Can Secondhand Marijuana Smoke Affect Nonsmokers?

Secondhand marijuana smoke is not going away. With medical marijuana cards being issued at rates of thousands per day, exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke is an ongoing reality. Maybe you are a person exhaling secondhand marijuana smoke in the company of nonsmokers. Perhaps you are a nonsmoker inhaling secondhand cannabis smoke. Either way, you can’t help wondering if secondhand marijuana smoke affects nonsmokers.

Can Secondhand Cannabis Smoke Get You High?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the effects of secondhand cannabis smoke are caused by the same active chemicals that direct inhalation of cannabis smoke produces.

The CDC believes that secondhand marijuana smoke contains traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), along with small amounts of other cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are the active chemicals that trigger a medical marijuana cardholder’s desired cannabis smoke effects.

Obviously, secondhand marijuana smoke contains less THC than directly inhaled marijuana smoke. This lesser concentration of cannabinoids does not rule out side effects to secondhand cannabis smoke.

Smoking marijuana
The fact that marijuana is commonly smoked raises some health concerns.

The Effects and Safety of Secondhand Marijuana Smoke

Experts disagree of the severity of associated  side effects and risks of secondhand marijuana smoke. The opinions stated on the drugabuse.gov site will not always agree with views expressed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Some medical marijuana advocates suggest that side effects of secondhand marijuana smoke are negligible. The debated effects of secondhand marijuana smoke can range from a mild “contact high” to ingesting chemicals that might impact predispositions to heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments.

Some side effects of secondhand marijuana smoke are obvious. When a nonsmoker undergoes heavy exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke, the nonsmoker may develop predictable side effects of secondhand cannabis smoke. These side-effects to secondhand cannabis smoke may include:

1) red, itchy eyes

2) a sudden cough

3) an abrupt headache

4) unexplainable anxiety

5) a dry mouth

6) heavy fatigue

7) accelerated heartbeat

8) time seemingly speeding up or slowing down

9) queasiness

10) paranoia

11) an actual feeling of euphoria and sense of wellbeing (bummer, man).

The side effects and risks of secondhand marijuana smoke are increased when the secondhand marijuana smoke collects in enclosed spaces. The greater the concentration of secondhand cannabis smoke in a closed environment, the greater the intensity of possible side effects from inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke. Some actually do this on purpose in order to maximize the effects of cannabis, in a phenomenon known as “hotboxing”!

If the exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke occurs outdoors or in a well-ventilated structure, a nonsmoker’s risk of experiencing side effects to secondhand marijuana smoke is greatly reduced. To minimize the possible effects of secondhand marijuana smoke, a good remedy is to open a window or step outside for fresh air.

Minor irritations attributed to secondhand marijuana smoke, such as red eyes, dry mouth, headache and coughing, should all dissipate within a few moments of stepping out of an unventilated room into the fresh air.

If a nonsmoker fears their motor skills or sight have been thrown off by exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke in an enclosed structure, it is advisable to simply breathe a few deep lungfuls of fresh air until the head has cleared of real or imagined effects of secondhand cannabis smoke.

Exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke appears to put most adults at minimal or negligible risk of lasting harm or sudden impairment. The pertinent reaction when an adult is exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke is does the nonsmoking adult enjoy the smell of secondhand cannabis smoke? Or does the exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke annoy the nonsmoker?

The nonsmoker’s suggested course of action is based on whether the adult nonsmoker enjoys or is annoyed by exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke. Choice A is to stay and suck in the secondhand marijuana smoke. Choice B is advised to minimize contact with secondhand marijuana smoke.

Secondhand Cannabis Smoke and Children

The effect of secondhand marijuana smoke on children is another consideration to take into account.

Many adult medical marijuana cardholders are parents. As parents, medical marijuana cardholders can be expected to access medical cannabis smoke effects in the family home. Often, that means creating amounts of secondhand marijuana smoke.

Children, obviously, are in developmental stages of life. It is reasonable to conclude that any potential side-effects and risks of secondhand marijuana smoke for adults will be increased in marijuana smoke and kids.

Parents who are medical cannabis card holders should take extra care concerning marijuana smoke and kids. The responsible medical marijuana cardholder will shield the children from any side-effects and risks of secondhand marijuana smoke. Minimizing the effects of secondhand cannabis smoke in children is best accomplished by ensuring that children are spared all exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.

In many police districts, consuming medical marijuana in the presence of children, even when the cannabis consumer is a medical marijuana cardholder, is a gray legal area leaning toward the darker side of justice. The parents’ best bet is do not expose the kids to secondhand marijuana smoke.

How High Can You Get From Secondhand Cannabis Smoke?

The short answer is that the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke will not get a nonsmoker very high at all.. If the nonsmoker hopes to actually get a psychoactive effect from cannabis, the best route is to hotbox in an airtight closet with one or more smokers emitting thick plumes of secondhand marijuana smoke.

However, this is not necessarily the most efficient way of ingesting cannabis, and being in a room full of smoke is probably not ideal, either. You may be better off just vaping a small amount of cannabis in the fresh air or in the safety of your own home!

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Written by
Allan MacDonell
Allan MacDonell

Allan MacDonell’s work has been featured in publications ranging from Dazed and Confused UK to the New York Times and Washington Post. He is the author of Prisoner of X, Punk Elegies and Now That I Am Gone, and was a founding editorial director at online outlets including Buzznet, TakePart and Kindland. MacDonell views teaming with Leafwell as an opportunity to encourage the emerging role of legal cannabis as a highly effective medical treatment.

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