Study: Marijuana Allergies are a Real Thing

Have you ever taken a bong rip or hit a joint and soon after gone into a sneezing fit? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, you may be allergic to marijuana pollen.

While this rarely happens to me, many people in the community have migrated to hash and pollen-free materials to avoid the “weed allergies.” And as a new study from Annalergy illustrates, an unconventional “weed allergen” is steeped in science:

Cannabis sativa is an annual, dioecious, and anemophilous flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae family and is native to Central and South Asia.7 Its pollen is typically 23 to 28 μ in diameter, triporate, isopolar, and spheroidal.8 Typically shed during the late summer to early autumn, Cannabis pollen grains are very buoyant, allowing for distribution across many miles.9 Wild growth occurs in some geographic regions and it is a relevant pollen in the aerobiology of central India, urban Pakistan, southern Europe, and parts of the United States.[8],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]

Cannabis sativa contains more than 400 compounds, including more than 60 cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is of particular interest as the primary psychoactive component of Cannabis.3 There are different preparations of C sativa. These include marijuana (dried flowering tops and leaves), hashish (dried resin surrounding leaves), and hashish oil (hashish distillate). Marijuana and hashish are typically smoked, vaporized, or chewed.2 However, in addition to other forms, including hemp seed and hempseed oil, they can be incorporated into foods and ingested.15Cannabis sativa in the form of hemp, with a lower THC content, is used commercially for fiber, cosmetics, and clothing. In addition to its growing popularity as a “health food,” hemp seed is commercially found in bird feed and fishing bait.16

The often illicit nature of marijuana growth involves unique harvesting techniques. Intentional isolation of female flowering plants aims to prevent pollination and increase the plant’s psychoactive properties by its THC content (referred to assinsemilla).[3],[17] The potency of C sativa, often measured by THC content, has increased over the years, with some Japanese strains of sinsemilla containing as much as 22.6% THC.2 This could play a role in allergic disease because THC has been suggested as a pertinent Cannabis allergen.18 Some marijuana growers implement indoor cultivation techniques that allow for robust year-round and clandestine growth in climates and environments that would otherwise be unhospitable. Cross-breeding and hybridization of different strains of marijuana aimed at developing new “highs” and accessibility of seed purchases through the Internet add yet another dimension to Cannabis exposure throughout the world. []

In layman’s terms, the pollen and marijuana smoke from plant material can give users hay fever, a common springtime allergy. As the study notes, if you use marijuana frequently, you’re probably immune to this type of allergy.

But if you tend to get spring allergies from pollen, some strains can inflict users with “allergic rhinitis, conjunctivitis, and asthma.” Of course, none of these allergies will do much worse than make you sneeze.

As is true with all things cannabis related, these allergies certainly are not lethal.

by Barry Bard

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