A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that “occasional and low cumulative marijuana use was associated with adverse effects on pulmonary function.”
The report states “Exposure to tobacco smoke causes lung damage with consequences including respiratory symptoms, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. Marijuana smoke contains many of the same constituents as tobacco smoke, but it is unclear whether smoking marijuana causes pulmonary damage similar to that caused by tobacco.”
It’s later explained, “Prior studies of marijuana smokers have demonstrated consistent evidence of airway mucosal injury and inflammation as well as increased respiratory symptoms such as cough, phlegm production, and wheeze, similar to that seen in tobacco smokers. It’s possible that cumulative damage to the lungs from years of marijuana use could be masked by short-term effects. However, analyses of pulmonary function and lung disease have failed to detect clear adverse effects of marijuana use on pulmonary function.” So does smoking a joint rolled up with hemp-based rolling papers have an adverse effect on our health? Perhaps, but as is made clear by the AMA’s findings, we still have a long way to go in understanding this realm of the cannabis world. While other cannabis and health studies are constantly coming out, many of them are also somewhat inconclusive at this stage, partly due to the limitations on studying a substance still classified as federally illegal.
The report also noted, “Marijuana may have beneficial effects on pain control, appetite, mood, and management of other chronic symptoms. Our findings suggest that occasional use of marijuana for these or other purposes may not be associated with adverse consequences on pulmonary function. It is more difficult to estimate the potential effects of regular heavy use because this pattern of use is relatively rare in our study sample; however, our findings do suggest an accelerated decline in pulmonary function with heavy use and a resulting need for caution and moderation when marijuana use is considered.”
The report noted that “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer are leading causes of death, and smoking tobacco cigarettes is the most important preventable cause of death in the United States.” While the results are somewhat inconclusive, understanding the short and long-term effects of marijuana smoke on pulmonary function and health is of the utmost importance as we forge onward toward full legalization and more medical research.