Marijuana and heart health: What you need to know

Access to marijuana is growing, but its risks and benefits have not been carefully studied.


Image: © UrosPoteko/Thinkstock

In 28 states in this country, you can legally use marijuana for a range of health problems, including chronic pain, anxiety, and nausea. Smoking is the fastest way to feel the effects of marijuana, which is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Yet marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens found in cigarette smoke — a known contributor to heart disease as well as cancer.

Marijuana cultivation and use dates back some 6,000 years. However, the cardiovascular and other health effects of cannabis aren't well studied. That's partly because under federal law, cannabis is a Schedule I substance, meaning it has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." That designation places numerous restrictions on researchers, making it difficult to carry out rigorous research on marijuana.

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