What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a drug that can be derived from one of three species of cannabis plants (Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis). Cannabis is also known as marijuana, grass, pot, dope, Mary Jane, hooch, weed, hash, joints, brew, reefers, cones, smoke, mull, buddha, ganga, hydro, yarndi, heads and green.

There are three main forms of illicit cannabis: the dried leaves and flowers (heads), hashish, and hash oil (see FAQ ‘Are there different forms of cannabis?’). All three forms of cannabis are associated with a variety of physical and mental health problems. The use of any form of cannabis can also lead to social and financial difficulties, poorer educational outcomes, and the breakdown of relationships with family and friends.

Although cannabis can be grown in almost any climate, it thrives in warm areas and is increasingly cultivated by means of indoor hydroponic technology. There are more than 500 chemical compounds in cannabis, but the main psychoactive component is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When cannabis is used, THC is the main active chemical constituent absorbed into the bloodstream, activating receptors in the brain to produce the associated “high”.

Cannabis is listed as a narcotic drug under the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967. Consequently, it is tightly controlled in Australia. The cultivation, production, manufacture, import, export, distribution, trade, possession, use and supply of cannabis and cannabis derived products are regulated by a number of Commonwealth, State and Territory laws. For more information about cannabis-related laws, see Cannabis & Crime.

Source: Adapted from the DrugInfo website (2018), Alcohol and Drug Foundation website (2018) and the Australian Crime Commission (2018) 2016-17 Illicit Drug Data Report.