Second Hand Smoke – What is the Safest Way to Consume Cannabis?
A new study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, has shed a light on the dangers of inhaling secondhand cannabis smoke.
According to the team’s findings, the arteries of rats exposed to the smoke for just one minute became less effective and efficient at carrying blood for ninety minutes. Surprisingly, this would make cannabis smoke more harmful – in this limited sense – than tobacco smoke, which only restricted the flow of blood for half an hour in similar tests carried out by the same team.
The researchers found that even with the cannabinoids removed, the smoke from the resulting plant matter was just as damaging to arteries, and could over time cause long term problems. As lead researcher Matthew L. Springer, Ph.D, explained, “”While the effect is temporary for both cigarette and marijuana smoke, these temporary problems can turn into long-term problems if exposures occur often enough and may increase the chances of developing hardened and clogged arteries.”
This research is some of the first to look specifically at the dangers of secondhand cannabis smoke, and to many has caused concern about how to best mitigate the potential harms in a rapidly evolving cannabis market which is moving out into the open after decades of prohibition. As legal markets take shape, concern for the health of those who don’t partake must be taken into account.
However, some – no surprises for guessing who – have taken this study and spun it in a very predictable and tired way. Essentially, they’ve taken this chance to once again proclaim that cannabis is not harmless, as if that has ever been in doubt. They like to paint supporters of reform as being ignorant of the very real risks that come from any kind of drug consumption, including cannabis, and then use that as some kind of ‘proof’ that cannabis should still be illegal.
But what they fail to take into account is that, for the majority of us at least, it is the very existence of those risks and harms that make regulation urgent and necessary. Where there is harm, there should also be harm reduction. Studies like this one are important because they highlight what the potential harms are, and how best to avoid them. Smoking cannabis, unsurprisingly, is not the safest way of consuming it, but it is also far from the only way.
Vaporisers have steadily grown in popularity over the past five years, and are a method of consumption that does not involve combustion or the inhalation of burning plant matter. Extracts are also becoming more and more widespread. Given that the research found that it was the plant matter itself rather than the cannabinoids that caused the artery damage, these are no doubt less harmful to your cardiovascular system than the traditional joint. Then there are edibles, which require no inhalation of any kind.
In short, what this research tells us is that if you want to consume cannabis in the most efficient and least harmful way, you shouldn’t be smoking it. It’s hardly groundbreaking, really, but should be food for thought for any medical users, or physicians prescribing medical cannabis. It’s not a warning against cannabis, but a warning against smoking, and we’ve already proven how effective regulation can be at cutting that.
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