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Ear to the Ground

Study Says Moderate Marijuana Smoking Doesn’t Hurt Lungs

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Posted on Jan 11, 2012
Wikimedia Commons / Bogdan

Now, before you rush out and follow Snoop Dogg’s lead, you might read the fine print about a new NIH-funded study about moderate long-term marijuana use and its effects (or lack thereof) on lung function. On the other hand, the study makes a strong case for giving up cigarettes and rolling a joint.

This significant new study suggests that pot enthusiasts who enjoy a joint a day may not encounter the kinds of health issues that habitual cigarette smokers, or those who mix their weed with tobacco, risk after years of use. Heavier indulgence may pose problems, but the take-away here is that the smoke signals we’ve been getting about marijuana might have been misleadingly negative, and we’re not just talking about “Reefer Madness” here.  —KA

The New York Times:

The new research is one of the most extensive looks to date at whether long-term marijuana use causes pulmonary damage, and specifically whether its impact on the lungs is as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The researchers followed more than 5,000 people over two decades and found that regularly smoking marijuana — the equivalent of up to a joint a day over seven years — did not impair performance on a lung function test. The test, a measure of pulmonary obstruction that looks at the amount of air a person can force out in one second after taking a deep breath, is typically worsened by smoking tobacco.

[...] The researchers found that for marijuana smokers, an exposure of up to seven “joint years” — with one joint-year equivalent to smoking 365 joints or filled pipes, or an average of one joint a day for seven years — did not worsen pulmonary function. Dr. Kertesz noted that with heavier marijuana use, described as 10 joint-years of exposure or more, lung function did begin to decline. And for a person who smokes both marijuana and cigarettes, “the net effect is going to be continued loss of lung function.”

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By Green Smoke Reviews, March 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

It would be wise to first consider who is funding the research into the long term marijuana use. I believe that all research is definitely biased in one way or another. They might be releasing information about the positive sides of marijuana smoking, while totally avoiding the negative sides.

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By heterochromatic, January 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

GT- and maybe if you hadn’t been too wasted you might
have remembered the rest.

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By GoyToy, January 13, 2012 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

The weed brings out creativity. I wrote this gem after just a few tokes:

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.”

AND oh yes, I forget, this:

“It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
`By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?


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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, January 13, 2012 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

It don’t take no rocket scientist to tell me this, but I have done me own Study which concludes….. Moderate amounts of Tequila don’t Hurt my Lungs either, and the added fact is,....Tequila dont smell like a skunk!

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By heterochromatic, January 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment

there’s little or no reason to outlaw personal use of marijuana.

and there is no great benefit to spending large amounts of your time consuming
the shit either.

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, January 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment

Dear “they call me the working man”:

Just want to say I like your name.  That is a really cool Rush song,
off the first album I do believe. Haven’t thought about it in years. 
Thanks for the memories.


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By D.R. Zing, January 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment

Yeah, I’m torn with this issue. 

The drug war is insane and should be stopped.

Possessing or cultivating marijuana for personal use should not be a

But, yeah, when you read about the part of the brain marijuana acts upon
. . . well, that’s the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible
for judgement, emotions, memory, sexual arousal and so forth. 

So, you know, if there is mental illness in your family, you might want
to think long and hard before saying marijuana is safe for you to use. 

That said,  there are judges, lawyers, doctors, computer scientists,
professional athletes, even psychiatrists who smoke regularly, so you
can’t just say it’s a dangerous drug across the board. Some people can
use it and function just fine.  Others have serious problems. Same as alcohol.

Personally, for me it will be a great day when scientists produce
conclusive results on the effects of marijuana on the limbic system.  It
will be great to know: How does long term use affect the brain? Why do some
people use it without a problem?  Why do others go off the deep-end?
Why do people who smoke it morning, noon and night insist it is not
addictive?  (Reminds me of that old Richard Pryor joke, something like:
Cocaine’s not addictive. I’ve been snorting it for 10 years and
I ain’t hooked.)

Still. I do want to reiterate the drug war is nuts.  It is a waste of money.
It set the stage for the war on terror. It set the stage for destroying
our civil liberties. And, if the Democrats are serious about wanting the
Libertarian vote, then Democrats should make decriminalizing marijuana
a part of their platform. It’s an easy call that would shore up the
progressive vote as well. 

Dig peace. Don’t bury it.

D.R. Zing

More on the limbic system is here:

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By they call me the working man, January 12, 2012 at 9:28 am Link to this comment

These anti weed posters are freaking stressed. They should definitely avoid recreational drugs.

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By Anonymous, January 12, 2012 at 7:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The building is “smoke free.”  People are still allowed to smoke on their balconies, which makes everyone else have to close their windows, particularly when the person chooses to smoke marijuana (which is rather smelly and unpleasant, like doing something unnatural with a skunk - the funny thing is these people stink themselves afterward, and apparently don’t know or don’t care).  And people smoke in their apartments, too, even when the rules say don’t.

As for music, what gives you the right to play your stereo so loud other people can hear it in their own apartments?  Are you paying rent for the apartments you are making noise in?  Keep your music to yourself.  I don’t make you hear mine, don’t make me hear yours.

The core of the argument is that marijuana smokers, much like people with loud stereos, are only interested in themselves and their own selfish interests.  They either do not care or can not conceive that their actions are affecting other people.

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By diman, January 12, 2012 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

“Marijuana can be fun and thought provoking”

Oh really??? You know what is also thought provoking? Reading! Have you ever tried that? Try, you might like it better. And just a random thought, this myth about marijuana provoking thoughts is highly overrated, you can tell this just by looking on today’s teens getting wasted on it and I bet you they don’t have a single thought in their empty heads.

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By Big B, January 12, 2012 at 6:08 am Link to this comment

So pot does not damage your lungs. Neither does alcohol, or most other recreational drugs. They should, of course all be legal. However that doesn’t mean you should use them.

No, your lungs will be fine. It’s your brain that will be fried. Stop advocating the use of any drug as “recreation”. If you have to take drugs or drink alcohol to make it through the day, you need to make changes to you life. Because as anyone that ever tried to drink a problem away will tell you, yes while your stoned you will forget you troubles for awhile, but when you wake up the next day, your problem is still there and now you have a headache.

Just because something is legal doesn’t mean you should do it.

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By Sister Lauren, January 12, 2012 at 1:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In case you missed it,

Infant mortality rate bombshell study!

Pot is safe. The laws outlawing it have been fabricated to catch people based on
race and religion. I figured it all out doing research on Native America. I
recognized that pot law was a ruse to attack Native Americans, and was such a
good marker for them as to be very effective.

I’m calling the drug war ethnic cleansing. Am I angry? Yes, of course I am. I stood up to legalize my religion and the local cops informed me I didn’t have the right.
Then they set out to destroy me and my family with the help of their friends.

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By lasmog, January 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm Link to this comment

And if their music had bothered you and your family you would be in favor of outlawing music?

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By LetsUseLogic, January 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

FAR more people DIE due to inadequate health care in the US, than do smoking marijuana. Think about that for a moment. Using that logic, should we make healthcare illegal?

The US has the highest per-capita prison population of ALL modern nations. A majority of which are ‘non-violent’ possession related drug offenses. It is a HUGE and profitable business in the US, and also has an extremely strong lobbying position in Washington to ensure it remains profitable. In recent years, a few judges have been caught funneling the innocent into the prison system for kickbacks. When money reigns the prison system, corruption will exist.

In reality deaths associated with Marijuana use are practically non-existent. It is statistically insignificant, though smoking anything is certainly NOT healthy and certainly can contribute to medical complications.. Tobacco on the other hand is obviously worse for you and is proven so. Considering all the junk the manufacturers stick into their product beyond the tobacco itself to help enhance it’s addictive qualities, and even add misc fillers to help lower the cost of the product. The health affects of the fillers are another matter.

Don’t want smoke in your apartment? Make sure it is a smoke-free building.  Don’t like marijuana? Don’t smoke it. Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke it.

Prohibition does not work, and it never will no matter how much money is wasted on the effort. As long as there is demand (despite the legal environment), it will be available.  As long as it remains illegal, the profits will continue to funnel to the drug cartels, rather than to local governments through taxation and regulation.

A few things to think about.

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By they call me the working man, January 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

A country with intelligent people that believed in freedom would never have outlawed weed, regardless of any of this.

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By Anonymous, January 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m sure this will drift into a discussion about legalizing marijuana, so I thought I’d offer an alternative perspective.

I live in Vancouver, B.C., where marijuana is highly tolerated.  Like many other people here, we (wife and son) live in an apartment.  The people below us smoked marijuana 3 to 5 times a day, seven days a week.  We know this because the smell would come into our apartment.  It’s pretty unpleasant waking up at 2am and being unable to breathe because of the smell of skunk in the room (a characteristic smell of locally grown marijuana).  It’s even worse explaining to my ten year old son why he has to smell it in his bedroom.

We were able to have the people evicted, but only because technically smoking marijuana is illegal.  If it wasn’t, we would not have been able to get them evicted, since it would be just like smoking tobacco. 

I used to be in favor of legalizing marijuana, as the “War on Drugs” just makes the wrong people rich and waste lives and resources.  After having to put up with the stench and having to talk to my son about the dangers of drugs while he smells drugs IN HIS BEDROOM from someone that doesn’t even live in our home, I no longer support legalizing it.  Doing so would take away the last remaining defense in protecting our children from other people’s second-hand drug smoke.  As a society, it’s not the message we want to send to children.

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