Do you love rolling a joint or filling a bowl, lighting up, and getting super high from smoking marijuana? I do, but there’s a big problem: smoking marijuana can harm or even kill you. It’s not the marijuana itself—combustion is the villain, not cannabis.
The recent deaths of two marijuana grower friends, along with the death of legendary cannabis seed breeder Subcool, prompted this warning about the hazards of combusting marijuana.
Subcool died early in 2020 just before COVID hit, in part due to respiratory diseases. Sub smoked a half ounce or more of cannabis per day in the early years of his cannabis seeds career and developed emphysema and other symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
He claimed publicly his COPD didn’t come from smoking marijuana, but instead was “genetic” in origin. Privately, Subcool acknowledged that inhaling smoke was killing him. He tried vaporizers but didn’t like the vaporizer high, so began consuming dry sift, rosin and other natural dabs via combustion, and also combusted whole flower from time to time.
He ruined his lungs completely, but said his doctors were also concerned with toxicity problems caused by combustion byproducts. Subcool’s body, and those of my other two now-deceased friends, had abnormally high levels of ammonia, benzene, cyanide and other combustion byproducts, and these toxins damaged their livers and other organs.
To make matters worse, my grower friends lived in urban hell zones with high levels of air pollution from traffic jams and refineries. Their doctors told them if they only polluted themselves by combusting cannabis, but did not live in a place with polluted air, water and land, their toxin load would have been less harmful.
Benzene is one of the major poisons you inhale when you combust cannabis. This dangerous chemical is already excessively present in our environment from combusted fossil fuels, fire smoke, gasoline stations, industrial pollution, lubricants, rubber, pesticides, detergents, dyes, and many other common items. Land, air, and water are often polluted with benzene.
Indoors, benzene and other toxic chemicals off-gas from glues, paint, furniture wax, and other materials. Indoor air is often more polluted with benzene than outdoor air, especially if residents smoke tobacco or cannabis indoors.
Benzene sabotages your cellular metabolism. It causes bone marrow to not produce enough red blood cells, which leads to anemia. It damages your immune system by decreasing blood levels of antibodies and white blood cells. It can cause leukemia and other cancers.
Women who intake high levels of benzene may experience irregular menstrual periods and decreased ovary size. Studies indicate benzene toxicity in pregnant women could lead to low birth weight, skeletal problems, and bone marrow damage for fetuses and babies.
Cannabis smoke also contains high levels of other toxic chemicals, including ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS).
Our environment is already overloaded with these chemicals, which come from industrial civilization. PAH pollutants are mutagenic, carcinogenic, and immunotoxic to humans and other animals.
These toxins are especially bad for people who use marijuana medically and are already struggling with health issues.
It’s easy to see combusting marijuana isn’t good for you. Also know that secondhand marijuana smoke contains toxins.
The only way to safely inhale cannabinoids and terpenoids is to vaporize whole marijuana or a natural hashish product such as dry sift, rosin, or bubble hash.
Be aware that most chemically-produced dabs, cannabis concentrates, and vape cartridges, other than those made with supercritical C02 extraction and strict testing and controls, contain high levels of toxins from butane and other materials.
Also, any toxins sprayed on or delivered into the cannabis plants during growth are concentrated and made more dangerous during dab processing.
The key for your health is to use a precision vaporizer and whole cannabis, with the vape set no higher than 383°F. This temperature volatilizes THC, CBD, THCA, CBDA and most cannabis terpenoids, but doesn’t create benzene and other toxins.
Don’t trust the accuracy of your vaporizer temperature settings. I measured the internal bowl temperature of my vaporizer using an infrared thermometer, and found it was 2-3 degrees hotter than the digital setting I dialed in, so now I set my vaporizer to 380°F max.
If your vape bowl temperature is higher than 383°F, your bud is approaching the borders of combustion territory. Benzene, for example, is released at 401°F.
Using a vaporizer below combustion temperatures gives you very different inhalation and psychoactive experiences than combusting cannabis. In a future article, we’ll explore the shockingly hilarious fact that what you think of as a cannabis high includes toxic reactions from combustion poisoning!
As much as we all love smoking weed, the stark reality is that putting a flame to cannabis and inhaling smoke delivers toxins into you, even if you’re using a water bong. And if you’re smoking blunts, you’re either smoking paper, or tobacco blunt wrappers, which equals: more poisons.
It isn’t just your lungs and throat you’re hurting when you inhale smoke, it’s your liver and other essential organs. You could end up dead. If you love yourself, you will avoid combusting marijuana.