Ask the Doctor: Is Smoking Cannabis Safe?

Question: Is Smoking Cannabis Safe?


Now that smoking medical marijuana is allowed in Florida and flower is available at our local dispensaries, the question arises, “Is smoking marijuana safe?”

We all know the perils of smoking tobacco: increased rate of lung cancer, emphysema, and COPD. Does a similar risk profile face marijuana smokers?

The brief answer is no, albeit with some caveats. Dr. Donald Taskin, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at U.C.L.A. has been studying marijuana and its effects on the lungs for more than 30 years. He provided early evidence that smoking pot does not cause lung cancer or impair lung function. He is a Professor at my alma mater, so he must know what he is talking about. Right? All kidding aside, most medical marijuana users are health conscience and think twice about putting anything unnatural (pharmaceutical, preservatives, food dyes, pesticides, etc.) into their bodies. We are what we eat and we are what we inhale.

There are still concerns

There are some studies which raise concerns about the rosy picture painted by Dr. Taskin’s studies. Regular smoking of marijuana does cause microscopic injury to large airways that is associated with an increased likelihood of symptoms of chronic bronchitis, such as coughing, shortness of breath and increased mucous production. However, these symptoms subside after cessation of use. Spirometric measurements of marijuana users have been inconclusive.


Variables such as amount of marijuana used, like “joint years,” (one joint year is defined as 365 joints smoked in a year) – and the type of smoking can possibly skew the results. You can smoke a joint, use a bong with or without water filtration, etc. On the positive side, the bronchodilatory effects of Delta-9-THC are well known. Asthmatics do better with marijuana whether it is smoked or otherwise.

In sum

In sum, there is evidence that marijuana smoking is associated with some respiratory symptoms such as coughing, and increased sputum production but tests show an increase in FVC-forced vital capacity­ which is a good thing. The overall picture of no increase in lung cancer, emphysema or COPD with marijuana smokers is encouraging. The mechanisms for these effects and differences from inhaling tobacco are unclear. We can speculate about the anticancer and anti inflammatory effects of marijuana on lung function, but we do not really know. We need more studies to elucidate these differences.

So... is smoking marijuana safe?

The answer is probably. I would recommend a break from smoking if you develop a recurrent cough or an increase in mucous production. These symptoms should resolve in a few days to a week. If you like the almost immediate therapeutic effect of smoking, but have developed some symptoms of bronchitis, consider vaporizing the flower or using a vape pen.



Leave a Comment

doctor drawing digital icons
Dr. Thomas Uttley, M.D.

Ask the Doctor: Diagnosing PTSD and Treating with Cannabis

Question: How is PTSD diagnosed and can cannabis help treat it? Answer Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a relatively new label attached to an age-old condition. However, diagnosing PTSD and treating with cannabis is a newer treatment yeilding some great results. Even as early as the 5th century B.C., its core symptoms were described at

Read More »
3 minute cannabis edible
Lisa Pavy Colando

3-Minute Cannabis Edible

How to Make 3-Minute Cannabis Edibles No, really! It seriously only takes three minutes to make these 3-minute cannabis edibles. There are just two main ingredients, chocolate and distillate, to make this incredibly delicious cannabis infused treat. If you are a fan of microdosing, this is an essential recipe. Medicating has never been so easy.

Read More »
man lighting a joint
David Delli Paoli

Cannabis Smoking Guide

On November 8, 2016, Florida voters approved the use of medical marijuana. Despite the clear and apparent will of the voters, lawmakers decided to ban smokable flower in the final draft of the new medical marijuana laws. On March 18, 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill expanding the states medical marijuana program to allow

Read More »
You must be atleast 21 years of age to visit this site.

A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.

Scroll to Top