5 Common Cannabis Habits Harming Your Health

Whether consuming for recreational or medicinal purposes, cannabis use can be both an enjoyable and therapeutic experience. Unfortunately, improper consumption methods can negate some of the positive effects, and even be harmful to health.

As MMJ users know, there are no set “guidelines” provided when purchasing cannabis at a dispensary. There may be some literature to follow, but it is generally vague and lacking basic how-to usage information. Budtenders may not have the time or experience to fully educate patients – and recreational users are at often an even larger disadvantage. Fortunately, avoiding these commonly practiced habits can help reduce risks to health.

Common health threat #1: Smoking contaminated cannabis

As legal cannabis continues to become more mainstream, awareness of pesticide contamination is coming into the spotlight among health officials. Many pesticides commonly used on cannabis are known to be a threat to health. Further, these contaminants carry risks whether the cannabis is ingested, smoked, vaped, or even applied topically.

Forbes notes that there aren’t any pesticide products with federal approval specific to cannabis, but some states like California and Colorado have established lists of acceptable and unacceptable methods of pesticide control. Nevertheless, many reports have found contaminated samples, despite these attempted regulations.

It is therefore critical to carefully source your cannabis. Shop around at different dispensaries and always ask questions about lab testing for pesticides and mold (another common contaminant), in addition to how and where the cannabis was cultivated.

Common health threat #2: Holding in smoke

It’s a common fallacy that holding in smoke after inhaling results in a more potent “high”. Cannabinoids are actually absorbed very quickly through the lungs, reports Sativa Science Club, and the “heady” effect from holding in smoke is really due to a lack of oxygen to the brain. In addition, not exhaling right away can lead to greater irritation of the lungs by exposing them longer to any byproducts from smoking.

Common health threat #3: Improper storage

While many people know that cannabis should be stored in a cool, dark place, there are other factors to consider as well. Be sure to avoid storing cannabis flower in plastic since this can damage the trichomes, which contain the highly desired cannabinoids and terpenoids, says Leafly. While this may not technically harm your health, it will lessen any therapeutic benefits.

Also, avoid storing cannabis in the refrigerator. While this may seem like an ideal cool and dark place, the temperature and humidity fluctuation due to high traffic as well as light pollution can all negatively impact storage conditions and can even lead to mold.  Cigar humidors are also not the best place to store, as the cedar wood can taint cannabis flavor.

Common health threat #4: Ineffective cleaning of your bong/bubbler/dab rig

Dirty glassware is more than just an aesthetic issue – it can also be harboring mold, bacteria, and carcinogenic compounds, according to Sativa Science Club. The dark, moist environment inside any type of water pipe is conducive to such growth and should be thoroughly cleaned at least once weekly. While rare, researchers have linked dirty bong water to bacterial and fungal infections, and even necrotic pneumonia, a serious health condition.

There are many commercial cleaners on the market, but DIY cleaning is easy, inexpensive, and just as effective. Mix 91 percent to 99 percent isopropyl alcohol with salt is and let glassware soak (15 minutes to overnight). Shake vigorously, rinse thoroughly with water with mild soap and let dry.

Common health threat #5: Always doing the same method of consumption

Cannabis research is still limited, with few studies available on the long-term effects on health. As a result, there is a lack of substantial, conclusive evidence on the full impact of cannabis use. For instance, much of the research done on cannabis smoke inhalation is flawed, as the studies do not control for tobacco usage, or the quality of cannabis being smoked, etc.

To mitigate the potentially unknown harmful effects of cannabis smoke, experts recommend using a variety of consumption methods, such as vaporizing, edibles, and tinctures in addition to smoke inhalation.

For many cannabis users, it’s common to stick to one or two preferred “tried and true” methods of consumption. For example, a bong may have been one’s first introduction into cannabis use, and it’s become a habitual and reliably consistent method of use even many years later. However, even many habitual cannabis consumers may find they greatly enjoy trying out different methods of consumption, and even begin “layering” combination methods to find the ideal recreational or medicinal effect.