Is Weed Bad for You?

French Inhale Smoke

I get the question of “Is weed bad for you?” a lot and first off, let me start by saying I am not a licensed medical professional and this is purely my own opinion. Now that we have that out of the way, I will say this: I am someone who researches all aspects of a substance targeted for medical use prior to its usage.

This much can be guaranteed: we have all had that experience of a doctor prescribing us something that we have never heard of before and so we spent a decent amount of time googling its indications, side effects, and warnings. Well, I am the guy who will stay up all night researching each individual ingredient that makes up that previously unknown drug with the name that is always super hard to pronounce.

While there will be many people who will look at the title and write it off thinking, “Duh, anything you smoke, inhale, and is labelled as a Schedule 1 narcotic, is without a doubt terrible for you,” I believe that medical cannabis should be treated with a less medical, and a more medicinal approach. So, when it comes to my own opinion, marijuana, or whatever you prefer to call it, is like any other drug: beneficial to those who use it properly to gain its intended effect.

Let’s first go over the common perception of smoking. This is by far the most traditional way to introduce delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) into your system. The reality is that smoking, in general, is not good for you. Any organic matter that is combusted is going to produce carcinogens. These are chemicals that are known to have a high chance of causing cancer in humans.

Don’t write weed off just yet, however, because the findings themselves blur the line of cannabis as strictly unhealthy. While cannabis, as any other organic materials, does produce carcinogens, studies have found that in light or moderate usage it cannot be linked to an increased risk of cancer:

“Although marijuana smoke contains a number of carcinogens and cocarcinogens, findings from a limited number of well-designed epidemiological studies do not suggest an increased risk for the development of either lung or upper airway cancer from light or moderate use, although evidence is mixed concerning possible carcinogenic risks of heavy, long-term use.” (Tashkin, 2013)

Now the first thing we ask ourselves after reading this is, “What differentiates light, moderate, and heavy use?” That’s where things get tricky because there are a lot of different ways of introducing the main psychoactive component of weed into your body; some of which are not even smoking. These different methods of THC uptake are thought to be differentiated due to the levels of carcinogens they block from getting into your system. For instance, a common misconception is that smoking via a bong or water pipe filters the smoke as it passes through the water somehow making the smoke healthier.

“The smoke from the burning marijuana bubbles through the water, where it is cooled. However, the particulate ingredients of the tar are water insoluble and hence not removed by the water,” (Douglas, 2015).

So then, frequency aside (if you smoke an ounce a day I’m sure it is safe to say you’re a heavy user) the method by which you consume your cannabis is really what dictates where you fall amongst the spectrum of light, moderate, to heavy user, and where you are in terms of risks to your health. To limit the number of carcinogens you are exposing to your airways, there are alternative methods of introducing THC to your body. One can use edibles or even vaporize the weed, greatly lowering the risks associated with smoking in the first place.

“Vaporizers also exist, capable of heating marijuana to precise temperatures below those that cause pyrolysis (i.e., less than ?230C). These models generate a vapor containing active cannabinoids and largely, but not completely, devoid of the noxious particulates in marijuana smoke,” (Douglas, 2015).

Circling back around to the point I made clear at the start of the article, that weed “is like any other drug: beneficial to those who use it properly to gain its intended effect;” this for me still holds true. If you smoke weed in a joint, you’re going to get high, but the intended effect is also the same as that of a cigarette; you get the good with the bad that harsh smoke with those harsh carcinogens. If you want a thin, wispy vapor that is lacking a lot of the thick smoke and carcinogens that joints and bongs produce then vaporizing is a healthier option. If you want to circumvent smoking all together then just eat a brownie!

Overall, I think labeling weed as “healthy” should be considered on a per person basis. It may seem healthy to some people who have a different idea of health than others. Weed may help one person to have a healthier lifestyle mentally, which is where that person needs its effects. Another person may see the negative risks of marijuana on one’s physical health as outweighing the beneficial effects, and therefore, completely unhealthy to begin with. In this way, viewing weed as “healthy”, like all things in life, is purely subjective until more concrete facts break our preconceptions. Ultimately, the only person who can answer the question of if weed is healthy for You is You, so go do some of your research, form an opinion, and use legally and accordingly!


Article By: Peter Novakovic