Safer Cannabis Use / NORML’s Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use

I drafted these guidelines for Sensible Cannabis Use, with input and peer review from leading researchers and consumer advocates. As Editor of NORML News I ensured they ran in every issue. NORML is a consumer advocacy organisation dedicated to reducing harm and encouraging more sensible drug laws. I had it adopt a set of Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use that define and limit acceptable use.

Safer Cannabis Use

Although the vast majority of people who use cannabis suffer no harm, some do experience problems. Ensure that your cannabis use does not impair your health, family, employment and education, and try to have periods of reducing use or not consuming cannabis.

Harm reduction:

  • Remember that “Less is More” – the less you use, the less you will need, and the more high you will get.
  • NORML recommends consuming organic cannabis.
  • Heavy long term cannabis use may lead to some respiratory damage. Deep tokes and long breath duration are more harmful to the lungs.
  • Water pipes and bongs help cool the smoke, filter solids, and absorb some of the most harmful tars in the water. Bongs can make the smoke very smooth, so avoid inhaling too deeply. Replace bong water each time and regularly sterilise your pipe or bong (eg using meths, alcohol or denture cleaning tablets)
  • Meningitis and other diseases can be transmitted through saliva, so don’t share spit on joints or pipes. Try using your hands like a chillum to hold the joint, especially if someone in the circle has the flu!
  • Try other ways of ingesting cannabis, such as eating or drinking it, or using a vaporiser to heat the herb and release THC without combustion.
  • When eating cannabis preparations, start with a small piece and wait an hour before increasing the amount, if desired. The effects of edible cannabis products may be stronger than smoked cannabis.

Health warnings:

  • Cannabis is best avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • People with a history of severe mental illness should reduce any cannabis use to a level agreed with their clinician, or avoid cannabis altogether.
  • Those receiving digitalis or other heart medications should consult their doctors before using cannabis.
  • Mixing cannabis with alcohol can make you more out of it than you intended. The anti-nausea effect of cannabis may also cause you to drink more.
  • Mixing cannabis with tobacco means more smoke damage to your lungs, and may make you become nicotine dependent.

NORML’s Principles of Responsible Marijuana Use

Adults Only. Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to provide cannabis to people aged under 18.

Safe Driving. The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other heavy machinery while impaired by cannabis, nor (like other responsible citizens) impaired by any other substance or condition, including some prescription medicines or fatigue.

Set and Setting. The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider his/her mind-set and physical setting, and regulate use accordingly.

Resist Abuse. Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.

Respect the Rights of Others. The responsible cannabis user does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis.

(NORML News Autumn 2007. Up-to-date versions can be found at https://norml.org.nz/about/cannabis-harm-reduction/ and https://norml.org.nz/about/responsible-use/)

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