By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
November 25, 2022
A groundbreaking new study that ties marijuana usage to higher rates of emphysema and other types of lung damage should impact the debate over cannabis legalization in North Carolina, pro-family leaders say.
The study, published in the journal Radiology and authored by researchers at the Ottawa Hospital in Canada, compared chest CT scans of marijuana smokers, tobacco-only smokers and non-smokers, finding that “airway inflammation and emphysema” were “more common in marijuana smokers” than in the other two groups. Furthermore, “rates of bronchial thickening, bronchiectasis, and mucoid impaction” also “were higher among marijuana smokers.”
All total, the study compared chest CT scans of 56 marijuana smokers, 57 nonsmokers and 33 tobacco-only smokers, all from the Ottawa Hospital.
“I can tell if someone is a heavy or a long-time cigarette smoker when I look at a CT scan,” co-author Giselle Revah, an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of Ottawa, told SciTechDaily. “With marijuana being the second most inhaled substance after tobacco, I started wondering: What does marijuana inhalation look like on a CT scan? Would I be able to tell if someone was a marijuana smoker, is it different from cigarette smoke?”
Research on the subject is in its infancy, Revah said, because marijuana legalization is a relatively new phenomenon.
“What’s unique about this study is that there hasn’t been anything comparing the imaging findings in tobacco smokers to marijuana smokers before,” Revah said. “In fact, there is a lack of imaging research in marijuana, probably because it’s still illegal in many parts of the world, and in many U.S. states, which is why I think we were the first to do a project like this.”
The study’s findings, she said, are clear.
“We’ve identified an association between marijuana smoking and damage to both the small and the large airways,” she said. “We still need more research before we can affect policy change. We need larger, more robust prospective studies with more patients to confirm it.”
The study noted that marijuana usage is on the rise in Canada in light of the federal government passing a legalization bill in 2018. In 2020, 20 percent of the population in Canada ages 15 and up reported having used marijuana in the previous three months. Prior to legalization, that number was 14 percent.
Smoking marijuana is particularly dangerous, the study said, because it is “usually smoked without a filter” and users “inhale larger volumes with a longer breath hold compared with tobacco smokers.” One marijuana joint “can produce an effect similar” to that of 2.5–5 tobacco cigarettes, the study said.
“Marijuana smoke contains known carcinogens and other chemicals associated with respiratory diseases,” the study said.
The North Carolina legislature recently considered a bill, SB 711, that would allow the state to issue licenses to individuals and businesses in order to grow, cultivate, produce and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes.
In a statement about the new study, Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League said:
“It seems now that new studies exposing the myth of marijuana as medicine are published regularly. While states continue legalizing this drug, the warning sirens are blaring.
“No one wants to see a loved one or close friend suffering without some help, but this issue goes a lot further than showing compassion.
“The scientific evidence is abundantly clear that smoking marijuana is not a safe delivery system to relieve the symptoms of a health disorder. It is likely only to make matters worse if used regularly over time.
“Nowhere in medicine do we earnestly contend smoking is therapeutic. How do you standardize the dose?
“I’ll repeat it. No modern medicine is smoked, and the FDA has never approved smoking as safe or able to affect healing. It’s just the opposite. How imprudent is this? We’re being duped by the Cannabis industry that is bent on becoming the next Big Tobacco.”
Meanwhile, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has urged state leaders to consider decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.