One man’s pleasure is another man’s pain.
In the case of cannabis, some people are notoriously allergic to the plant. According to Immunologist Dr. Purvi Parikh with Allergy Asthma Associates of Murray Hill in New York, individuals who are allergic to cannabis may break out in rashes and asthma attacks.
In the worst case scenario, people who are very sensitive to the compounds of the plant could succumb to anaphylactic shock – a severe, life-threatening reaction that causes one’s body to shut down.
So what causes people to become allergic to cannabis?
Identifying Origins and Links
The first thing to consider is whether you’re legitimately allergic to cannabis or to substances that come with the plant, like mold and fungus. Reaction to mold or insecticide could easily be passed off as a cannabis allergy. If your symptoms are inconsistent, as you switch between different batches of cannabis, it is likely you’re not really allergic to the plant.
Dr. William Eidelman from Cannabis Clinics in Los Angeles said,
“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.”
On the other hand, if you’re breaking out in hives or your airways start to close up under the presence of cannabis, you could be allergic to cannabis pollen or compounds. Such reports first surfaced in a 1971 study published in journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The report highlighted the experience of a 29-year-old female who had an anaphylactic-like response to cannabis. Scientists were able to trace the reaction to a cannabinoid.
In most cases, cannabis pollen is the underlying culprit that triggers allergic reactions in people. According to a 2015 study published in Volume 63, Issue 5 of Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, pollen from industrial farming of cannabis sativa plants account for 36 percent of the total pollen count in the state of Nebraska during August. This was also observed in other parts of the world, including Spain, France and Italy.
If you suspect you’re allergic to cannabis, it is crucial to first get tested by a certified doctor. The most common testing method involves exposing the skin to small particles of the flower. For those who have confirmed their allergy, Dr. Parikh suggests avoiding places where cannabis is regularly consumed. Inhalation, directly or passively via second-hand smoke, is the main driver that facilitates the allergy.
As mentioned earlier, mold can trigger similar symptoms associated with cannabis allergies. To check for mold, open the flower and look for powdery webs stuck inside, close to the stem of the plant. If you’re unsure, try a different batch or strain.
“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, a doctor from the Hollywood Easy Clinic. “One out of one hundred [patients] might experience a reaction. Of those, 80 percent are due to mold.”