Can cannabis smoke harm others?


Can cannabis smoke harm others?


I came across an article about the dangers of secondhand marijuana smoke which raised my eyebrows.  The article quoted a supposed high end researcher, an expert on second hand cigarette smoke. In this world of the internet anyone can and does say anything, whether it be fact based, biased propaganda, or of ignorance and suppositions from urban myth.


I am exclusively a medical cannabis writer now for the past two years.  Before that, I was a licensed tester of medicinal cannabis, using GC-MS, which stands for gas chromatography with mass spectrometer.  I also worked alongside several Ph.D.'s in a synthetic medicinal chemistry laboratory, where we tested a number of drugs, and man made toxins: pesticides and herbicides.  


When researching a particular area, I most often refer to PubMed articles, which are supposedly peer reviewed journals of a high quality. Unfortunately, much of the research in the orthodox medical domain is funded by for profit entities who have a long and deep history of putting profits and their agenda before the wellbeing of their patients.  So, the first question I ask when reviewing a scientific or medical articles is ... who funded it?


In the case of medical cannabis, there are hoards of negative studies, which aim to prove negative attributes of the herb:drug.   Imagine if someone were to try and character assassinate you. What they would do is hire people to collect negative evidence and happenings against you, while burying any positives.  Maybe you are a very passive individual, but got into but one altercation. Maybe you are an exceptional driver, but you girlfriend racked up a number of parking tickets on your record and so on.  


On the other hand, we pro-cannabis wordsmiths are guilty of cherry picking too , or at least we have to keep an eye on ourselves.  We do have the tendency to want to balance the negative, often state and pharmaceutical industry propaganda with nothing but good findings toward cannabis.  Yes, I would say the we are generally quite guilty of that as well.


With all that said, let's go to war, and ambush a poor writer, who perhaps may have had the best of intentions in writing, what amounts to a bogus pile of nonsense, if my professional opinion.  Why be so mean? Because this writer, if I am correct in my assessment, is dispensing bad information, that can lead to harm to the reader and further propagate nonsense urban myth, rather than kill it.




Firstly, this article comparing cannabis with tobacco.  This is a common fallacy. Cannabis is also compared to hard drugs and alcohol.  But in its effects, toxicity and medicinal qualities, there is in fact no comparison at all.  Alcohol is associated with increased violence and traffic accidents, while it was shown in all cannabis legal states that there was a decrease in violence, DUI, suicide etc.


"The inspiration arrived in a haze at a Paul McCartney concert a few years ago in San Francisco."


Move over Rover, The Big Old Cannabis Dog is Moving in.


Yes, if you are surrounded by a lot of pot smokers you're going to get a dose that could amount to a mg, at best, which is know as a microdose.  This could lead to a virgin, a non smoker, to feel a vague little something. With that said, if you are smoking a lot of weed at home in front of a baby, this 1mg, could certainly have a pharmacological effect.  Without having a handle on what THC does to an infant, one would be advised to stop smoking pot around babies.


Back to the real risk, second hand smoke, or an absorption of about 1 mg of THC once is a month or year, is a non factor, negligible risk, given that cannabis is a very non-toxic substance.

“People in front of me started lighting up and then other people started lighting up, And for a few naive split seconds I was thinking to myself, ‘Hey, they can’t smoke in AT&T Park! I’m sure that’s not allowed.’ And then I realized that it was all marijuana. Paul McCartney stopped between numbers and sniffed the air and said there’s something in the air, it must be San Francisco! ” - Matthew Springer, Professor Cardiology at the University of California-San Francisco.

Springer thought that  an Franciscans would never tolerate those levels of cigarette smoke in a public place anymore. So why were they OK with pot smoke? Did people just assume that cannabis smoke isn’t harmful the way tobacco smoke is?

Medical Marijuana and Fractures



On the surface, we seem to have a well intentioned Professor motivated to study what could be an important health issue.  However, literally every one of his findings contradicts hundreds of non-biased research papers (in my opinion). Let's note them one by one.


Springer had already conducted research on rats while researching the effects of cigarette smoke.  He repeated the experiments using weed. The next sentence in the original articles said, wait for it, used Federal Funding, which means that the research had to have the aim to prove there was something wrong with cannabis.  Springer purchased Federally approved cannabis on the condition he would only use it on animals and not humans.


In Springer's lab, he placed a joint in a plexiglass box, which is the equivalent of putting a human in a closet with 150 joints burning, that is if the rat weighted about a pound, as opposed to a 150 lb person.  Compare this to having ten people smoking joints at an open air concert beside you.


Now if that rat didn't absorb an appreciable amount of "second hand smoke", then I'd conclude that the rodent was not breathing, because pound for pound, a human in these conditions should be higher than a kite, especially in what has to be a somewhat oxygen deprived situation.

Springer went on to conduct experiments on rats exposed to "secondhand smoke", which I would call extreme quantities of first hand smoke, for the rats could be considered to be inside a kind of Vape, much more than an open air situation.


Finally, Springers conclusions go against all the main discoveries about the medicinal effects of cannabis.  Cannabis is a dilator. Cannabis is anti cancer. Cannabis lowers blood pressure. Long term use of cannabis is associated with a slight increase in lung function.  These are all pillars of cannabinoid research, a body of evidence accumulated worldwide over the past forty years.


But, Federally funded Springer reports, "secondhand" smoke caused the rat's arteries to constrict (the opposite effect of moderate doses, a joint of two) and caused an unhealthy blood flow.  Springer goes on the draw a link between carcinogenic tobacco and weed, saying the repeated exposure to second hand cannabis smoke could easily result in blood clots, heart attack and stroke.  The nonsense goes on, bla, bla, it takes arteries 90 minutes to recover from pot smoking as opposed to 30 minutes with cigarettes.


The article goes on to say the these negative effects were the tip of the iceberg, that pesticides, herbicides, mold and dangerous bacteria, and solvents can exist in cannabis.  


"Even if the cannabis tests clean, Springer said, smoke itself is bad for the lungs, heart and blood vessels. Other researchers are exploring the possible relationship between marijuana smoke and long-term cancer risk."


Well, finally Springer said something that was true.  Pesticides, mold, fungicides can produce profound toxic effects.  This is largely the problem with cigarettes, tobacco is a highly sprayed crop and there are many chemical additives that make cigarettes so deadly.   Somehow people like Springer will point to the need for regulation, regulation by the same people that regulate the cigarette industry, the alcohol industry, all of whom add toxic preservatives, use containers with carcinogenic coatings like BPA, phthalates, and endorse the use of Monsanto pesticides and herbicides.. which are being banned worldwide because of their carcinogenic effects.


At the end of the day, Springers research is extremely suspect.  Instead of studying the effects of a sip of a beer, he studies the effects of drinking a bottle of Johnny Walker.  


To quote Springer's research paper..Exposure of Rats to SHS


"We used a modified cigarette smoking system described previously for tobacco SHS experiments.34 Briefly, the system collects sidestream smoke from the burning tip of the cigarette in a 21?L (less than a cubic foot) Plexiglas exposure chamber as a ventilator pump simulates human puffing. (Sidestream smoke comprises the majority of SHS and is a well?accepted laboratory model for it, and is referred to as SHS here.) A Sidepak AM510 personal aerosol monitor (TSI, Shoreview, MN), calibrated for cigarette smoke particles and excluding those >2.5 μm, monitors the concentration of respirable suspended particles (RSP) in the exposure chamber and exhausts back into the chamber."




Springer’s discovery about the effect on blood vessels describes just one harmful impact for nonsmokers who are exposed to marijuana. Statewide sampling surveys of cannabis products sold in marijuana dispensaries have shown that the items may contain dangerous bacteria or mold, or residue from pesticides and solvents."


Under the new Californian Laws, legal weed must be tested for contaminants.  It wll be 2019 before the testing regulations go into full effect because much of the weed on the shelves was harvested in 2017.  Now regulation, if done properly is a very good thing. The problem is that regulations by the FDA cater to the chemical manufacturers, while making it too difficult for the small guy to compete - pay for the expense of regulation.    


“People think cannabis is fine because it’s ‘natural, He concedes that tightly regulated marijuana, which has been fully tested, would not have as many chemical additives as cigarettes."

Springer wraps up his case, saying he's not anti-THC, he's anti-smoke.  He even cautions against the use of e-cigarettes and vapes. He says that they can't afford to wait on enacting strict anti-smoking laws on cannabis, because the research is not done yet.  It people like Springer do the "research", then the research will never get done.    


In closing they come back to the same strategy of bastardizing cannabis, lumping it into the booze and tobacco problem area.  "They were saying cigarette smoke doesn't harm you, second hand smoke doesn't harm you, and now they're saying the same thing about weed."


The problem with the argument is the They, in this case are a syndicate, of big pharma, big booze and big tobacco, who are dead set against cannabis;  because in every state where cannabis is legal, hard drug use goes down, pharmaceutical prescriptions go down, DUIs go down.


At the end of the day, the battle about the medicinal benefits of cannabis has been won.  The vast majority of Americans don't believe a word that comes out of the Fed's mouth. However, the mom and pop cannabis industry, as it matures is targeted for takedown, in the template of the alcohol and tobacco industry.   While cannabis will be tested, they're going to modify it, spray it and add chemicals to it, so it won't go bad, so it will be "safe" for the consumer. At this point, weed will have lost much of its natural healing power.


As we move forward, the investment bankers, the money men are moving in to make stock plays, with companies like Corona, Monsanto and friends dropping hundreds  of millions into the industry. At the end of the day, you want some nice healthy, natural herb and food, which can be easily grown in a local collective. You want control over your well being and not put it in the hands of those who only want to get into your wallet.


420Evaluations Online:  Now in 2018, marijuana is taxed at a rate of more than 25% in the State of California.  Medical patients, however, pay only a fraction of the state tax, which amount to as much as $80 dollars per ounce.  California adults can become a legal medical marijuana patient by completing a 420 evaluation by a licensed doctor. This process can be completed in minutes online.  Patients don't pay the recommendation fee until they are approved. 420 Evaluations Online documents are accepted by dispensaries, online delivery services, cannabis clubs, cooperatives and compassion clubs in the State of California.




California’s Proposition 64, approved by state voters in 2016, requires that some of the state tax revenue from the sale of marijuana be distributed to cannabis researchers. In addition, the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is examining workplace hazards that are specific to the cannabis industry.


California Cannabis Research Medical Group


The California Cannabis Research Medical Group (CPMG) is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to educating physicians about the medical use of cannabis.  The group was established by Tod Mikuriya, MD to help physicians share and exchange data about cannabis use by their patients. In 2004, the CCRMG formed The Society of Cannabis Clinicians (SCC) to facilitate voluntary medical standards for physician-approved cannabis under California law.

The CCRMG published their research findings in the unconventional Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice O'Shaughnessy and is in the process of developing an online research archive. CCMRG maintains the William B. O'Shaughnessy Archives.


Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research


The purpose of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research is to coordinate rigorous scientific studies to assess the safety and efficacy of cannabis and cannabis compounds for treating medical conditions.


Current CMCR studies examine the effects of cannabis on pain, as well as public safety issues surrounding the use of cannabis and cannabinoids. “A randomized, controlled trial of Dronabinol and vaporized cannabis in neuropathic low back pain” (Wilsey/Marcotte; funded by NIH) is examining whether eight weeks of at-home treatment (oral Dronabinol vs. vaporized cannabis) results in a significant analgesic response, as well as the effects that regular dosing may have on driving performance.


“A randomized, controlled trial of cannabis in healthy volunteers: Evaluating simulating driving, field performance tests, and cannabinoid levels” (Marcotte/Wilsey) was authorized by State of California AB 266 (Bonta) in order to determine the effect that cannabis use has on driving performance, and whether it is possible to develop improved methods (iPad-based cognitive tests, blood/breath/oral fluid) to detect cannabis-impaired drivers.


“Effect of cannabis and endocannabinoids on HIV neuropathic pain” (Henry; funded by NIH) examines the acute effects of cannabis on pain and endocannabinoids, as well as the relationship between dispensary-obtained cannabis and pain changes, using a text-messaging tool.


Clinical trials involve studies of a potential medication with real patients. The gold standard for a drug to be approved as medicine is to have randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trials to validate the efficacy of such drug. Double blind means that the patients and the medication dispensers do not know which medication (test drug or placebo) is being given at any time during the study.


Placebo-controlled means that the effects of drug to be studied will be compared to the effects of a placebo given to a patient population. The U.S. federal government, legislators, law enforcement officers and many healthcare professionals often use the “lack of clinical trials” with cannabis as a legitimate reason for continuing the marijuana prohibition. The Catch 22 here is that the federal government has made it virtually impossible for researchers to study the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis.


The MMD Study at UCLA


Despite these perceptions, no empirical studies have been conducted that examined how the opening and closing of these dispensaries change the landscape of the neighborhoods in which they are located. Without empirical evidence supporting claims on either side, local jurisdictions are struggling with developing policies to regulate dispensaries.


By examining the relationship of the density of medical marijuana dispensaries (i.e., number of dispensaries per area) to crime, we can provide crucial information on how these dispensaries change the areas where they are located and what can be done to prevent problems from occurring. Our goal is to better understand whether or not the increasing numbers of dispensaries in California are related to changes in local crime and in medical marijuana abuse or dependence.


We are also interested in studying how the changing number of these dispensaries, the locations where they are located, and the patient populations served are related to what products are sold and for how much. The study is currently in the data collection phase. This involves conducting interviews with dispensaries about the products they sell and the prices for those products. We also collect information about the locations where these dispensaries are located and any security measures the dispensaries take to ensure the safety of their patients.


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