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As of February 2015, twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. In addition, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana. As overall exposure to the drug has been spreading across the country, cases of allergic reactions to marijuana have also been spreading.

 Many states now have dispensaries where one can purchase marijuana legally.

Image Source: Heath Korvola

Marijuana is a drug derived from the hemp plant Cannabis Sativa. Often referred to as pot or weed, marijuana has multiple effects on the human body including impaired short term memory, anxiety, increased heart rate, nausea, and vomiting. Its active chemical, THC, affects brain functions such as memory, concentration, and coordination. Long-term health effects include decreased lung function and potentially impaired mental capacity.

Allergy symptoms triggered by the plant’s pollen or smoke include a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and inflammation of nasal passages. Physical exposure to the drug can also cause hives, itching, and swelling around the eyes.

Many factors contribute to marijuana allergies. According to a study conducted by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, marijuana allergies are caused by the allergens found in the cannabis plant, as well as a wide range of proteins commonly found in other plants. So if you are allergic to marijuana, there is a good chance that there are many other plant types you are also susceptible to, such as ragweed and birch trees.

 The cannabis plant contains proteins that are commonly found in other plants as well!

Image Source: Nancy Honey

The increased commercial use of cannabis makes it one of the leading causes of allergies in areas where the pollen is widespread (such as certain areas in the midwest). In a 2000 study, several patients had skin test reactions and respiratory problems when exposed to cannabis pollen. They found that 70% of people were negatively affected by the cannabis pollen, a relatively high percentage of the public!

Medical marijuana may be helping many people across the nation, but it’s also useful to note the negative effect its widespread commercial use may be having on the public. Also, just as there are many cases of allergic reactions to commercial drugs and medicine, it is also possible for patients to be allergic to cannabis smoke, so it may not be a suitable treatment for everyone. Always consult with your doctor before trying any alternative medicine, and if you live in an area where marijuana pollen is present, consider investing in some anti-histamines.

Feature Image Source: Carlos Garcia

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