Science?: Testing In “Extreme” Conditions Concludes Secondhand Pot Smoke Is Bad For You


With the multitude of studies and research being done on marijuana these days, it’s important for readers to look between the lines and distinguish which studies to consider and to look beyond. One new study from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine raises at least a yellow flag as to how it came up with the conclusion that THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, can show up in nonsmokers if they’ve had “concentrated” exposure to secondhand smoke.

According to an article in the Johns Hopkins News Network, this study was the first on marijuana and secondhand smoke since the 1980s, where in the decades since then, the potency of the drug has tripled. The study tested secondhand exposure under “extreme conditions” in an unventilated room filled with pot smoke. In one session, the room’s ventilation fans were on; in another, they were turned off. After spending an hour in those conditions, nonsmokers showed “positive drug effects in the first few hours, a mild sense of intoxication, and mild impairment on measures of cognitive performance.” Also, detectable amounts of THC showed up in their blood and urine samples afterwards, in some cases enough to test positive for workplace or commercial drug testing programs.

Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke with fans running reported no effects other than hunger. Without fans, people reported feeling “pleasant,” more tired, and less alert. In mental cognition tests, people in the unventilated room responded more quickly but made more mistakes than they did before their exposure to the smoke.

The study’s lead author made sure to point out that the testing conditions defined “a worst-case scenario” and that in the “real world … it couldn’t happen to someone without him or her being aware of it.”

The study also got support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that sets standards for federal workplace drug testing.


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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