Is It the THC That Makes It Mellower?

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A staple of anti-pot propaganda in recent years has been the implication that marijuana poses more of a cancer risk than tobacco because a joint contains more carcinogens than a cigarette. One problem with this scare tactic is that it ignores patterns of use: The typical pot smoker lights up far less often than the typical cigarette smoker. Another problem is that epidemiological research has not verified an elevated cancer risk among people who smoke only marijuana. A research review in the October 18 issue of Harm Reduction Journal suggests one possible reason for this (aside from dosage): THC, marijuana's main psychoactive ingredient, seems to reduce the effect of carcinogens in pot smoke, whereas nicotine seems to enhance the effect of carcinogens in tobacco smoke.

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  1. I am not sure how the public in general would react to accurate information wrt Marijuana, but that the government is blocking effective studies of marijuana, and no politicians seem to be against is, even in this current climate, shocking. Can no one at least argue that we should get good scientific evidence for marijuana?
    I hope Bush’s anti-science agenda will produce a backlash, but I have been waiting for a long time.

  2. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, fuckers!

  3. Hm. I wonder if the tobacco companies will start lobbying for the right to add small, non-psychoactive amounts of THC to cigarettes, in order to decrease their carcinogenic effect…

  4. Jon H! LOL! I love it!

  5. This isn’t Bush’s drug war. It propaganda has been going on since Hearst owned all the media and Nancy Reagan’s got nothing on Reefer Madness.

    The drug war didn’t stop during the Clinton administration. I don’t know if it’s pharmecuetical lobbing funds, or the desire of government to control everything including and not limited to your mind, but no one in the major parties seems remotely interested in ending this BS.

    To blame Bush for the state of things in this case is an incredible oversimplification for the sake of all things bad=Bush.

  6. But… uhhh… drugs’re bad, mmmkay?

  7. I think, for one, that this needs to be tested more thoroughly.

    You know, like right now, in the comfort of my home. I’ll take one for the team.

  8. Gary, I’ll take part in that study.

    For the sake of the kids, of course!

  9. Actually, of all the carcinogens in tobacco smoke, there are really only two classes of them that play a major role in tobacco carcinogenesis — the polycycic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and the tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs). Cannabis smoke does have PAH’s, but they do not have TSNA’s. A variety of evidence shows that the TSNAs are major contributers to the smoking related cancer risk. And since cannabis smoke lacks TSNAs, it is automatically expected that cannabis should not pose the same cancer risks.

    BTW, it wasn’t too widely reported in the media, but the largest epidemiological study to date, as reported by Donald Tashkin et al at the last annual conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society, indicates ZERO increased pulmonary cancer risk. In fact, all of the odds ratios were UNDER 1, and in one cases, the less than 1 OR was statistically significant. Even I find this surprising, but Tasnkin is easily one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of drug use on the pulmonary system.

  10. Gary,

    Pass me some of that study, would you? And could someone order a pizza?

  11. theCoach – I talked an unbelieveable amount of smack about John Kerry around this time last year, so let me take his side for once, and say that he has in fact spoken out against the DEA’s interference and obstructionism with regards to marijuana research.

    That said, he hasn’t exactly been banging the drum for Congressional hearings.

  12. Patrick S,

    Why do you hate America’s children?

  13. Because a lot of our parents smoke dope in the basement.

  14. IF everyone ate pot brownies, would that be okay???

  15. Jacob, I gotta part company with you on this one. People who smoke dope suck that smoke way, way down into the furthest reaches of their lungs and hold it there for a really long time. Usually until they cough it out because they can’t hold it no more.

    Your talking harsh frikkin’ tobbaky smoked without a filter that leaves you with a sore throat the next day. There is no way that pot smoke is less dangerous than cigarette smoke.

    A couple of possible exceptions:

    If it’s two-hit weed. That ain’t so bad and I could see an argument that the better the quality of weed the less the health risk.

    The casual user like a casual cigar smoker is likely to get by with little ill effects.

  16. indicates ZERO increased pulmonary cancer risk

    I know man, it wasn’t the pot, it was the cigarettes that got me.

  17. Cocaine is NOT addicting and you can’t OVERDOSE. Ask anyone.

  18. Maybe Wacky Tabacky won’t give you cancer right away.

    But after you get thrown in jail for smoking it; you’ll get some nasty diseases after you’re raped.

    -If the Albertson’s assistant manager sees you going into a Safeway to buy Coors, he’ll give you a nasty look.

    -If your Acapulco Gold dealer sees you buy ganja from a different dealer, he’ll shoot you and the other dealer.

  19. People who smoke dope suck that smoke way, way down into the furthest reaches of their lungs and hold it there for a really long time. Usually until they cough it out because they can’t hold it no more.

    Oh, bullshit.

  20. They still have Alcapulco Gold?

  21. Jacob, I gotta part company with you on this one. People who smoke dope suck that smoke way, way down into the furthest reaches of their lungs and hold it there for a really long time. Usually until they cough it out because they can’t hold it no more.

    Only if you’re wishing for a bronchial mutiny. There’s no need to do that, and those that do for more than a couple seconds are merely following an old wives’ tale that’s been debunked for at least a few years now. Those same people also think a bong also nets you a better high.

  22. John, we hear about the violent pot dealers shooting people all the time, right? Please pull your head out.

    After you pull your head out, please notice that all of the ill effects you ascribe to pot are, in fact, the ill effects of enforcing stupid laws.

  23. Rich Ard, Bullshit? So you and Clinton don’t inhale?

    It is silly to pretend that there are no health risks in smoking dope or to minimize or dismiss those risks. Reality is what it is. There are health risks.

    We can sit around an argue about how serious they are but you’re not going to get much of an answer since there isn’t much research. But in the same way you can pretty much figure that five packs of smokes a day did Steve McQueen in, you can figure that if you smoke enough pot you’re going to have some lung problems.

    The wise course to follow is to acknowledge that there is some risk (fer christs sake you’re sucking smoke into your lungs what exactly do you think is going to happen?). Then to push for PRIVATE studies of the risks as a part of a legalization effort.

  24. IF everyone ate pot brownies, would that be okay???

    Did someone say BROWNIES?

  25. Sure, there’s risk — if you’re sedentary and don’t exercise at all, sure. But most daily smokers I’ve known have been quite alright for the decade plus I’ve been around them.

    Of course, they also take responsibility in keeping their bodies in shape and don’t smoke it 24/7, either. Daily, sure, but not ALL day.

  26. Z, I can’t speak for John but I think he was using a fable to illustrate the same point you just made.

    What? Bongs are out? Sheesh, I’m always the last to know these things.

  27. also think a bong also nets you a better high

    It doesn’t? Does it yield a lesser one?

  28. Bongs are better because the water smoothes out the smoke. Filling it with crushed ice is cool, too. I’ve been told.

  29. (And when I say “bong” I’m talking about a modest little hookah, not those ridiculously enormous Graffix things that require multiple people to operate. As a woman, I am thankfully free of the need to use oversized bongs to compensate for any perceived Freudian inadequacies on my part.)

  30. boooooong BOOOOOOONG BONG BONG

    BONG BONG
    BONG BONG
    BONG BONG
    BONG BONG

  31. Hey, Z, don’t shoot the messenger!

    What? There’s no more Acapulco Gold?

    What’s the point of NAFTA if it’s not going to make Acapulco Gold cheaper?

  32. Heh. Bongs may be mellower, sure, but there’s no net gain or loss in actual high. That’s the point I was attempting to make with that throwaway statement.

  33. Doesn’t matter. The minute ‘health’ concerns over products of any kind became political footballs, it’s all fair game. We may not like it, but sometimes a slippery slope IS a slippery slope.

    For instance, you teach open ended tolerance of alternate points of view? You have people in the school system pushing Intelligent Design as ‘an alternate point of view’.

    What surprises me, is that this surprises people.

    Paul

  34. Patrick S, you have a cite for that study? (other than Fred Gardner). I’ve read that, but I want to see it in a peer-reviewed journal.

  35. I recall a cartoon of a decrepit, feeble old man, hunched over, sitting in his underwear on a medical examination table. The doctor there says to him:

    You know those years you added to your life by not smoking, drinking, or doing drugs? Well, these are those years.

  36. If your Acapulco Gold dealer sees you buy ganja from a different dealer, he’ll shoot you and the other dealer.

    Pucking Christ. No dealer is going to shoot you because you buy pot from someone else. Matter of fact, unless you’re buying meth from some tweeky white-trash, nobody is going to shoot you for buying anything from anyone else. Not only is there the chilling effect that this would have on future business, there’s the fact that cops tend to take an unsolved murder a lot more seriously than they do some guy selling pot small time. The fact that you don’t approve of their actions doesn’t make you suddenly smarter than them, especially when it comes to the techniques they use when plying their trade.

  37. Should have been “Fucking.” Damn typos.

  38. Did something (anything) happen in the seventies?

  39. So you and Clinton don’t inhale?

    Not in the same room – but let me spin this one around on you:

    Most wine drinkers stay up late in the night debating Sartre and Dostoevsky.

    Nice mental image – but it’s bullshit, just like all those stoners hacking their lungs out in mom’s basement.

  40. And just to clarify, those winos aren’t debating Sartre v. Dostoevsky. Although if anyone’s up for it, I’ll gladly sit on the sidelines and laugh.

  41. Rich Ard! OUCH!

    Actually those winos are debating the fine points of objectivist philosophy as it relates to the modern libertarian movement (or some such bullshit) or, more to the point, the fine points of the female anatomy (unless of course, the company is mixed, then the male winos adjourn to the foyer where they discuss said female anatomy and somebody pulls some cigars or a joint out of a jacket pocket and offers it/them around).

    Wine, makes you see things how they really are.

  42. Do winos every adjoun to the foyer?

    I must miss the best parties.

  43. Do winos really “adjoun to the foyer?”

    I must miss the best parties.

  44. Ah, thought i caught that before it went through.

  45. daksya asked:

    “Patrick S, you have a cite for that study? (other than Fred Gardner). I’ve read that, but I want to see it in a peer-reviewed journal.”

    daksya, these results were recently presented at the ICRS conference and have not yet to my knowledge been published. I would expect these results to appear in a journal like Cancer Causes and Control sometime early 2006. The conference presentation should be cited as:

    Morgenstern H, et al. Marijuana use and cancers of the lung and upper aerodigestive tract: results of a case-control study. Presentation at the ICRS Conference on Cannabinoids, 24-27 June, Clearwater, USA.

    There is a brief abstract available at:

    http://www.cannabis-med.org/english/bulletin/ww_en_db_cannabis_artikel.php?id=196

    There is already a good bit of peer-reviewed epidemiological study of the effects of cannabis smoking on cancer risk of “aerodigestive” tract, though few that include a decent sample of lung cancer cases, for instance:

    Llewellyn et al, 2004. An analysis of risk factors for oral cancer in young people: a case-control study. Oral Oncology 40, 304-313.

    Rosenblatt et al, 2004. Marijuana Use and Risk of Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Cancer Research 64, 4049-4054.

    Sidney et al, 1997b. Marijuana use and cancer incidence (California, United States). Cancer Causes and Control 8(5), 722-728.

    Also, a good literature review by Tashkin, Morgenstern, Zhang and others (the leading experts in this area)of the issue was published in the journal Alcohol several months before the ICRS conference, and the result of that review was essentially that “sufficient studies are not available to adequately evaluate marijuana impact on cancer risk.”

    Hashibe et al, 2005. Epidemiologic review of marijuana use and cancer risk. Alcohol 35(3):265-75.

  46. Wine, makes you see things how they really are.

    Uh-huh. That’s why there’s such a strong correlation: the more alcohol a man has consumed, the more attractive a woman has to be before he’ll consider sleeping with her. Right. Of course.

  47. I forgot to change my joke name in that last post. Irony sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

  48. Jennifer,

    Wine, makes you see things how they really are

    okay, well, maybe it was beer. Or just being under the alfluence of incohol.

    proof here

    Actually my use of that claim is a REALLY obsucre attempt to be amusing based upon claims that many of my pothead, ahem, friends made way back in the olden days. IE, Marijuana makes your see things as they really are. Didn’t realize exactly how obscure the joke really is nor did I realize at the time that I’m the only one LOL.

  49. Can’t spell obscure and I’m sure that almost everyone has seen this.

  50. “That said, he hasn’t exactly been banging the drum for Congressional hearings.”

    Probably a good thing, actually. It’d no doubt be a Dem-only affair, and their need to appease all the factions would turn it into a chaotic freakshow, with some dredlocked trustafarian stoner freak or Woody Harrelson getting all the press coverage for some idiotic soundbite, while the substantive testimony gets ignored.

  51. “…five packs of smokes a day did Steve McQueen in…”

    Not true.

    He died from mesothelioma, which results from exposure to asbestos. The PC Popmedia typically changes mesothelioma to “lung cancer,” apparently as part of their WOD propaganda.

  52. Bongs are better because the water smoothes out the smoke. Filling it with crushed ice is cool, too. I’ve been told.

    I remember someone telling me that hot water in a bong filters out the carcinogenic nastiness better, but I’m not sure I want to be holding that particular glass bong without oven mitts.

  53. F Lee: He died from mesothelioma, which results from exposure to asbestos. The PC Popmedia typically changes mesothelioma to “lung cancer,” apparently as part of their WOD propaganda.

    Okay, it was an illustration anyway. So how about the five packs a day that Yul Brenner smoked? His epitaph is reputed to be Don’t Smoke.

    And I’ll buy your assertion that the media and the PC do-gooders report every death of every smoker as having been from smoking related causes. One of which is Humphrey Bogart’s, who, as I recall from Benchley’s early bio, did not die from lung cancer.

    None-the-less, asbestos exposure or not I think it is safe to assume that heavy smoking contributed to McQueen’s death.

    I’m absolutely certain that smoking a few Marlboros a day isn’t going to do you in. But a couple of packs a day over 40 or 50 years is going to have some measurable effect in some way. Worse for some not so bad for others.

  54. Yul Brenner also had the really creepy commerical, where he was like “I’m dead by the time you’re watching this. Don’t smoke.”

  55. If you’ve been exposed to inhale-able asbestos then your doctor will tell you to quit smoking, because asbestos exposure + cigarette smoking increases your risk of lung cancer over asbestos exposure alone. (I remember this from an article I had to write when I worked for a hospital.)

  56. Solitudinarian wrote:
    “I remember someone telling me that hot water in a bong filters out the carcinogenic nastiness better, but I’m not sure I want to be holding that particular glass bong without oven mitts.”

    Suprisingly enough, water pipes do not increase the carcinogen/cannabinoid ratio of cannabis smoke. In one analysis comparing the carcinogen/cannabinoid ratio produced by various smoking devices, the waterpipes yielded 30% higher carcinogen/cannabinoid ratio than the unfiltered joint, showing that waterpipes are actually counterproductive in terms of removing carcinogens (Gieringer, 1996). The water does remove carcinogens, but it removes even more cannabinoids, so though you get less carcinogens per puff, you need more puffs to get the same quantity of cannabinoids, and the net result is you inhale more carcinogens rather than less.

    By far the safest way for the typical user to get cannabinoids is to vaporize cannabis. Vaporization can produce a vapor that is 90% cannabinoids with effectively no carcinogen content (Gieringer, 2001).

    Gieringer, 1996. Marijuana Water Pipe and Vaporizer Study. Newsletter of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 6(3).

    Gieringer, 2001. Cannabis Vaporization: A Promising Strategy for Smoke Harm Reduction. Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics 1(3-4), 153-70.

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