OBJECTIVE: Evidence that cannabis use impairs cognitive function in humans has been accumulating in recent decades. The purpose of this overview is to update knowledge in this area with new findings from the most recent literature. METHOD: Literature searches were conducted using the Web of Science database up to February 2010. The terms searched were: "cannabi*" or "marijuana", and "cogniti*" or "memory" or "attention" or "executive function", and human studies were reviewed preferentially over the animal literature. DISCUSSION: Cannabis use impairs memory, attention, inhibitory control, executive functions and decision making, both during the period of acute intoxication and beyond, persisting for hours, days, weeks or more after the last use of cannabis. Pharmacological challenge studies in humans are elucidating the nature and neural substrates of cognitive changes associated with various cannabinoids. Long-term or heavy cannabis use appears to result in longer-lasting cognitive abnormalities and possibly structural brain alterations. Greater adverse cognitive effects are associated with cannabis use commencing in early adolescence. CONCLUSION: The endogenous cannabinoid system is involved in regulatory neural mechanisms that modulate processes underlying a range of cognitive functions that are impaired by cannabis. Deficits in human users most likely therefore reflect neuroadaptations and altered functioning of the endogenous cannabinoid system.