle

Test your marijuana dependence

Researchers Adamson, Kay-Lambkin, Baker, et al. (2010) developed a test that can be used to determine if marijuana users may need support in addressing possible addiction to marijuana. You can take the test online, here. If you scored 8 or more points, you may want to check out the resources listed below.

Additional resources

Mental health and substance abuse counseling

Hall Health Mental Health Clinic – (206) 543-5030 Counseling, support groups, crisis intervention services, and medication evaluation and management UW Counseling Center – (206) 543-1240 Brief counseling, referral, and crisis intervention services UW Health and Wellness – (206) 543-6085 Drug education, student support Alcohol & Drug Help Line – (206) 722-3700 Confidential treatment referrals Marijuana Anonymous – (800) 766-6779 Support group

Other resources

UW Mindfulness Project Free meditation, yoga and mindfulness seminars Learn About Marijuana Science-based information about marijuana from UW’s Alcohol and Drug Addiction Institute