Cannabis FAQs: Laws, Facts, Effects & More

Basic Definitions

People often use the word "cannabis" and "marijuana" interchangeably, but they do not mean exactly the same thing.

Cannabis - The term "cannabis" refers to all products derived from the Cannbis plant  whether growing or not (i.e. the seeds therof; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin). Originally native to Central Asia, Cannabis is now cultivated throughout the world. Cannabis plants have been designated as Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or a hybrid. Each of these has its own purported characteristics and effects, although science has yet to verify this.

Marijuana - The dried flowers of the cannabis plant that contain substantial amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). "Marijuana" refers to the psychotropic drug used for medicinal and recreational purposes. Because of the term "marijuana's" historical intersection with race and ethnicity, it is a word that many people are no longer using, preferring to simply use the word “cannabis” instead.

Hemp - Any part of the cannabis plant, including seeds thereof and all derivitaves, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannbinol (THC) of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis (thus it is nonpsychoactive). Hemp generally has high levels of cannabidiol (CBD). The cannabis plant parts used in hemp are the fibers, seeds, and flowers.

Cannabinoids - The naturally-occurring, biologically active, chemical compounds found in hemp and cannabis. THC and CBD are the two main cannabinoids found in hemp and cannabis. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - THC (specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of the main active chemicals in marijuana. It is the substance primarily responsible for the effects of marijuana on a person's mental state. Of the roughly 400 chemicals found in the cannabis plant, THC affects the brain the most. 

Cannabidiol (CBD) - A nonintoxicating cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis. it is closely related to THC. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compund that for some individuals may impart a feeling of relaxation and calm.

According to a national study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), among young adults aged 18 to 25, the percentage who were past year marijuana users increased from 29.8 percent (or 9.2 million people) in 2002 to 35.4 percent (or 12.0 million people) in 2019. Results from the 2019 OASAS Suny College Student Survey indicate 33% of Binghamton University students smoked marijuana in the past 30 days, 20% vaped marijuana, and 10% consumed edible marijuana.

Frequently Asked Questions

While there has been a lot of talk about marjuana in the media, the drug is not yet widely understood by the majority of the public. This is partly because the cannabis industry has progressed faster than the science. This means, individual considering using marijuana should act with caution and seek our reliable information before making any decisionsRemember: marijuana is still prohibited at Binghamton University.

  1. What is the New York State law legalizing adult-use cannabis?
  2. How does New York State legalization of adult-use cannabis impact students and employees at institutions of higher education?
  3. What do international students need to know about cannabis use and immigration law?
  4. What are the specifics of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act?
  5. What are the primary harms associated with marijuana use by college students?
  6. Does smoking marijuana impact memory?
  7. Can smoking marijuana negatively affect the immune system?
  8. Can smoking marijuana cause long cancer?
  9. Can the effects of smoking marijuana last up to two full days?
  10. Can smoking marijuana change your mood?
  11. Is it possible to overdose or have a bad reaction to marijuana?
  12. What is THC and why does it matter?
  13. What are the effects of mixing marijuana with alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs?
  14. Can secondhand marijuana smoke affect nonsmokers?
  15. How is eating and drinking foods that contain marijuana (edibles) different from smoking marijuana? 
  16. Is vaping marijuana safer than smoking it?
  17. Where can I find trustworthy and scientifically sound information about marijuana?

What is the New York state law legalizing adult-use cannabis?

  • The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA).
  • The legislation creates a new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) governed by a Cannabis Control Board to oversee and implement the law. The OCM will issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when business can participate in the new industry. The new Office will also oversee the State’s existing Medical Marijuana Program and Cannabinoid Hemp Program. 

How does New York State legalization of adult-use cannabis impact students and employees at institutions of higher education?

  • Cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under Federal law. As such, despite any state laws permitting recreational or medical use of marijuana, Federal law requires that all institutions of higher education enforce a ban on the use of illicit drugs. This means the possession, use, sale, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana is prohibited on Binghamton University's campus.
  • The Binghamton University Code of Student Conduct states that the following behavior is prohibited by students: "possession, personal use or purchasing of marijuana, illegal drugs, prescription drugs prescribed to another person or controlled substances; or possession of drug paraphernalia containing drug residue."
  • The Binghamton University Policy on Alcohol and Substance Abuse in the Workplace states that "No employee shall use, sell, distribute, dispense, possess, or manufacture any alcoholic beverage or illegal drug on the job site, on Binghamton University property (including property leased or rented by Binghamton University), while on duty, in a state vehicle, a vehicle leased or rented for state business, or a private vehicle being used for state business during the employees’ work hours."

What do international students need to know about cannabis use and immigration law?

  • Immigration law treats marijuana-related activity as a crime. Possession, use, and/or admission of marijuana use (legal or illegal) by persons who are not U.S. Citizens (e.g. legal permanent residents, international visa holders, undocumented individuals, etc.) can result in harsh immigration consequences such as: revocation of status, deportation, denial of entry into the U.S., and inability to obtain future immigration benefits. Note: all ports of entry into the U.S., including international terminals at airports, are on federal property where immigration laws are strictly enforced.

What are the specifics of the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act?

For detailed information about the MRTA, please visit the Office of Cannabis Management website. 

What are the primary harms associated with marijuana use by college students?

  • Impaired cognitive function: increased heart rate, coordination problems, red eyes, slowed reaction times, memory loss, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis.
  • Impaired driving: Smoking or vaping cannabis within about 3-5 hours of driving significantly increases the risk of being involved in a crash. 
  • Simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana (SAM): consuming alcohol and marijuana at the same time or within a timeframe that allows for effects to overlap (also known as crossfading) is especially dangerous. SAM use has been  associated with increased frequency and quantity of alcohol use, odds of drunk driving, negative social consequences and harms to ones self.  
  • Consumption of edible cannabis: There is very limited research on edibles and we know that THC doses within edibles tend to be much higher than smoking even concentrated forms. Since this absorption process takes place more slowly than it does through the lungs (in some cases, as long as 30 to 60 minutes before reaching the brain), the effects felt after consuming edibles will often be more gradual in onset but my last much longer. Unfortunately, some people overconsume edibles because they don’t realize it takes time for the drug to kick in; potentially resulting in short-term psychiatric conditions and, in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions (i.e. delusions, hallucinations, talking incoherently, and agitation).
  • Academic performance: Again, while there is limited research to date, what research does exists suggest that regular use of marijuana is associated with poorer academic performance and discontinued college enrollment. 
  • Brain Development: For students who are on the younger extremes of the population (e.g., 17 or 18), there is some research that has led to concerns that exposure to THC as a result of heavy cannabis use delays brain-development.

Does smoking marijuana impact memory?

Yes. Smoking marijuana can interfere with learning and memory. Occasional users experience lasting effects on cognitive functioning, including memory, for up to 48 hours after smoking. Habitual users experience ongoing impaired ability to learn new information, which continues for up to several weeks after quitting use.

Can smoking marijuana negatively affect the immune system?

Most likely, according to the majority of research. Smoking marijuana damages the cells in the bronchial passages, which protect the body against inhaled microorganisms. It also decreases the ability of the immune cells in the lungs to fight off fungi, bacteria, and tumor cells.

Can smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?

The association between smoking marijuana and lung cancer remains unclear. Marijuana smoke contains about 50% more benzopyrene and nearly 75% more benzanthracene, both known carcinogens, than a comparable quantity of unfiltered tobacco smoke. Moreover, the deeper inhalations and longer breath-holding of marijuana smokers result in greater exposure of the lung to the tar and carcinogens in the smoke. However, some studies have failed to show an association between lung cancer and smoking marijuana because of such a high co-occurrence of marijuana and tobacco smoking among users.

Can the effects of smoking marijuana last up to two full days?

Yes. The length of the effects of smoking marijuana will differ by individual and can be affected by length of use, tolerance, and body composition. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana, is extremely fat-soluble, which means it is stored in the body's fatty tissues and can slowly enter the bloodstream for up to two days after smoking.

Can smoking marijuana change your mood?

Yes. Some users may experience heightened mood, euphoria, relaxation, and appetite stimulation. Others may experience mild flashbacks, anxiety, or panic attacks, and marijuana has been shown to heighten certain preexisting psychological conditions such as anxiety and panic disorders.

Is it possible to overdose or have a bad reaction to marijuana?

  • While there are no reports of someone dying directly from marijuana use that does not mean marijuana is harmless. The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. These signs may include extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations, increased blood pressure, and severe nausea or vomiting. In some cases, these reactions can lead to unintentional injury such as a motor vehicle crash, fall, or poisoning. Sometimes side effects such as shaking can be so uncomfortable that individuals seek care in an emergency room.

What is THC and why does it matter?

  • Delta-9-tetrahydroconnabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It produces the high sensation or sense of euphoria. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prevalent active ingredient in cannabis and it is what has been shown to lessen anxiety, depression, and seizures in some individuals. 
  • The problem is over time the ratio of THC to CBC has dramatically shifted and THC potency in marijuana plants has increased from an average of 4% in 1995 to over 12% in 2021.
  • Individuals typically do not know how much THC is in the marijuana they are using and high concentrations relative to CBD are was cause undesired effects such as increased heart rate, coordination problems, red eyes, slowed reaction times, memory loss, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis.

What are the effects of mixing marijuana with alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs?

  • Using alcohol and marijuana at the same time or within a short period of time often results in greater impairment than when using either one alone. This is because the effects of each substance are overlapping. Simultaneous use of alcohol and marijuana often increases risks associated with alcohol, in particular.

  • Using marijuana and tobacco at the same time may also lead to increased exposure to harmful chemicals, causing greater risks to the lungs, and the cardiovascular system.

  • Be aware that marijuana may change how prescription drugs work. Always talk with your doctor about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking and possible side effects when mixed with other things like marijuana.

Can secondhand smoke affect nonsmokers?

  • Secondhand marijuana smoke contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects, and many of the same toxic chemicals in smoked tobacco. Smoked marijuana has many of the same cancer-causing substances as smoked tobacco, but there are still a lot of unanswered questions around secondhand marijuana smoke exposure and its impact on chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and lung diseases.

How is eating and drinking foods that contain marijuana (edibles) different from smoking marijuana? 

  • Historically, smoking has been one of the most common methods of using marijuana. After inhaling, THC enters the lungs and then passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which quickly carries the chemical to the brain. By smoking a joint, an individual is able to feel the effects of THC much more rapidly than if consumed through an edible. As absorption into the bloodstream takes place on a quicker timeframe and, frequently, progresses over a shorter duration than that associated with edibles, the subjective effects of smoking are likely to be felt more immediately, may peak more quickly, and ultimately last for a shorter period of time. However, smoking marijuana may have certain adverse effects on respiratory health and can be associated most commonly with gastrointestinal issues.
  • After eating an edible containing marijuana, THC is absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive tract and undergoes a first metabolic pass in the liver before entering general circulation. Since this absorption process takes place more slowly than it does through the lungs (in some cases, as long as 30 to 60 minutes before reaching the brain), the effects felt after consuming edibles will often be more gradual in onset but my last much longer. Unfortunately, some people overconsume edibles because they don’t realize it takes time for the drug to kick in; potentially resulting in short-term psychiatric conditions and, in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions (i.e. delusions, hallucinations, talking incoherently, and agitation).
  • The issue of dosage is also murky. There are no federal regulations on what a single dose of marijuana should. Edibles have a great deal of disparity in their THC concentrations which can lead to significantly different effects on a person.

Is vaping marijuana safer than smoking it?

  • Probably not. Some people think that vaping is a safer way to use marijuana because you're not inhaling smoke. But you're still inhaling various chemicals when using a vaporizer. Scientists continue to study the risks of vaping.

Where can I find trustworthy and scientifically sound information about marijuana?

Be critical, many articles published online are by marijuana advocates or organizations with a political agenda. It's important to go straight to the research. Below are a few trustworthy sources to help you make an informed decision: