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Cannabis Corner

Cannabis Corner

Osborne and Parker respond to questions submitted by students

 

Tim Parker and Geraint Osborne answer questions about cannabis                                                                         Photo: Sarah Munter/Photo Editor

Is a second-hand high an actual thing?

Definitely, especially if there is a lot of potent THC smoke and it is inhaled directly. While in some cases it is an inadvertent effect of simply being in a room where a lot of potent cannabis is being smoked, a second-hand high can also be produced intentionally. This involves either “hotboxing” or “shotgunning.” The former refers to the practice of smoking cannabis in an enclosed space (e.g. a car or a small room) in order to maximize the narcotic effect. The latter involves taking a drag, and then exhaling directly into the mouth of another person, either mouth to mouth (“shotgun kiss”) or through a tube of some sort (e.g. a discarded cardboard roll). This is an effective way to deliver THC to produce a second-hand high.

I have three dogs. If I smoke weed inside, will it affect them?

Yes – it could, depending on how much second-hand cannabis smoke they are exposed to. While we are aware of the dangers of second-hand cigarette smoke, very little research on second-hand cannabis smoke has been conducted. A 2016 study in rats found that second-hand exposure to cannabis smoke affected blood vessel function as much as second-hand tobacco smoke, and the effects lasted longer. Research on humans in 2014 and 2015 found that extreme second-hand cannabis smoke exposure mimicked active cannabis smoking, though to a lesser extent. Provided that there is adequate ventilation and the dogs are not in near proximity it is unlikely the dogs will be affected. The more significant danger is dogs consuming edibles. To get a sense of how strongly they can be affected, check out this video: https://www.caninejournal.com/dogs-and-marijuana/. This is powerful evidence of how much THC can impair coordination.

What happens if I drink a lot of alcohol and then smoke weed? Is it super bad for you?

In a word, possibly. Any drug, or combination of drugs, will affect people differently depending on a wide variety of factors ranging from the alcohol and THC content to the individual’s own biology and experience with the substances being used. Alcohol and cannabis have what are known as synergistic effects. Suppose that alcohol by itself impairs your coordination by 50 units. Now suppose that THC does the same. When you put the two of them together, the result will be closer to 130-140 units of impairment. This is why it’s important to plan safe routes home, and perhaps even have someone carry a Narcan kit in case the cannabis is adulterated with fentanyl (although this is unlikely if you are purchasing your cannabis from an official regulated supplier). Mixing substances is never advised, especially for the inexperienced user.

Will smoking weed be bad for my studies?

It depends on a few factors, especially the frequency of use, the amount used, the level of THC, and the ratio of THC to CBD (CBD can serve to mitigate some of the adverse effects of THC that may lead to “greening out”). It definitely could be, especially if you take time away from the time you would normally have used to study. That is, it could prevent you from studying as much as you planned. A second issue is how the use of cannabis affects your memory. The key structure in the brain that mediates memory is the hippocampus. This also happens to be the structure that has the most CB1 receptors in the brain, with the possible exception of the frontal cortex, another key memory structure. CB means cannabis, which tells you that the brain manufactures its own version of THC, a neurotransmitter called anandamide, named after the Sanskrit word for bliss. One of the most commonly demonstrated cognitive effects of THC is impaired memory, and this effect appears to last to the point where it is considered a possible long-term effect of consuming THC. We would suggest that if you are going to use, you should reserve cannabis use for periods when you have finished studying and writing papers and exams. View it as a reward for that A that you have studied so hard for and achieved.  

If I get pulled over by police and I’ve smoked weed, how will they measure how high I am? I thought that THC could stay in your system for a while, so what if you’ve smoked it in the past but aren’t driving high? I guess I’m just wondering how they will measure this.

Gather round and listen to the tale of Ross Rebagliati. He was an Olympic snowboarder who won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. When he tested positive for THC his medal was stripped from him. He insisted that he hadn’t smoked marijuana since 1997, and that he must have ingested second-hand smoke at a party his friends held for him days before. On appeal, his medal was restored. The rest of this story is that he founded Ross’ Gold, a medical marijuana company.

The issue of testing positive for THC is a serious one. Currently, if police suspect your poor driving is due to some form intoxication, they are allowed to submit you to a simple roadside sobriety test. If you fail this test they can take you in to subject you to further testing. THC has a long half-life in the body. It can last in the order of days. In addition, if one only smokes a bit every day, it can accumulate in the body because it’s not being cleared out fast enough. All of this means that if you consume marijuana you will have the drug in your system. If it gets to the point where your urine is being tested, THC can show up weeks or even months later. THC also accumulates in hair, so it’s possible to tell someone’s distant THC history by analyzing their hair.

In terms of the cannabis equivalent to the breathalyzer, last August, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould approved the Dräger DrugTest 5000 as “approved drug screening equipment” for law enforcement to use at the roadside to test for both THC and cocaine. Studies have found that the test is, unfortunately, inaccurate 13% of the time and is especially ineffective when the temperature drops between 4 and -40 degrees Celsius, which poses a serious problem for Canadians given our climate.  

Will we be able to smoke on campus?

It depends on the campus. The University of Alberta North Campus, for example, will permit the smoking and vaping of cannabis in a limited number of locations on campus. Smoking, vaping, and growing cannabis inside residence buildings will not be permitted. Smoking and vaping of cannabis products is not permitted at university events. Augustana is currently evaluating whether to permit smoking and vaping of cannabis products on university property, but as of now, it remains officially a dry campus for both alcohol and cannabis, although alcohol is permitted a certain sanctioned events. For more details please visit https://www.ualberta.ca/campus-life/cannabis-working-group.

Thank you for the questions. We look forward to receiving more. And remember, if you’re going to use, use responsibly folks!

If you have questions for Tim Parker and Geraint Osborne, you can submit anonymously via Google forms.

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