Cannabis and the Lungs

written by Alexandra Arnett @calyx.alex, photographed by Nina Compeau

All too often you will see people make the erroneous claim that smoking cannabis does not harm your lungs. This misconception is often conflated with the statement “smoking cannabis is better than smoking cigarettes,” and while that may have some truth to it, there are still reasons why cannabis smoke is also harmful. This harm comes not so much from the cannabis itself, but the method of inhalation. Cannabis can be inhaled in a various number of ways, from rolling a joint, packing a bowl in a bong or pipe, using a vaporizer or getting fancy with a dab rig. Among other reasons, devices such as a dab rig or a vape pen make research surrounding the effects of inhaling cannabis difficult to conduct.

The current research that has been published on the topic often fails to control for tobacco usage, methods of inhalation and variables like whether or not the flower was free of mold and pesticides. Research has indicated that cannabis smoke has similar carcinogenic effects as tobacco, but there is not a strong correlation between cannabis smoke and lung cancer. Though cannabis inhalation can cause the same symptoms that tobacco inhalation can, like coughing, wheezing and chronic bronchitis, there are some important benefits. Unlike tobacco inhalation, cannabis inhalation is not a primary factor in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), nor does it reduce your lungs’ forced expiratory volume. In fact, research has shown that cannabis inhalation may increase your lungs’ forced vital capacity. The active component in cannabis, delta 9-THC, has even been demonstrated as a bronchodilator along with the terpene pinene.

If you’re concerned about the health of your lungs, there are a few things you can do! The number one suggestion would be to use methods that don’t involve inhalation, like edibles or tinctures. If you like cannabis flower and prefer to inhale, try out a flower vaporizer! By vaping cannabis with heat instead of combusting it with fire, the inhalation of several carcinogens can be avoided. The best products on the market for flower vaporizers include the PAX 2 and PAX 3. For a long-term quality vape to use at home, the original Volcano vaporizer is the number one choice.

To keep with your old school style of a pipe, bong or joint, there are a few simple tricks to create fewer carcinogens from the smoke. One is to stick with glass smoking pieces that have a longer stem. If you’re looking to use a bong, a long neck and an ice catcher design to help cool the smoke is best. In addition, use only filtered water, this helps provide the cleanest filter for the smoke. The best way to light your flower in a pipe or bong is by first lighting a candle (the more natural the better), then light up some hemp wick using the candle and from here you can light your flower with the hemp wick! Through this method you can reduce the inhalation of toxic carcinogens that come with using lighters, this can also be used for lighting joints. In addition to using hemp wick to light a joint, use a crutch or filter and stick with unbleached hemp or rice papers. We have probably all had our experiences with smoking roaches from old joints, but this is not really healthy as it is concentrated with tars and other toxins.

Vape pens fall into a unique category. These pens are made using either ceramic, glass or metal coils, and depending on the battery can be vaped at various temperatures. Words of wisdom for purchasing vape pens include purchasing from brands that don’t use artificial flavorings, botanically-derived terpenes, or MCT oil. Along with using the lowest heat seating, this limits the risk of inhaling any harmful compounds or toxins.

Moving into using dab rigs, there are some very important notes to make. The first is to remember that products used with a dab rig are likely made with hydrocarbons. It is very important to be purchasing these products from a legal dispensary where you know the product has been tested for residual toxins. Temperature is extremely important when using a dab rig and there are a few reasons for this. One is that certain terpenes, such as myrcene, can turn into toxic compounds if heated at high temperatures. Your dab nail should never turn red hot while heating for a dab—you should stop as soon as you see a color change. Dabs should not be taken at temperatures of more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit. The safest nails to use on a dab rig are ceramic or quartz glass that is made in America. Don’t forget to let your nail cool for just under a minute before dropping that dab in your banger!

Overall, the research we do have to go off of tells us that smoke inhalation of any kind is not particularly best for your lungs. Until more research on the subject is done, the precautions listed above are the best steps you can take right now to protect the health of your lungs.

Cannabis Changed My Life: A Journey to Cannabis Journalism

words by Skyla Patton

My life changed when I started experiencing pain, like real pain, when I was about 13- which, if you’ve ever been a 13 year old cis-gendered girl, is the worst time for just about everything. On a vacation to Washington to visit family, the dreaded mother nature finally visited. My periods were horrific, and I learned quickly that while they are unpleasant for everyone, I had particularly bad luck. For the next several years, I suffered through one week a month where I could barely get out of bed because of the fire in my gut or missed whole days of school because my skin was so bloated and sensitive it hurt. The worst of all, though, was my breast pain – I couldn’t sleep if I wasn’t on my back, and the pain didn’t stop when my period did. It was there, all the time, every day. I had to wear heavy-duty sports bras to dull the pain down, couldn’t participate fully in PE and had to have special permissions to carry ibuprofen around in my backpack.

“You’ll be fine, sweetheart. Discomfort is normal for growing girls,” hummed my women’s doctor during one of our first appointments. This was far from the last time I heard these words. Practitioners across the board ensured me that my blistering breast pain was over-exaggerated and something I simply had to deal with, a curse of womanhood. For years of my life, I believed them; I suffered through the discomfort, I took the prescription medication and I pushed through yoga classes everyone swore would eliminate my pain.

I discovered cannabis several years after mother nature wreaked havoc on my bodily happiness. Growing up in a community that was heavily immersed in cannabis culture already, even in the early 2000s, it didn’t feel like an entirely alien path, but it was absolutely considered a leisure activity. I took my first puff in a way I imagine to be similar to everyone else’s: on a camping trip, surrounded by good friends and (luckily) a lot of delicious snacks. However, that first puff changed a part of me I will never forget: my aches faded, my mind relaxed and for the first time in years, my boobs took a chill pill. I slept on my side that night on my air mattress for the first time in over four years and it felt. so. good. Weeks later, a family friend offered me a CBD/THC combination salve, Rub by Whoopi and Maya (yes, the Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth—shout out to powerful women in business), designed specifically for menstrual pain, and I was sold. The ability to live a day of my life without continual discomfort or constant thinking about that discomfort was an overwhelming feeling of relief and gratitude. I was not interested in letting this new freedom go: I was hooked on cannabis.

This introduction to cannabis was also my introduction to a culture and world that was so much more complex and interesting than passing a blunt around while watching Survivor. I immersed myself in the intricacies of the growers around me, the labor of love of gardening medicinal plants, and the varying differences between recreational and medical cannabis users. I have been a declared journalism major since the age of 8, and started writing for The Emerald in my freshman year after being connected by a friend. The neurons in my brain lit up when the idea of a cannabis magazine was brought up during our weekly meeting for Emerald Essentials; and thus, Green Eugene was born. This was an opportunity for me to connect my interest with cannabis culture to my passion for journalism, and I jumped on the pitch right away. Writing stories for Green Eugene opened up my mind to new possibilities and the massive potential that a cannabis magazine could have; I want to erase the stigma of cannabis use, enlighten the public and blaze the trail of cannabis journalism.

When I became a regular consumer of cannabis, the stigma of cannabis use pushed back, hard. I felt the harsh connotation of being a cannabis user: suddenly I was lazy, unmotivated. The door to other “hard” drugs had somehow magically opened through the gateway of smoking pot. These stigmas confused me as they were so different from the stoners I had grown up and interacted with; business owners, loving parents, talented artists and many more. I’ve been a proud and active member of Rotary International since the 6th grade, and suddenly I was fearful of these huge, older-generation role models in my life turning mutinous because of my choice of healing. The same Rotarians who insisted that their stereotype (stale, male and pale) was inaccurate (it is) continued to believe that the stereotypes about cannabis users were fact (they’re not). This tug-o-war of stereotypes hurt me and took years to overturn in my own mindset.

Stereotypes are harmful, inaccurate and oftentimes born out of a fear of the unknown, a fear of change. A huge goal of mine and many others in the cannabis industry is to push the stigma against reefer madness out of the limelight and replace it with a sentient of healing, growth and innovation. Cannabis  made me feel better, and that was a simple enough reason for me.

For all of the period-havers, young or otherwise, out there who are grappling with intense pain: your pain is not something you have to live with. Your doctor should listen to you when you say you hurt and they should not dismiss it because of your time of the month. Listen to your pain, seek out your answer (cannabis related or not) and do not take no for an answer during the pursuit of relief.

I live for producing this awesome publication for y’all, and it’s an honor to be able to share my story on a platform I’m so proud of. Cannabis, for me, was transformative, offering pain relief and the ability to live my life without daily discomfort. It was also a launchpad into a career that I love and truly feel I can stand behind. My hope is that other female-identifying ladies like me can learn to do the same: demand that the world believe your pain, push past stigmas that hold you back and use that same attitude to make a path for yourself. You can do it.
(Disclaimer: I was able to shrug off stereotypes and make it to where I am today due to my undeniable privilege as a white, middle class woman. Mass incarceration for cannabis possession, violence and discrimination affects people of color every day in our country and is being lost in the waves of legalization and commodification. We cannot endorse legalization without demanding decriminalization. Visit http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/marijuana-legalization-and-regulation for information on decriminalization and how to get involved in your area.)

Runner’s High

words by Josh Delzell
photos by Connor Cox

Lazy, dull and careless; all stereotypes to describe stoners.  While it can be nice to give in to couch lock and watch a movie, not all “potheads” are lazy, despite what cultural stigmas may have you believe. Many stay active, and while the science is still murky on whether or not cannabis is beneficial to an active lifestyle, many swear by it. Active runners have said that it helps them push through the pain of a workout because of the high. Former NBA player, Matt Barnes, swears by cannabis use. Barnes said “All my best games I was medicated,” in an interview by Bleacher Report for their B/R x 4/20 piece. While most professional athletes are still hesitant to discuss their cannabis use, recreational athletes can talk more candidly about their consumption. Take Ruben Estrada for instance.

Estrada, a senior at the University of Oregon, has been active for most of his life. “Running has been a hobby of mine for a while,” he said. “I’ve played soccer since I was kid.” Estrada tries to get in a strenuous workout at least three days a week, and he does this all while utilizing cannabis.  He declared that he smokes every day,— following up with a clarification that he typically doesn’t smoke before classes, but occasionally indulges in the classic wake and bake on weekends.

Estrada even used to actively run after a smoke sesh. “It depends on the strain,” he said. “But with a sativa, a two hour plus run, even when the high was coming down, I still felt a little boost to add onto the runner’s high.” Estrada reflected on competing in the last Eugene Marathon. “My parents kind of made me do it. They didn’t force me or anything, but they started to really get into fitness by the end of my high school career.” Estrada felt as if he was getting ‘lazy’ while his parents were whipping themselves into shape. “My dad ran the Portland marathon, and my mom ran the half. I was like ‘dang, they’re in their 40’s, I can do this too!’” Estrada also wanted to challenge the ‘pothead’ stereotype in a way. “It was fun taking a bong rip and following up with a two and half hour run, and thinking, ‘most people won’t do this.’”

Estrada wanted to push back against the stigma of cannabis being detrimental to an active lifestyle, when in reality, it’s more common than you’d think.  “There are so many people that use it, that are professionals and are active on a daily basis.” Despite connotations, some people use cannabis and still go for a run or hit the gym. “I ran a marathon, and there are a lot of people who don’t smoke cannabis that didn’t. So, you can laugh your way to the bank knowing you’re doing stuff others aren’t even when they doubt your lifestyle.”

Estrada unfortunately suffered a knee injury during the marathon. “It was the classic, ‘mile 22 will get ya’,” he said. He suffered an LCL injury, and is currently doing rehabilitation for his knee, but unfortunately doesn’t run as much as he used to. However, Estrada continues to use cannabis as a pain reliever for his knee. “It’s a great pain reliever, it relaxes the pain.” THC and CBD have many anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it an effective pain reliever for active lifestyles. THC also relaxes the nervous system which can help with muscle spasms.  “I work for UO Concessions, so I worked all the football games, and I would end up running around 10 to 12 miles a game,” he said. “So at the end of the day, my knee was pretty sore… cannabis made it easier to go to sleep without a nagging injury keeping me up.” Estrada uses cannabis infused topical cream for his knee. He likens these topicals to Icy Hot. “You can slap it on your knee, back, shoulders or anything. It’s a great soother and relaxer,” he said.

Despite the benefits that cannabis provides to athletic lifestyles, it is still banned in most high profile athletic events. The Olympics and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) lists cannabis as a performance enhancing drug, due to “having the potential to enhance sport performance” and “representing an actual or potential health risk to the athlete,” according to the USADA Marijuana FAQ page. However, according to a study done by the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, no evidence was found of cannabis being a performance enhancing drug. They even touched on the potential cannabis could have to help with traumatic brain injury after further research. “There is no science that says it’s a performance enhancing substance in the context that it gives you an unfair advantage,” said Estrada. “There are ex-NBA players that have come out saying they used it, and it was their saving grace [for their injuries]. I would like to see a time where people  start to understand and empathize with the medical benefits from it, because I see it as a really therapeutic substance.”

With evidence that indicates cannabis can help athletes, it remains banned by high level athletic competitions. Many stigmas about cannabis come from a lack of knowledge and experience. People like Estrada challenge old stigmas and show that cannabis doesn’t make one lazy; how you use cannabis is up to you and your personal lifestyle. While reflecting on his experience in the Eugene Marathon, Estrada left with an anecdote that sums up what it’s like being an athlete that uses cannabis: “At the marathon I was wearing a t-shirt that had a pot leaf on it, and at mile 20 when I was feeling it a little, there was a group of people and one of the guys yells ‘Yeah! Powered by weed!’ and that was a motivator!”