When compared to other legal substances like alcohol, wine, and caffeine, cannabis has a very high margin of safety. In fact, while rare, fatally overdosing on caffeine is entirely possible. No confirmed overdose deaths have ever occurred because of cannabis. Some experts even go as far as to suggest that cannabinoids, when used appropriately, can be considered a dietary supplement with comparable safety to vitamin C.
Is cannabis safe?
The overall safety of cannabis is still disputed. Years of legal barriers to research have made it difficult for scientists to explore the full effects of cannabis on the body and mind.
Cannabis has been used by humans for millennia and the evidence available has yet to find serious, long-term detrimental effects in cannabis consumers.
Yet, cannabis isn’t completely innocent. Depending on how the herb is grown and consumed, some methods of cannabis experimentation may be safer than others.
After chronic smoking, for example, cannabis consumers can develop lung irritation, bronchitis-like symptoms, which may contribute to infection.
Molds and residual pesticides in cannabis bud can also decrease the consumer safety of the herb. Further, bleached rolling papers and plastic pipes can release chemicals into your smoke or vapor as you inhale. Some, like the well-known BPA found in plastic, can mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.
While the herb itself has yet to be firmly associated with significant long-term health effects, there are a few ways to reduce risks while consuming cannabis. Here are 9 tips for making your bud safer:
1. Switch to a vape
Even long-term cannabis use has yet to be linked conclusively to lung cancer. However, it is widely accepted that smoking the herb can cause damage to the large airways in the lungs. Further, cannabis smoke still contains potentially harmful carcinogens, like all forms of smoke.
If you’re a fan of smoking, vaporization is a healthier alternative. Vaporizers heat the herb at low temperatures, just to the point that the psychoactive resin of the plant melts, transforming from a solid into a steam.
While some combustion is still possible in many vaporizers, this process drastically reduces the amount of burning, ashen plant material that you take into your lungs.
For more information on how to smoke weed and keep your lungs healthy, check out the article here.
2. Clean your pieces regularly
Did you know that you can get sick from dirty bong water? That’s right, bongs get moldy. Inhaling mold is no fun, and it can cause temporary feelings of illness and opens up the door to infection. Some of the symptoms of mold toxicity include:
- Light sensitivity
- Rash, skin irritation
- Chest pain
- Lung infection
For heavy consumers, rinsing out your piece and changing the water every day is recommended, along with more thorough cleanings at least once a week. For non-daily consumers, it is recommended to clean your piece before your next smoke sesh.
Want to learn how to clean your bong? Check out the full article here.
3. Store your bud the right way
Moldy bongs are bad, and so is moldy cannabis. To prevent your bud from molding or drying out and becoming too harsh, it’s important to store your herb the right way. Fortunately, storing cannabis is simple. All you need is a size appropriate, air tight glass jar and a dark, cool, and dry place.
For more information on how to store your cannabis, take a look at the article here.
4. Eat a brain-healthy diet
As many cannabis consumers already know, the herb can distort your memory and skew your perception of time. Over time, there is some evidence that cannabis consumers may score worse on short-term verbal memory tests than non-consuming counterparts.
If you’re concerned about this, consider supplementing your diet with brain-boosting foods. These include:
- Fish and seafood
- Red meats
- Dark, leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds (especially hemp and flax seed)
- Olives, olive oil
- Avocados, avocado oil
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Prebiotic foods (onion, artichoke, garlic, leek)
For more information on how to combat cannabis-induced memory loss, take a look at the article here.
5. Take tolerance breaks
One side effect of regular cannabis smoking is tolerance. Tolerance means that the body becomes used to the constant input of THC or other cannabinoids, and you become less sensitive to the effects of the herb.
When your tolerance is really low, just a little cannabis might make you really high. When your tolerance is high, it may take quite a bit of cannabis to achieve the same effect.
Taking a “tolerance break” is a way to maintain sensitivity to the herb. Sometimes called a T-Break, a tolerance break is simply a period of cannabis abstinence. The breaks can last as long as you like, though many people stick to a few days to up to two weeks.
For more information on tolerance breaks, check out the full article here.
6. Keep your grow room clean
Have you ever found cat hair in your bud? It’s not pleasant. Unfortunately, cannabis is sticky which means buds can capture and hold on to all sorts of dust and allergens. If growing at home, keeping your grow room clean and animal free will reduce the risk of contamination from allergens, dust, bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.
Many animals carry spores and other pathogens on their fur, which can then be spread around in the air or rubbed off on your plants.
While many commercial growers have very strict cleanliness standards, you can increase the safety of an indoor home grow by keeping plants away from high traffic areas in an enclosed space. Regular vacuuming and dusting will help keep the area nice and tidy.
7. Go organic
In a recent investigation by Steep Hill Labs, 84% of Bay Area cannabis samples tested positive for the presence of residual pesticide. All of these samples would have failed testing requirements in the state of Oregon. Residual pesticides are no joke.
When mixed with heat, some common products can create harmful gasses which may be carcinogenic. Myclobutanil, a common fungicide used on grapes, has been banned for use by the tobacco industry because it transforms into toxic hydrogen cyanide when heated.
Other products can produce similarly toxic reactions, decreasing the quality of the high and exposing you to a health hazard. If you grow yourself, going organic will reduce the threat of these potentially harmful interactions. When purchasing, opt for sources that either grow organically or have passed state pesticide testing requirements.
For more information on organic growing, check out the article here.
8. Flush your soil
If you do use pesticides, fertilizers, or miticide and fungicide products, it’s necessary to flush your soil for at least two weeks before harvest. Flushing your soil will reduce the amount of product and nutrient buildup in the soil, which can distort the taste of your cannabis and potentially cause negative health effects.
Even organic products, like pyrethrum oil, can be hazardous in high doses. Unless you’re using living soil, running water through your soil and clearing out any potential toxic buildup is recommended.
For more information on how to flush your soil, check out the article here.
9. Carefully dose your edibles
While it is seemingly impossible to consume a lethal dose of cannabis, eating too many edibles can sure cause you to have a bad time. When starting out with an edible, it is important to wait at least two hours after your first dose before taking another one.
Most edibles kick in anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours, which is significantly longer than it takes when inhaling the herb. The high from edibles is stronger than inhalation and lasts significantly longer as well, often taking up to six hours to wear off.
If you’ve eating too many edibles, you may experience some extreme drowsiness, anxiety, upset stomach, and paranoia. These effects wear off, but they can certainly be unpleasant. Starting low and going slow prevents this problem.
For more information on edibles, check out the full article here.