A new study done by researchers at Johns Hopkins University is giving cannabis consumers scientific confirmation on something they’ve already figured out: vaping cannabis gets you really high. The researchers were looking at the cognitive, psychomotor, and cardiovascular effects of vaporized marijuana compared to traditionally smoked marijuana. To no one’s surprise, they found that vaping cannabis gets you higher than smoking flower.
Previous Studies on Consumption Methods
Previous studies done on the topic were flawed, which made the data unconvincing or not applicable to a larger population. Some studies had participants inhale for 5 seconds and then hold the hit for 10 seconds, which doesn’t necessarily replicate a realistic smoking experience. Other studies used cannabis products with low levels of THC, or they had small sample sizes. Previous studies also used participants who were frequent cannabis consumers and had them subjectively report their experience. Given that the participants were accustomed to the feeling of being high, it could have skewed the results.
What Did They Find?
The participants in this study were infrequent marijuana consumers, meaning they had not used cannabis in the last 30 days and they were able to pass a urine screen. The 17 participants were screened and tested before the study started to make sure they were healthy and not on any substances. The researchers administered tests to get baseline levels of psychomotor, cognitive, and cardiovascular performance for each participant.
While participating in the study, participants smoked cannabis for three sessions and vaped cannabis for the other three sessions. During one session, the participants were exposed to 0 mg of THC. During another session, they were exposed to 10 mg of THC, and then they were exposed to 25 mg of THC in another session. The participants and researchers were both unaware of the THC dosage given and the method of consumption that was being used. Participants inhaled vapor from a balloon and smoked flower from a pipe where the plant material was covered with a metal top, so no bias could affect the results.
They found that after vaping cannabis, participants experienced stronger subjective psychoactive effects, a higher THC concentration in their blood, impairment of psychomotor and cognitive functions, and increased heart rate.
What This Means for Cannabis
Anyone who has consumed marijuana concentrates can tell you they’re potent, but now there’s data to back up that claim. These results are important because they could help inform consumers, inspire future cannabis studies, and affect regulations on cannabis products.
The study showed vaping left a higher concentration of THC in the participants’ blood, which means it probably isn’t a great idea to vape cannabis if you have a blood drug test coming up in the near future. Vaping also caused an increase in heart rate, so anyone with a heart issue should be aware of any potential complications. Infrequent or inexperienced cannabis consumers may not be aware of the different effects caused by vaping vs. smoking, so these results could help them make an informed decision.
There’s still so much to learn about cannabis. We’ve started learning more about THC and CBD, but there’s so much about the cannabis plant that we don’t know yet. Learning about potency and consumption methods could inform studies on the way vaping affects your brain or why it increases your heart rate. This plant has so much untapped potential that we need to dive into.
It’s possible that cannabis regulations could be affected as well. Given that marijuana products are not currently regulated by the FDA, it’s hard to standardize an entire labeling and potency system across all the legal states. If this study inspires more studies on marijuana consumption methods, that could help get the ball rolling on figuring out what information needs to be labeled on marijuana products.
An inexperienced cannabis consumer on a trip to Colorado might be interested in buying a vape pen and cannabis oil cartridge, but they might not know how potent vaping is. If we labeled products with more relevant information, consumers would be able to make be able to make more informed decisions.
Take the Good with the Bad
While learning more about cannabis could positively affect consumers and the industry, it could also give more fuel to anti-cannabis groups. There are bound to be negative effects or qualities discovered through cannabis research, and anti-cannabis individuals and groups could use that information to further their cause.
Regulations on the cannabis industry could also be taken to the extreme. Instead of giving consumers the relevant information and letting them make their own decisions, packaging and testing standards could be raised to unattainable levels.
Studying cannabis is necessary, exciting, and informative, but it can also create a new set of problems.