Marijuana Smoking & Cancer – Everything You Need to Know

Marijuana is becoming legal in more states in the United States. While consuming the herb has many health benefits, there are some concerns related to its downsides. One is—does smoking marijuana link to cancer? Consuming the herb while living in California for medicinal purposes requires a 420 card. Without a medical card, you are not allowed to consume marijuana as a medical treatment option as per the marijuana laws. 

Well, there’s no solid scientific research related to this available. However, there’s some evidence that cannabis smoke contains many harmful chemicals as cigarette smoke. Thus, smoking marijuana can cause some risks to lung health. Let’s have a comprehensive discussion on the topic. 

Effects of Smoking Marijuana on Lung Health

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is one of the major risks associated with lung cancer. In the United States, about 80-90 percent of all lung cancer deaths occur due to cigarette smoking. There are over 7000 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke. However, other tobacco products can also increase the risks of lung cancer.

Some studies have found that when you smoke cannabis, it generates the same chemicals as tobacco smoke. Some of them include benzo(a)pyrene, Benz (a)anthracene, phenols, vinyl chlorides, and nitrosamines.

There are several reasons why marijuana smokers are at a high risk of developing lung problems. One is they inhale the smoke deeply, thus toxins have more contact with the lungs.

Additionally, most of the people smoke marijuana through joints. When you burn a joint, it produces sticky stuff known as tar, which is harmful to lung health.

However, scientists have found that there are some risks to the development of cancer in the future in regular cannabis smokers.

Regular marijuana smoking can also lead to physical airway damage and bronchitis. According to the American Lung Association, inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke can cause lung cancer.

Some case studies show that smoking cannabis can lead to lung infections, including pneumonia in patients with immune deficiencies. This usually happens due to the immune-suppressing properties of THC, the major psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.

Contrary to that, some studies say that marijuana smoke is different from tobacco smoke. The cannabis plant contains THC and CBD, which have amazing anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties.

Thus, large-scale studies are required to determine how exactly marijuana affects lung health and whether it causes cancer.

portratit scientist mask glasses checking cannabis

What Does The American Cancer Society Have To Say?

Since most of the marijuana smokers are also cigarette smokers. So, it’s hard to determine the effects of marijuana smoking on lung cancer. Additionally, with cigarette smoking, people tend to smoke less cannabis. So, it’s not easy to evaluate how marijuana impacts lung health. More research is required to know the risks of cancer from smoking cannabis.

According to the American Cancer Society, marijuana is still illegal in some places. So, it may contain other chemicals, which can cause various health issues.

Smokeless Methods of Cannabis Consumption

To avoid the health issues associated with smoking cannabis, you can opt for some smokeless methods to consume the herb. These are-


Vaping is considered a safe way to deliver cannabinoids into the body quickly. A vaporizer is used for converting cannabis into vapors, which are inhaled through the mouthpiece. One major advantage of vaporization is that cannabis is heated at a lower temperature than smoking. This can help preserve active ingredients, and also the original taste of marijuana.

Dabbing is a popular form of vaping, which allows consumers to receive cleaner, more powerful hits. Cannabis concentrates contain about 80-90 percent of THC while flowers contain about 20 percent of THC.


Edibles are brownies, chocolate bars, coffees, pizzas, etc. infused with cannabinoids. So, you can eat marijuana to manage your symptoms. However, edibles don’t work the same way as smoking or vaping. When you eat cannabis, the active ingredients are absorbed in the digestive system before reaching the bloodstream and brain. So, it takes 30-90 minutes to feel the effects of edibles. Also, cannabis-infused edibles last longer than other consumption methods.

So, it would help if you dosed edibles properly to get the required health benefits.


These are marijuana extracts with a solvent—alcohol or glycerine. Alcohol-based tinctures are absorbed faster than tinctures made from glycerine. Tinctures allow consumers to dose cannabis properly, thus avoiding the risks of overdose.

At medical dispensaries, you can find a wide range of cannabis tinctures with different levels of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. For beginners, we recommend starting with low doses of CBD tinctures. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which is known for providing anti-inflammatory and relaxing effects without causing as high effects as THC.


Topicals are popular for providing localized relief from pain, aches, and inflammation. These include creams, lotions, balms, etc. infused with THC and CBD. Topicals work by binding to receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. Most topicals don’t reach the bloodstream. However, transdermal patches can reach the bloodstream and thus can cause high effects associated with THC.

Cannabis Can Help Ease Chemotherapy Risks

The medicinal properties of marijuana can help in managing the side effects of cancer chemotherapy. These include pain, nausea, inflammation, mood swings, constipation, fatigue, itching, weight loss, etc.

There are two marijuana-based drugs approved in the United States. These are Dronabinol (Marinol®) and Nabilone (Cesamet®). Another cannabinoid drug Nabiximols is still under research in the United States. It is a mouth spray containing THC and CBD. It’s approved in Canada and some parts of Europe for managing cancer-related pain and MS-related muscle spasms and pain.

However, some studies have reported that cannabis cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD can help slow the growth of cancer cells.

According to the American Cancer Society, they support more research on marijuana for cancer. Additionally, there’s a need for more effective treatment plans for cancer patients and managing side effects associated with cancer chemotherapy.

Marijuana Legality in The United States

Hemp CBD Growing

As per federal regulations, marijuana is still illegal and listed as a Schedule 1 Drug. However, many states have legalized cannabis in some form. For instance, the medical use of cannabis is legal in 33 US states currently. That means, by getting a 420 card in a cannabis-legalized state, you can legally buy, possess, and use marijuana for medical purposes.

To get a medical marijuana card, you must be diagnosed with a condition listed in your state’s MMJ qualifying conditions. You can talk to an MMJ doctor and get evaluated.

With telemedicine technology, it has become very easy to apply for 420 evaluations online. That means you can see a doctor online and receive your MMJ rec letter in PDF via email. It takes less than 10 minutes. The process includes-

  • Sign up for an account
  • Talk to a licensed doctor through HIPAA-compliant software
  • Receive MMJ recs via email

Key Takeaways

Cannabis smoke contains many toxins and carcinogens present in tobacco smoke. Thus, it can damage lung health. Some experts believe that cannabis smokers are at high risk of lung cancer. This is because they inhale the smoke deeply, thus toxins remain in contact with the lungs longer. Additionally, the majority of consumers prefer joints, and burning joints produces tar, which is not good for lung health.

If you want to use cannabis for health benefits, such as anxiety relief, pain management, etc. along with reducing risks of smoking, prefer other consumption methods. These include vaping, tinctures, edibles, etc.

See a doctor online to get your 420 card.

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