Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the U.S. Like other “recreational use” drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, using marijuana has health and other risks.  If you currently use, or are considering using marijuana, it’s important that you are aware of some facts about the drug.

What factors about marijuana use should CSU students be aware of?

  • It is legal for Colorado residents 21 and older to purchase and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana.  Out of state residents can only legally purchase and possess up to 1/4 ounce.
  • If you are 21, it is legal to use marijuana within your home or on your property, but NOT in public, or in public view.  Check your lease before using – this may or may not be allowed.  You are also allowed to grow six plants (only three mature), but NOT in multi-family units like apartment complexes.
  • It is illegal to sell or transfer marijuana to persons under the age of 21.
  • It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.  A DUI (sometimes called DUID) from weed has the same sentence and consequences as from alcohol.
  • Smoking marijuana on ski hills or in National Parks can subject you to a $5,000 fine – even if you are of  legal age.
  • As a controlled substance, use and possession of marijuana is also prohibited by the Student Conduct Code and is not permitted on campus, and students who use,possess, or transfer marijuana are subject to discipline.
  • Most college students live within tight, fixed budgets. And marijuana is expensive. Adults 21 or over can buy up to one ounce at a licensed retailer. Costing $200 or more per ounce –  plus a 25% state tax and the usual 2.9% state sales tax – purchasing marijuana can have a significant impact on a college student’s cash flow.

How does marijuana use affect my brain?

The active chemicals in marijuana can overstimulate and negatively affect the parts of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, concentration, coordination, balance, reaction time, and sensory and time perception (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2012).  Sometimes, the brain becomes so overstimulated that the user can lose touch with reality.

Can marijuana use affect my mental health?

Research shows a consistent link between marijuana use and depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts, psychosis (mental illnesses, short or long term, that cause hallucinations and delusions), and schizophrenia and personality disturbances, including anti-social behavior. For those with existing mental health conditions, marijuana will often worsen their condition; if mood disorders are being treated with medications, effects are, at best, canceled out or sometimes produce unpredictable reactions.

Can marijuana affect my driving?

Marijuana affects the parts of the brain that control depth perception, motor coordination, and reaction time, much like alcohol.  If law enforcement suspects you are high while driving, you will be asked to provide a blood sample at the nearest emergency room.  Mixing marijuana and alcohol intensifies the effects of both and can pose serious risks.

Are there other ways marijuana can affect me physically?

Effects on Natural Defenses: Marijuana suppresses the gag reflex and nausea, and can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol.  The body’s natural defense mechanisms are suppressed, which can cause someone to drink to fatal levels.

Effects on the Heart: Marijuana can dangerously increase heart rate.  A 2001 study noted the risk of heart attack onset was increased almost five times over baseline in the 60 minutes after marijuana use (Mittleman, M. A. et al., 2001).

Effects on the Lungs: Marijuana smoke can cause lung irritation, coughing, and respiratory illness much like tobacco.  One joint can equal 5 to 7 cigarettes because it’s unfiltered, and the smoke is pulled in much deeper and held in much longer.

Effects on Sexual Health: Heavy, long-term use of marijuana decreases testosterone levels in males, which can delay development of secondary sex characteristics for males, such as muscle-mass and “filling out”, lead to a decreased libido, impotence, decreased sperm count and motility, and infertility (UpToDate, 2013). It has also been linked to testicular and penile cancer.

Effects on Sleep: Marijuana use can decrease your quality of sleep, and as a result, your quality of life. Without quality sleep you can experience memory impairment, unpleasant moods, immune system impairment and many other physical deficits.

Effects on Weight Gain: Studies have shown that cannabis triggers an increase in appetite, commonly called “the munchies.” This desire for sweet and fatty foods can promote weight gain, if not balanced with a healthy diet and exercise plan. People who smoke marijuana regularly have been shown to gain weight over time.

Is marijuana addictive?

Long-term heavy use of marijuana, especially in people who start at a young age, can lead to addiction.  Withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, anxiety, and cravings. It takes far longer to experience the initial withdrawal symptoms, with the total detox time being anywhere from several weeks to almost a year, depending on age of onset, frequency and amounts/concentrations of use. This is very different than the withdrawals and detoxing associated with alcohol, other drugs or tobacco.

Is vaporizing less harmful than smoking?

Vaporizers heat marijuana to a point, but are not combusting, so that the chemicals can be inhaled while exposing the user to fewer toxins (Marijuana Legalization, 2012).  Smoking through water pipes (bongs) cools the smoke and filter out some particulates; vaporizing (vapes) heat the product to release the volatile oils without combustion.  These are considered “cleaner”, with lower smoke temps and less particulates, all of which allows for higher-efficiency delivery.  More research is needed on how vaporizing affects the body.

How are edibles different than smoking?

Marijuana-infused products (edibles) come in many forms – mints, candy, baked goods, even sodas.  The THC (tetrahydrocannabinol – one of the active substances in marijuana) concentration can vary widely, and product labeling only provides a rough estimate.  While a user can feel the effects of smoking pot within a minute or so, it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours with edibles.  The “high” typically tends to last longer with edibles.

What is “dabbing”

“Dabbing” means using very potent, concentrated forms of marijuana hash oil.  It comes in other forms besides oil, including shatter (thin, hard, shiny brown slabs), and wax (sometimes called earwax or budder).  THC content ranges from 70-90 percent and may increase the risk of panic attacks, anxiety, psychosis, and other mental health conditions.

Are there medical benefits of marijuana?

The FDA has approved Marinol and Cesamet, synthetic forms of marijuana’s active substance in pill form, as treatments for nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and an appetite stimulant, symptoms often associated with cancer and HIV/AIDS. Marijuana is also useful in treating the symptoms of glaucoma by decreasing intraocular pressure.  CBD has some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and researchers are working on extracting it to make a medication for pain control.

Blue Sky is a free, anonymous screening that provides personalized feedback about your alcohol and other drug use and connects you to campus support services. When prompted for a referral code, enter “voluntary”.

Assess your use and receive personal feedback with Marijuana E-Checkup to Go

CSU Campus

Because marijuana is considered an illicit drug, any use (even medical) is prohibited on campus. Violation of this policy can result in legal action by university police, and may result in suspension from the university.

CSU Guidelines Regarding Amendment 64 and Marijuana

Fort Collins and the State of Colorado

According to Colorado state law, “medical use of marijuana is permitted for persons suffering from debilitating illness.” You must have a prescription to use medical marijuana legally. Any person who uses medical marijuana must follow the guidelines set by the state of Colorado and by the City of Fort Collins. Also, medical marijuana licenses can be rescinded if a person puts themselves or another person in danger through use of the drug. This includes driving under the influence of the drug. Even if you have a medical marijuana card, it is still illegal to drive under the influence and will result in a DUI.

Amendment 64 and Local Marijuana Regulations

Amendment 64 and State Marijuana Regulations


Marijuana is considered a Schedule1 controlled substance, and is illegal under federal law.

The CSU Health Network’s Drugs, Alcohol, and You Program (DAY) offers services to students who are concerned about their substance use, or are required to complete an assessment or treatment by the University’s disciplinary system.

If you are concerned about a friend’s substance use, you can make an anonymous referral using the Tell Someone program. Your referral can help get them connected to the right resources.

Campus and Community Coalitions

The Alcohol and Other Drugs Work Group is a cross-campus effort to prevent high-risk alcohol and other drug use, and ensures compliance with campus policies and state and federal laws. Through the use of best practices, the group members strive to decrease negative secondary consequences of alcohol and other drug use among CSU students. Secondary effects can include: death, injury, assault, sexual abuse, unsafe sex, academic problems, health problems/suicide attempts, drunk driving, vandalism, property damage, police involvement, and dependence. For more information about this group and/or to become involved, contact the Assistant Director of Alcohol and Other Drugs for the CSU Health Network, (970) 491-1744.

Team Fort Collins is a community organization focusing on drug and alcohol abuse prevention with youth and families. They collaborate with parents, schools, businesses, law enforcement, community leaders, and religious organizations to foster and support a healthy environment.

Assess your use and receive personal feedback with Marijuana E-Checkup to Go

DAY (Drugs, Alcohol, and You) Program, CSU Health Network offers confidential counseling and treatment services, free if; 970-491-4693

Learn more about the latest science and research around marijuana by visiting the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Learn more about the consequences of driving under the influence of marijuana in Colorado

The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers a wealth of information about the effects, addictiveness, and treatment of marijuana abuse.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy coordinates national prevention, education, and treatment efforts.

Facts on Tap provides training, technical support, and educational resources to students and professionals around alcohol and drug abuse.

The State of Colorado provides an educational overview of the health and legal implications of retail marijuana in Colorado.