The health effects of cannabis (marijuana, weed, flower, etc...) are determined in large part by how it's consumed. It is most commonly consumed by smoking it in paper-wrapped joint form. Other ways include using pipes, bongs, and other devices including those that heat or vaporize cannabis.
There are still many unknowns about cannabis and its long-term effects on lung health, but we do know that the inhalation of smoke is harmful to lung health as the combustion of materials releases toxins and carcinogens. These are released regardless of the source – whether it is burning wood, tobacco or cannabis. Knowledge about the long-term effects of cannabis smoke is still limited but early research studies have demonstrated harm that can lead to chronic bronchitis.[study] Other studies suggest that frequent and heavy cannabis smoking is associated with cough, sputum production, wheezing and a decline in lung function.
- Smoking cannabis (for example, smoking a joint) is the most harmful way of using cannabis because it directly affects your lungs. There are safer, non-smoking options like vaping or taking edibles that are better for your lungs. Keep in mind that these alternatives aren’t risk-free either. (directly from CAMH low-risk Cannabis use Guideline)
- The Canadian Lung Association aspires to a future free of lung disease. Prevention is one key element that could help us towards this future. A completely smoke-free future is needed to help prevent lung disease.
Second-hand Cannabis Smoke
- Second-hand cannabis smoke contains many of the same toxins and chemicals found in directly inhaled cannabis smoke.
- More research on the health effects of second-hand cannabis smoke is needed. Until this issue is addressed, the Canadian Lung Association remains concerned about the potential harmful effects – especially among vulnerable populations, such as children and youth.
- No one should be exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke.
Cannabis Use for Medical Purposes
While cannabis is used by some people for their health problems, determining whether cannabis is appropriate to treat your symptoms is best done through a discussion with a health care practitioner. The Canadian Lung Association is concerned with the effects of smoking cannabis on the respiratory health of Canadians. We are committed to research that explores the long-term effects on lung health as well as the efficacy of cannabis for people with chronic lung disease.
Cannabis in Alberta: Education and Information