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Cannabis

A Note about Cannabis/Marijuana:

The legal status of cannabis in the state of Virginia has recently changed. Student Health and Wellness (SHW) continues to provide evidence-based care focused on student safety and well-being. We recognize the ongoing research as it relates to cannabis and its pharmacologic components. Our aim is to help you optimize your well-being and health, and to respect your autonomy while providing confidential care and support. We encourage you to reach out if you have questions and/or want to discuss your substance use.  

  • Although medicinal cannabis became legal for Virginians in 2017, the staff at SHW do not certify or prescribe it.  Patients seeking this treatment outside of SHW must meet certain criteria and must be issued a certification by a registered practitioner. SHW staff do not issue such certifications.  More information on that process can be found here.
  • For more information about our free and confidential substance use services, contact Sean Sembrowich, NP at sms4gv@virginia.edu.
  • If you have an urgent need, or are in crisis and need to talk to someone immediately, please call SHW (during office hours: 434-924-5362; after hours: 434-297-4261) and let them know you have a medical concern or wish to speak with a mental health provider. For life-threatening emergencies, please call 911.

Cannabis FAQs:

Learn More About Cannabis

Potential Benefits
Most of the cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.27 The absorption of THC causes the “high,” stimulating the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward centers27 and allowing an individual to potentially experience a pleasant euphoria and sense of relaxation.38  Other effects, which may vary dramatically among different people, include heightened sensory perception (e.g. brighter colors), laughter, altered perception of time, and increased appetite.38

Beyond the “high” that some individuals experience, cannabinoids have demonstrated the potential for a wide potential spectrum of therapeutic uses.  For instance, it is used in the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and appetite and weight loss related to HIV/AIDS.41 A THC/CBD medication is used for the muscle spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis.42 There is a FDA-approved CBD medication to treat certain pediatric seizure disorders.40 There is also substantial evidence that cannabinoids are effective for chronic pain.36  Early evidence exists for additional potential therapeutic benefits, however, more research needs to be done before definitive conclusions can be made.36

Potential Harms
Because THC potency can vary among different strains and even from different plants within the same strain, as well as could be “cut” with other substances, true product content can be largely unknown.  If content is unknown, side effects can also be unpredictable.

Also, pleasant experiences with cannabis are not universal.  Instead of euphoria and relaxation, some people experience anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic.38 These effects are more common when a person takes too much, the cannabis has a high potency, or the person is inexperienced with cannabis use.38  Additional short-term effects can include change in mood, lack of coordination, slow reaction time, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, disrupted learning and memory (for days or even weeks),28 increased heart rate, hallucinations, and/or delusions.27