Can smoking marijuana be good for you?
When the good people of the state of Florida voted to expand their medical marijuana program to actually include marijuana there was no question in anyone’s mind at the time that this included smokable forms of marijuana — eg. dried flower (aka bud), hashish, rosin, and cannabis oil. However, when lawmakers got their hands on the constitutional amendment (no less), they decided that they know better than the majority of their constituents and that it was their job to protect the public by prohibiting the sale and use of smokable forms of marijuana because, well, smoking is bad for you, right? But is it really?
Before we answer that question, let us point out that the Florida situation actually has a happy ending. Florida attorney, John Morgan, who bankrolled the voter initiative to expand access to medical marijuana took it upon himself to put together a case against the state to overturn the smokables ban. The courts agreed that the intention of the measure was to include smokables as a form of administering medicinal cannabis. So did the incoming governor who insisted that lawmakers regroup on the matter and legalize smokables. They did so in short order by a unanimous vote.
Is smoking marijuana bad for you?
Let’s start out by stating the obvious: all things in moderation. If you’re spending the bulk of your days huffing on a bong or lipping blunts, you’re probably going to mess up your lungs. In fact, there is evidence that excessive pot smoking can cause chronic bronchitis. What there is not is evidence that smoking weed causes lung cancer. In fact, cannabis might even prevent lung cancer.
In the spring of 2005, Donald Tashkin, a professor of pulmonology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine claimed that marijuana smoke, although it may irritate lung tissue, it somehow prevents damaged cells in the lungs from becoming malignant tumors.
So, who is Trashkin to say? In an article on Alternet.org, author Fred Gardner writes, “Tashkin has special credibility. He was the lead investigator on studies dating back to the 1970s that identified the compounds in marijuana smoke that are toxic.”
So here’s the guy who outed cigarette smoke as a killer of millions saying that marijuana smoke might not be so bad after all. In fact, it might even be good for cigarette smokers.
Gardner continued, “Tashkin and colleagues at UCLA conducted a major study in which they measured lung function of various cohorts over eight years and found that tobacco-only smokers had an accelerated rate of decline, but marijuana smokers—even if they smoked tobacco as well—experienced the same rate of decline as non-smokers. ‘The more tobacco smoked, the greater the rate of decline,’ said Tashkin. ‘In contrast, no matter how much marijuana was smoked, the rate of decline was similar to normal.’”
According to Gardner, Tashkin concluded that his and other studies “do not support the concept that regular smoking of marijuana leads to COPD.”
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Is smoking marijuana good for you?
For a moment, let’s cut Florida lawmakers and others who think they’re protecting the public by banning smokables some slack and assume that just maybe there might be some danger associated with smoking marijuana. Is that danger severe enough to deny medical patients the freedom to smoke marijuana? And are the benefits of smoking marijuana great enough to make it worth the risk? In other words, can’t medical marijuana patients get by just fine by popping THC pills or puffing on a THC-infused vape pen instead of firing up a fatty?
For most patients who smoke marijuana, it’s not just about the THC. There are actually dozens of active compounds in marijuana which add to the overall effect of smoking. This curious phenomenon is known as The Entourage Effect. We’re not going to go into detail about the entourage effect in this article (learn more about the entourage effect here), but let it suffice to say that in many cases, THC alone is not as effective as whole plant medicinal cannabis. In most cases, it’s the magical powers of the flowers that provide the relief that patients seek.
For example… One of the most common reasons that U.S. veterans use medical marijuana is to treat an anxiety-related condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. In order to effectively reduce symptoms of PTSD, you need more than just THC. In fact, THC by itself, in high enough doses can worsen anxiety and paranoia. Buds, however, contain other cannabinoids in addition to THC. And some of the lesser cannabinoids, especially one known as CBD, can play a leading role in the picture. Furthermore, a family of compounds known as terpenes that give cannabis it’s strong odor also play a role in the overall effects.
Other conditions for which patients use marijuana that benefit from this entourage of compounds include sleep disorders, pain and inflammation reduction, depression, seizure disorders, autism, ADHD, ALS, MS, Crohn’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s diseases, and many more debilitating medical conditions.
Because different strains of marijuana contain different ratios of cannabinoids and terpenes, some strains are better for certain ailments than others. For example, if you’re trying to treat depression, you might not want to be smoking what are known as indica strains as they might tie you to your couch. And if you’re trying to treat insomnia, you might not want to use a sativa strains otherwise your buzzing mind might keep you awake all night.
Can you get the same benefits without smoking marijuana?
As we mentioned earlier, medicines that contain only THC may be ineffective for some users. Even products containing so-called broad-spectrum oils may not provide the same benefits of smoking. But there are other ways to get the full benefits of the bud aside from smoking.
For example, a common method is to use whole buds to make edible medicines such as cannabutter or cannabis-infused vegetable oils such as coconut or olive oil. This is done by heating the buds and then slow cooking them in the butter or oil allowing the oils from the resinous flower clusters to melt and infuse into the oil. The oil can then be used to bake brownies or cookies or added to soups and sauces. Just be sure you do the math to determine how much THC will be in each serving because it can be easy to overdo it.
That being said, one of the benefits that smokables have over edibles is that smoking marijuana produces an almost instantaneous effect. Within literally seconds of inhaling marijuana smoke, you can feel its effects. If you’re suffering from conditions such as sudden onset panic attacks or PTSD then this speed of delivery comes in very handy. Otherwise, you can plan on waiting as long as an hour for your edibles to kick in.
If you want fast acting medicine, but don’t want to smoke, a dry herb vaporizer can also be used to inhale the beneficial oils without actually burning the buds. Instead of creating smoke, these devices heat the resins in the bud to the point where they become a vapor. These vapors are free of many of the harsh chemicals found in smoke.
Methods for smoking marijuana flower
A variety of methods can be used to smoke marijuana. You can use rolling papers and twist up some joints (aka blunts) and smoke your weed like cigarettes. You can also use a pipe (glass is preferred to avoid inhaling metals). If you are concerned about the hot particulate matter that you’ll be inhaling — which, frankly, you probably should be — then you can use a water pipe or a bong. These devices filter the smoke through water pulling out much of the particulate matter and cooling down the smoke.
If you have any questions about how to use these devices there are uncountable videos about how to smoke marijuana on Youtube showing you just what to do. (We have not vetted nor do we endorse any of these videos in particular. We recommend you search for videos from reputable sources.)
Another tool you might want to acquire in order to get the most out of your smoking experience is a grinder to break down the sticky buds making it far easier to roll and making for a better burning blunt or bowl.
We highly recommend that you talk to a certified budtender to get some advice in all matters related to marijuana strains and smoking devices, as well as the edible option. In the meantime, you can learn more about the various strains and their uses in our Strain Library.
Smoking implements can be purchased at most cannabis dispensaries. If you don’t have a dispensary close by, or you live in a state that has none, many smoke and vape shops carry papers, pipes, bongs, and other accessories. These products can all be purchased online as well.
We encourage you to share this article with your friends and help spread the word that marijuana smoke appears to be innocent in the war on lung cancer and provides far more benefits to most medical marijuana patients than drawbacks. Let it be smoked.
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