It’s an age old question and the answer is a little more complicated and non-conclusive.
Can you actually be allergic to marijuana? Experts say it’s possible, but there could be another cause for the adverse reaction to cannabis.
“In terms of most of the patients who think they have an allergy to marijuana, we’ve found most of the time, it’s actually an allergy to mold,” said Dr. Sean Darcy of the Hollywood Easy Clinic.
Dr. Darcy, who and has been working with medical marijuana patients since 2010, says cannabis patients should closely inspect their bud for quality.
“One out of one hundred [patients] might experience a reaction. Of those , 80 percent are due to mold,” he explained.
Dr. Darcy points out there is always a possibility of an allergic reaction from anything developing over time due to the body’s production of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that can mediate inflammatory reactions.
“Your body has to go through the whole process, it's not instantaneous. It develops over long period of time.”
Cannabis as an allergen is more common amongst people who are exposed to the plant quite often, such as growers and trimmers.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people allergic to cannabis, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were allergic to something the plant had been treated with,” said Dr. William Eidelman of Cannabis Clinics in Los Angeles, who has been giving medical marijuana recommendations starting in the early days of California’s legalization.
There is at least some scientific evidence to back this up including a review in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology that includes two studies conducted decades apart in Nebraska, a place where cannabis grows commercially and is quite prevalent in the area.
The first study performed in 1940 found 22 percent of 119 patients with allergy symptoms were allergic to hemp pollen. The second study found nearly 61 percent of 127 patients with allergies in Omaha were allergic to hemp.
For those who grow, trim, and process marijuana, allergies can develop over a long period of time, just as much as someone who works with ragweed or pollen-laced plants. Mold and mildew can also spread on flowering plants as well. Every grower should take precautionary measures to cover and protect skin and respiratory airways. Also, ensure the garden is clean and well ventilated.
Consult a doctor as soon as any allergic reactions appear.
For those who smoke and consume weed and experience a reaction to the medicating process, Dr. Darcy puts it perfectly.
“In the end, most of the patients that get better quality marijuana do not have an allergy anymore because the mold is usually gone.”
Pull the flower apart to inspect the buds before it is purchased. Mold can be difficult to pinpoint yet recognizable by the thin, powdery, web-like substance harbored within the bud close to the stem. If you are unsure of whether or not what you are looking at is mold, consult an expert or choose a different strain.
In order to get a more accurate picture of allergies associated with marijuana, separate studies must be conducted on each patient in addition to the actual product itself. Concluding marijuana causes an allergic reaction is a simplistic statement, considering allergies can develop from pretty much anything, experts said.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, immunologist of the Allergy & Asthma Network, a non-profit organization that supports allergy research and education found amplified marijuana use since legalization has increased the amount of reported cases of allergic reaction.
Take extra precautions, know your grower and their methods, and learn to locate any possible signs of mold or pesticide use. Just as in anything, learn exactly what you are putting into your body, where it comes from and how it is grown.