The Truth About the Effects of Marijuana on the Lungs

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the Effects of Marijuana on the LungsOne of the major objections to the medicinal use of marijuana is the use of smoking as a delivery system. Based on the fact that smoking tobacco causes deterioration of lung function, these detractors intone that smoking marijuana is just as harmful. So let’s examine the truth about the effects of marijuana on the lungs.

Testing that hypothesis is really quite simple—even you can do it. Head over to any hospital and go to the respiratory wing. Locate a nurse and ask how many patients are in the respiratory wing due to their use of tobacco. You will learn that most of the patients in that wing are there for that reason.

Now ask how many patients are there because they only smoked marijuana. Don’t be surprised when the nurse tells you that there is not one patient in a respiratory bed fitting that description. They might even elaborate a bit and say that you are not likely to find a single patient in a hospital bed anywhere just because they use marijuana, but that’s another article. This article is all about the effects of marijuana on the lungs.

Those who disparage smoking marijuana—and especially those who ridicule marijuana consumed in any form—would never take the time to do the simple study described above. Of course they would dismiss your hospital study as meaningless, biased and unscientific.

Much to the naysayers’ chagrin, a new study addressing the relationship between lung function and smoking marijuana was published in the January 2011 edition of one our nation’s most prestigious medical journals: the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the massive 20-year study of 5,115 men and women aged 18 through 30 found that smoking a joint once or twice a week has no detrimental effect on lung function. In fact, the researchers found a slight improvement in lung capacity in the marijuana smokers over those who did not smoke anything.

For people who smoke more than a couple joints a week, the study could find no statistically significant evidence that these people suffered any decrease in lung function compared to people who did not smoke anything, but due to the small number of people in the study who smoked more than a couple joints a week, no statistically supportable conclusion could be made.

These findings mirror earlier studies that produced essentially the same results.

Dr. Donald Taskin, author of an earlier lung function study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, stated in a 2006 interview with me that his study found that there “was no abnormality in the lung function of heavy smokers of marijuana, but there were abnormalities in the lung function of smokers of tobacco only.”

Separate studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals undertaken by researchers at UCLA, the University of British Columbia and Yale University all reported that long-term, habitual marijuana use was not associated with a decline in lung function compared to non-smokers. Even though the JAMA study got significant media attention, it is nothing new under the sun.

It is interesting to note that in all the media stories about the JAMA article, there were a multitude of caveats and warning intoned by researchers not to consider cannabis safe just because they found it was. Mumblings about wheezing, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer were given prominent space even though there is not one scientific study that shows any correlation between these ailments and marijuana use.

If marijuana caused lung damage, cancer or insanity, we wouldn’t need scientific studies costing millions of dollars. These horrors would be in plain sight in hospital beds across the nations like we see so readily with cigarette and alcohol consumption.

As ruled by DEA Administrative Judge Francis Young after an exhaustive two-year investigation, “marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”

The sooner our country gets over its depraved, disabling and debilitating reefer madness mentality, the sooner cannabis will once again, without damaging our lungs, improve our nation’s health by reducing our need for prescription pharmaceuticals and providing a viable alternative to alcohol.

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About Author

Lanny Swerdlow, RN is host of the Internet radio show Marijuana Compassion & Common Sense and founder of the Marijuana Anti Prohibition Project and the Brownie Mary Democratic Club. Contact him at lanny@marijuananews.org.

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