Photo of a marijuana plant leaf.

Marijuana and its active components (such as THC and CBD, among other cannabinoids) exist in many forms and strengths and can affect people in different ways.  

It’s important to remember that not everyone uses substances in college. In fact, according to the National College Health Assessment, two-thirds of CU students reported not having used marijuana within the past three months. 

If you are thinking about using, are currently using or have friends who use cannabis, here are some things to consider. 

1. Intention matters

Like any other substance, marijuana can create wanted and unwanted effects. It’s important to keep in mind that it can also impact everyone differently and those impacts may change over time. 

If you choose to use marijuana, think through the experiences you want to have as well as those you’d rather avoid. Knowing what you want from marijuana may help reduce the chances of unwanted experiences and improve the likelihood that you’ll experience the outcome you want. It’s also important to keep in mind that like any substance, marijuana can impact people in unpredictable or unforeseen ways, even when used mindfully. 

Here are a few examples of desirable or undesirable experiences people might hope to have or not have related to using marijuana.  

It's important to keep in mind that marijuana can impact everyone differently and that those impacts may change over time. Cannabis use under the age of 25 can also impact brain development. 

Potential wanted outcomes 

  • Feel calm and relaxed 
  • Reduce feelings of anxiety, depression or worries 
  • Socialize more easily 
  • Reduce physical symptoms related to other conditions (e.g., pain) 
  • Altered sensory experiences (e.g., music, food, movies, art, etc.) 
  • Laugh and enjoy the moment 

Potential unwanted outcomes 

  • Have memory problems 
  • Aggravate mental health conditions (e.g., anxiety, depression, psychosis, etc.) 
  • Negatively impact my school, work or relationships 
  • Feeling tired during the day due to lower quality sleep 
  • Legal consequences 
  • Losing control of self, doing things I wouldn’t normally do 
  • Addiction, dependence or long-term health effects (e.g., cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome
  • ‘Greening out’ (i.e., feeling sick, vomiting, zoning out, difficulty engaging with activities or others, etc.)

2. Products can vary in potency

Serving sizes can vary between different forms of marijuana products.

As marijuana potency has increased by four or five times over the past few decades, it’s more important now than ever to be aware of how different products may affect you. 

Potency can vary between different forms of marijuana. If you choose to use, go with products that are within your limits. If you’re unsure of a product’s potency, limit how much you use to start until you better understand how it affects you. You can always increase your dosage over time depending on the effects.

Flowers and concentrates 

Flower (marijuana in its plant form) is less potent than concentrates (hash oil, wax, shatter, dabs, resins, etc.). Here are some standard potency ranges for these products based on the percentage of THC. 

  • Flower (bud): 10% to 30% 
  • Concentrates (oils, hash, dabs, wax): 40% to 90% 

Graphic of a cannabis label.Edibles 

Edibles do not have a standard potency, and the amount of THC in an edible will vary from product to product. Keep in mind that your own tolerance may affect how serving sizes impact you. If it’s your first time using edibles, start with a smaller amount. Colorado labels consider a single serving size to be 10mg of THC, but this amount may lead to unwanted experiences, especially if you have a lower tolerance. 

Always refer to product packaging to check serving sizes before using. It’s also important to remember that it may take 2 hours for edibles to begin to take effect and up to 4 hours to feel the full effect. 

Tips for understanding marijuana packaging:

Cannabis products are labeled with information about the type of marijuana (indica, sativa, etc.) as well as the percent potency of THC for flower and concentrates. The higher the percentage, the more potent the product is and the stronger the effect will be. It’s important to note that most products include a disclaimer, because potency can vary by about 15% in either direction. Keep this information in mind when selecting products and calculating doses.  

Edibles are typically labeled with information about how many milligrams (mg) of THC is in the food item. Keep in mind that some products will require you to split the doses yourself. For example, you may need to cut the item in half or quarters before consuming. 

3. Start low and go slow

If you’ve never used marijuana before, are trying a new product or are unsure of your tolerance, start with a smaller amount and go slow until you know how it will affect you. This is especially important when experimenting with edibles and concentrates. Look for products with lower THC levels and wait to see how it affects you before consuming more. 

4. Hold off on activities that may pose higher risks

It’s recommended to wait at least 3 to 6 hours after vaping or smoking and 6 to 8 hours after consuming edibles before engaging in higher risk activities like driving, skiing or swimming. Keep in mind that these times can vary depending on your tolerance and use. In some cases, you may need to wait longer than the recommended times. 

5. Reduce your frequency

Like other substances, frequent use of marijuana can increase your tolerance, which means it may take more to achieve the same effect. This can often lead to dependence, which occurs when your body adapts to a particular drug or substance, leading you to desire larger or more frequent doses.  

Using marijuana less frequently has also been shown to lower the risk of dependency, negative mental health symptoms and long-term health effects. Not sure if you need to reduce your frequency?  

Here are a few questions to help you reflect on your current use: 

  • Is my consumption adversely affecting my productivity, school performance or job performance? 
  • Is my consumption interfering with my relationships? 
  • Is my consumption impacting my memory? 
  • Am I feeling more fatigued than I’d like to be? 
  • Am I breaking my own rules or limits around marijuana use? 
  • How is my use impacting me financially? 

6. Store marijuana products safely

Keep marijuana products in their original packaging so they are easily identifiable. Be sure to store them in a safe area that cannot be accessed by pets or young children. If a pet or child consumes any marijuana products, call a vet or health care provider right away.  

7. Use with people you trust

Using marijuana with people you know, trust and feel comfortable with is more likely to result in a positive experience. If you feel pressured to use more than you’re comfortable with, come up with ways you can say “no.” For example, you could say, “No thanks, I need to drive home later” or “I’m going to start with this and see how it goes.” 

8. Avoid sharing

Avoid “puff and pass” rotations and do not share joints, bongs, pipes, vaporizers or other personal items with others. Sharing can put you at a higher risk of exposure to a variety of infections and diseases like the cold, flu, meningitis or mono, which can all be transferred from person to person through saliva. Sharing with friends may also mean you’re getting higher doses of THC than you’re used to. 

9. Avoid mixing

Mixing two or more substances can make it challenging to predict what is going to happen or how you will be affected. Additionally, two or more substances used together can result in adverse side effects. Play it safe by only using one substance at a time.  

Campus resources

Free workshops

Health Promotion offers a variety of workshops that provide students with a safe, non-judgmental space where they can explore their relationship with substance use and discuss personal experiences. Students of all levels of use and non-use are welcome.

Collegiate Recovery Community (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides support meetings, recovery-focused housing, events and activities, peer support and more for students in recovery or interested in pursuing recovery from drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, self-harm, other addictions and unwanted behaviors. 

Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD)

The AOD website includes information, support resources, policies, reports and more related to alcohol and other drugs at CU Boulder.

Marijuana policy

  • Be informed about marijuana laws and CU’s Student Code of Conduct (PDF)
  • Marijuana possession and use is only legal in Colorado for adults 21+ (18+ for medical marijuana). Underage use is subject to an MIP ticket, fines and CU sanctions. 
  • It is illegal for anyone (regardless of age) to have or use marijuana on campus in any form, even with a prescription. 
  • Being under the influence of marijuana is a violation of the CU drug policy and may result in student conduct sanctions and processes. 
  • Driving high could land you with a DUI. Wait before getting behind the wheel.  
  • It’s illegal to take marijuana products out of the state. Additionally, Denver International Airport has banned the possession of marijuana products on its property. 
  • Using marijuana in any form (smoking, eating or vaping) isn’t allowed in public places. Smoking and vaping are also in violation of the university’s smoke-free campus policy.