Ganja Cannabis patients and consumers arriving in Europe from overseas are often at a complete loss. Weed and hash mixed with tobacco for consumption? In Canada, the USA and many other parts of the world that is a complete no go. Even tobacco smokers from the other side of the pond would not think of inhaling a 'mix'. Great care is taken to separate the consumption of cigarettes and joints. In Germany and the Netherlands, meanwhile, many patients smoke the cannabis prescribed by their doctor in fat tobacco joints, that would probably turn the stomach of customers of an American hemp pharmacy.
Cannabis patients and consumers arriving in Europe from overseas are often at a complete loss. Weed and hash mixed with tobacco for consumption? In Canada, the USA and many other parts of the world that is a complete no go. Even tobacco smokers from the other side of the pond would not think of inhaling a ‘mix’. Great care is taken to separate the consumption of cigarettes and joints. In Germany and the Netherlands, meanwhile, many patients smoke the cannabis prescribed by their doctor in fat tobacco joints, that would probably turn the stomach of customers of an American hemp pharmacy.
This phenomenon can be explained by the different histories of the two black markets. In Europe, up until the 1990s, the market was dominated by hash, which was only smoked pure in pipes. Today’s most preferred form of consumption, the joint, however, simply does not burn without tobacco. In the USA, meanwhile, weed dominated the market, from which a culture of smaller pure joints developed.
Without tobacco, a US joint of the size common in Europe would easily hold 1.5g to 2g weed – more than most people can handle. An average American joint contains around 0.2g to 0.5g, which is about as strong as a European joint, but then much more compact and without tobacco. With the decline of the black market and the shift to indoor growing, the Europeans have retained their bad habit of mixing, and mix weed with tobacco themselves. The Americans, meanwhile, prefer to vaporise hash, which is increasingly readily available these days, rather than rolling joints.
Europeans dig tobacco
The fact that the Europeans dig tobacco is the reason that most Studies in Europe are carried out on test persons who have smoked tobacco as well as cannabis in various mixes. However, in order to judge the potential danger and risk that cannabis poses for the airways, one should be able to refer to studies on the consumption of pure cannabis.
For the most part, such studies are carried out in the ‘medical marijuana’ states and provinces in the US or Canada, thanks to the liberal legislation currently prevailing there. The findings of the latest research results are unanimous: contrary to smoking tobacco, the risk that smoking pure cannabis poses for developing cancer is non-evident. The most recent study is published in the current issue of the “Journal of Cancer”, in which it is stated that,
“The regular use of cannabis is shown not to cause any significant malfunction of the lungs. […] The risk of lung disease associated with regularly consuming cannabis is shown to be very low and is much smaller than the risk associated with tobacco consumption.”
Since 2006, at least four studies have been published that confirm the result of this academic study, which examined data from over 5000 case studies:
In 2013 ‘Effects of Marijuana Smoking on the Lung‘ by the American Thorax Society actually classified cannabis smoke as beneficial to the airways, rather than as a carcinogenic. This study was the latest work of the US Lung specialist Prof. Donald Tashkin.
In a series of published studies from 2006 onwards, the professor et al. repeatedly proved that the smoke actually stimulates the upper airways, and can in no way be regarded as carcinogenic for the lungs. Tashkin was formerly one of the leading pulmonologists in the USA who was commissioned during the Reagan era to produce negative research results for smoking cannabis, in order to scientifically justify the drastically stricter cannabis legalisation of the cowboy politicians in the early 1980s.
Tashkin delivered, but found the subject so interesting he spent the following 30 years dedicating his research to it. There can be no doubt then that among the lung specialists of the world there are none who have worked as intensively on the effect of cannabis smoke on the airways and the lungs than this professor from California.
It wasn’t until 2006 that he first dared to publish his new findings. His latest study had carefully examined 1200 pot smoking residents of the county of Los Angeles. He found that an increased risk of lung cancer could not be established even in those that had smoked over 20,000 joints in their lives. Since then, he has regularly fortified these results with the findings of nine more studies. In 2009, the former cannabis opponent commented,
“In the past, when our research results gave the impression that it [cannabis consumption] had negative effects on the lungs and/or their function, I was convinced that legalisation would increase consumption and have a negative impact on public health. I warned everyone against smoking at all. These days, I’m for legalisation. It [cannabis] should not be stigmatized as an illegal substance – tobacco is much more dangerous, and as far as addiction goes, alcohol is much more dangerous.”
There are many problems with mixed consumption of cannabis and tobacco
Unfortunately, smoking a mix of cannabis and tobacco rather than pure weed has more problems than just the side effects for health. It is associated with a whole bunch of other problems too.
In the context of the legalisation debate, cannabis consumers, even those that smoke pure, and ‘cannasseurs’, who vaporise their weed or eat it, have to deal with the consequences of a drug, which in principle has little to do with their partiality. Smoking, even without tobacco, is the most unhealthy way of consuming cannabis and other healthier ways such as vaporising or oral consumption are gradually catching on.
During the hemp renaissance in the 1970s, hardly anyone was aware of the risks of smoking nicotine, or of smoking in general. The tobacco joint was socially acceptable, because back then smoking wasn’t seen as problematic or a danger to health. In other cultures, cannabis has been part of everyday life for centuries, where oral consumption or pure smoke inhalation is popular.
The mixture with tobacco greatly increases the addictiveness of cannabis consumption. The author of this article knows many recreational users of cannabis whose incidental consumption led them to start smoking cigarettes, having regularly mixed their one-off joints with tobacco. You often hear people say, “I’d be fine without weed, I would smoke a lot more cigarettes instead.”
Those that avoid tobacco also have much less of a problem regularly taking a break from weed. Last but not least, the effect of consuming pure cannabis is completely different to the effect of a mix, as they say in these parts. Those that are familiar with the difference know that, while a nicotine/cannabis mix does relax and relieve the user’s symptoms, it also makes him/her more tired and flat in comparison to when consuming pure.
Does cannabis actually help to combat lung cancer?
A study by Harvard Medical School in Boston in 2007 suggested that, in particularly aggressive forms of cancer that are resistant to chemotherapy, the active ingredient THC inhibits the growth of the lung cancer cells and positively influences metastasis.
“Tumour biopsies from animals treated with THC have shown that THC has growth and tumour inhibiting properties. Our study recommends further research into cannabinoids such as THC being used as new alternative therapy for the containment of metastasis growth in certain types of lung cancer.”
Freedom of choice
Since the triumph of the vaporiser, everyone who consumes weed for medicinal or recreational purposes knows that there has long been a better and healthier alternative to smoking. Nonetheless, the joint will not disappear from the – in many places illegal – subculture; after all statistics are often not the greatest motivation when it comes to your own health.
In a pluralistic society, smoking cigarettes should remain the choice of the individual adult. After all, we are all responsible for our own actions. But perhaps some of those who currently still mix could wait to get their fix until after vaporising or smoking a pure joint. Some of the fans of fat tobacco joints would then see for themselves the difference between the two.
Furthermore, tobacco would not keep potential pure smokers from the pleasure of consuming the wonderful flowers in company. Pure isn’t just healthier, new friendships can even blossom by keeping tobacco out of the mix. Smoke your ganja raw!