Pot allergy is probably widely underreported

Humans are often allergic to pollen and other chemical compounds in weeds. Most of the time, if an allergy is life-threatening—or even just way-of-life-threatening—you'll report it to your doctor, and she'll get you treatment. But, when the weed in question is illegal, the normal process breaks down. Cases of marijuana allergy are rare in the medical literature, but a recent study suggests that they're a lot more common in real life. Reactions range from the annoying (runny noses) to dangerous (anaphylactic shock), but if patients and doctors can't speak freely to one another then patients miss out on treatment and medicine loses valuable information. (Via Kerri Watcher)


  1. Hmmmm… allergic to pot? Well, maybe just stick to shooting up heroin? (just kidding, but you know what I mean.)

    1. Allergy to pot is probably one reason people make analogues to marijuana such as JWH-018.
      Hearing someone is allergic to weed makes me wonder if they’d be allergic to hash or hash oil .

  2. Some years ago, I came out in a massive rash, and went to the doctor at the health service of Sheffield University, which I was attending at the time. As well as telling her what I’d been eating, I noted that I’d also smoked some cannabis. Rather than talk about the allergy, her response was mainly to berate me for smoking the cannabis and remind me that it was illegal. Like I didn’t know already. Result: I decided not to tell doctors at that health service about any illegal drug use, even if would help them to make decisions about me.

  3. My dad was allergic to pots and cats at the same time, but not pot or cats alone. We always had dogs as pets.

    1. Not really, you’d be surprised how many and what types of people grow and/or smoke weed. You may not see a bong next to the couch when you go to a dinner party at a friend’s, but that doesn’t mean they don’t smoke in private.

      1. not the point – smoking weed is optional, nobody forces you to (special cases like the cancer victim thats allergic to standard pain medication do not apply). thus, its easy to avoid.

        on a side note, “a friends doctor [tm]” once answered to the question whether “hemp products” would interfere with the prescribed medication with the sentence: “only to be applied externally as a carry-bag”, smiled, and bid goodbye.

        1. I am deathly allergic to pot and have never actually smoked it in my entire life. All of the exposures I have had to it have been in/around the dorms on campus, coffeeshops, and concerts. Every time, the reaction has been worse. The last time I was exposed to marijuana smoke, someone was smoking it in the bathroom of the coffeeshop where I was studying and I had to go to the hospital because I couldn’t breathe. For that reason I tend to avoid that coffeeshop and concerts now. :)

          That being said, every time I go to my doctor and they ask about allergies, they just laugh when I tell them I’m allergic to pot. Like your example above, the medical community seems to think it’s funny, when it really isn’t. Honestly, I’ve had more pot smokers be respectful and interested in my allergy than members of the medical community.

          1. Oh, I’m not discouting the allergy thing at all! And I get that the “avoiding pot” thing may be harder to than you’d think, even though it’s counterintuitive to me (just don’t smoke seems sensible, but other of course still do)

            Just answering to the usual urban legends :-) If your doctor does not take you seriously, I suggest finding another one, like I wrote above, talking to your doctor should always be possible. but then again, here in germany your doctor should always be told about drug use, and that knowledge should always be confidential. I can’t begin to imagine the US healthcare system, maybe its different there.

    2. It’s a lot harder to avoid pot than you’d think, especially if you live in apartments. People are not very conscious of where the smoke goes, and not only will it be transmitted through open windows, it will travel through ducts and holes in the wall.

      No one ever believes me when I tell them I’m allergic to pot. I’ve had people blow smoke in my face and feed me ‘baked’ goods without telling me, then getting surprised when I start wheezing, breaking out in hives and itching like crazy.

  4. Very interesting. I would count myself among those who suffer a cannabis allergy. I’m now into my 30s but was smoking quite a lot back in my late teens and early 20s. Suddenly after several years of use, I started to experience symptoms similar to allergic rhinitis, with runny, itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. I carried on smoking the stuff for a year or two while self-medicating with eye drops and antihistamines, before realising I was better off just ditching the stuff and moving on. A few years later I went on to develop idiopathic cold-induced urticaria (i.e. cold temperature triggered skin reaction) – whether this was related I have no idea. Obviously I told my GP (family doctor) about the latter condition but not the former!

  5. I used to know a guy who was allergic to weed (his dad was too). He counter-acted the effects of smoking by putting a breath mint in each cheek. Otherwise his throat would close up, he said.

  6. “But, when the weed in question is illegal, the normal process breaks down.”

    No it doesn’t. It’s called doctor patient confidentiality.


      Everything you tell your doctor, your insurance company can potentially see. You doctor is likely to be required to share the office visit notes with them. And, of you haven’t already signed away the right to doctor/patient confidentiality, you may be forced to, if you have a serious injury. They will do anything not to pay.


      If you need a card, get a written description of your diagnosis under another pretext. If you want to inform your doctor after you have obtained your card, you will save them from the trouble that can come from recomending cannabis, and yourself the trouble of having your insurance denied.

  7. I tell my doctor everything. I don’t see why this is a problem. I have told my doctor about my drug use since I was a child.

    One time she tried to give me a lecture about how weed will make you less ambitious and bad at school. I promptly told her “look, I don’t wanna be a doctor or anything but I have a 3.7 GPA in my CS classes and I do every test stoned.” Ever since then she has begrudgingly answered all of my reasonable narcotic related questions.

  8. It’s not reported because if you admitted you were allergic to pot, you wouldn’t be able to hang out with the cool kids.

  9. Oh hell yes. Pot allergies are real, and can be very dangerous and unexpected. I have seen this myself.

    And what are you supposed to do, ask the stoners to be more responsible? Or turn them over to a mandatory sentence from hell, and all the cuddles that provides?

    1. Is that the same mandatory sentence you’d get for not putting a sign on the door warning that you have a cat, house plants, and haven’t dusted in 2 weeks?

  10. Allergy? The under-reporting is that Pot is documented to cause psychosis and
    even schizophrenia in some people that lasts days or months, even years in a few
    rare cases. Sometimes this can happen with just the first use. Pot is generally
    many times stronger today, and it can be spiked with other street drugs. May sound
    like Reefer Madness paranoia, but it’s true. Happened to my own kid.

    1. while what you said is relatively true, its not so much pot that causes it, rather it may trigger a preexisting susceptibility to depression etc.

      “pot is stronger today” is a complete myth. just because some hippies in the 60s smoked crap weed doesn’t mean todays stuff is way stronger. Same goes for lacing weed with other drugs – “Someone I know [tm]” knew a few pot dealers in his time, and besides the simple fact that is isnt economically sensible to lace weed with *anything*, its also not good for buisness. The three people who come back for PCP-laced weed do not offset the 30 who will never buy from you again.

      The only additions you really need to watch out for are
      – sugar water: makes it heavier, dried sugar may look like THC crystals
      – oregano, regular grass etc/dirt or hennah if you buy hash

      and maybe be careful not to buy speed-grown stuff that may contain fertilizer remnants and such.

      While it *is* absolutely possible that your kid once bought something that wasn`t pure weed, this is rarely rarely rarely ever the case. trust me, those who have been smoking for decades know.

      P.S. Good thing to have: pot dealer that doesn’t deal anything else.

    2. Really?

      Your kid has some terrible friend than. No one would “spike” pot with other drugs and then sell it at normal prices. Mixing cocaine, speed or opiates with weed would not be beneficial to the dealer at all so unless your child’s friends specifically asked for this or did it them self you would never have that situation.

      Also, the risk of psychosis and schizophrenia is very real but very little research has gone into this problem.

      1. regarding the spiking: if the dealer is maybe a down-on-his-luck extra shady junkie, who just need some easy money for his next fix, he might sell crap weed with other herbs and spray hairspray on it, so it might “buzz” even though its mostly parsley or whatever. Something like this may on occasion happen in the world.

        As you rightly said, no regular, more-than-once dealer would lace his pot – both for economic reasoning and keeping return customers.

    3. Pot is generally
      many times stronger today, and it can be spiked with other street drugs. May sound
      like Reefer Madness paranoia, but it’s true. Happened to my own kid.

      OMG you are totally right! Pot can be laced with stuff. I assume that your fear of pot being laced has wisely led you to the conclusion we should legalize it and regulate it. I can’t remember the last time I had laced beer or Tylenol.

      If you drive something underground in an effort to eradicate it, something the entire history of prohibition of various substances has taught us is completely impossible and ineffective, the result is that the substance in question becomes more dangerous.

      So, instead of imprisoning more people than any other country in the world and making little Johnny sick with the nasty black market stuff, maybe we should just legalize it. As far as I know Sam Adams and Budweiser have refrained from shooting at each other over market share and, despite the taste, I am pretty sure that Bud has nothing dangerous in it unless you drink 20 of them.

  11. Well, interesting. That may explain why I’m feeling better since my previous neighbor moved out…

  12. As a teacher in a public school, I encounter the aroma of weed a few times a month. I had never heard of a weed allergy. That is, until one of my team teachers came running into my room earlier this year, eyes red and streaming down tears, gasping for breath. Turns out his allergy is so severe that any kid who has smoked it, has any on their person, or was near someone who smoked it will set him off. Best pot detector our school has. Unfortunately, depending on the variety, it’s bad enough to send my team teacher running outside to clear his airways. Not as easy to avoid as you might think…

  13. I am most definitely allergic to pot. Even being in the same room with other people smoking makes me get all mucous-y and and sick to my stomach. Smoking it myself, brings on truly massive-quantities of thick , yellow snot, projectile vomiting, and non-fun hallucinations.

    Eating pot gives me fewer upfront problems, but my intestines and ass get very unhappy the next day.

    The better quality of the pot, the worse the side effects.

    There was while when i tried to get good at pot consumption, so people wouldn’t think i was straight edge, but ultimately it just doesn’t like me.

  14. I’m an avid everyday smoker and have been for years. This is sadly 100% true though. I’ve only seen it once in the time that I’ve been smoking, but pot allergies are very real. A girl we where hanging out with one night didn’t actually even smoke with us, she just sat in the room while we passed around 2 spliffs. By the time the second was finished her eyes where just about swollen shut. We had to pump her full of Benadryl to try and tame the effects. That time, it wasn’t a life threatening thing for her. But I’m certain that she’ll never quietly sit by while her face swells beyond recognition again.

  15. Yep, know a friend who’s allergic. Thankfully he has an easy time avoiding it, and it isn’t as severe as some of the ones listed here, but he knows because of what happened when he tried. It’s a shame everyone has to find out the hard way…

  16. I have a good friend who is highly-allergic to pot. We were at a con and someone down the hall with medical paperwork was smoking in their room. The whiff of smoke she caught in the hallway sent her running to our room, where she threw up for the next hour.

    And a friend in college had no problems from smoking it, but if she touched it, her skin would break out in a rash.

  17. Couldn’t they just vaporize the buds and deliver the vapor? That should eliminate pollen and other particulate allergens, at least. It seems like the next logical step before diving into the process of separating cannabinoids or trying to buy individual cannabinoids.

  18. but if patients and doctors can’t speak freely to one another then patients miss out on treatment

    If you have a doctor that would turn you in for using illegal drugs that might be the first thing you want to change.

  19. My cannabis allergies can be life-threatening. I have been threatened with arrest for pot possession, or witholding pot-bust information from police (I refused to provide the address of where I had been exposed), at emergency rooms where I was being treated. I am torn between my civil-liberty ethic of drug decriminalization, and my need to be able to safely use public spaces and attend social events. For me, the otherwise welcomed trend of pot availability is a health disaster.

    For me, new hemp fabric, hemp oil and hemp oil products (such as my formerly beloved Dr. Bronners, dammit), hemp rope fibers in the air, culinary hemp, smoke, hash oil, even touching a growing plant, cause skin rash, asthma, and systemic reactions including anaphylactic shock. I have to carry steroidal asthma drugs, antihistamines, and an epi-pen wherever I go. I was exposed (lightly, fortunately) just yesterday at a bar patio in SF.

    I discovered the allergy in my teens at a party about 35 years ago, where fortunately one of the parents upstairs was a doctor. Since then I have been poisoned by Alice B. Toklas marijuana brownies (5 weeks in the hospital with GI obstruction and partial liver failure), smoked out of the streets and into the ERs of Atlanta, Vancouver, SF, and Seattle, and ruined the mood at Japanese bondage art shows (where hemp rope is the fashionable medium of choice).

    As far as I’m concerned, the only safe pot delivery systems are vaporizers or culinary uses. If hemp became commonly used for fabric, cosmetics, food, and packaging, I’m not sure what my recourse would be.

    My doctors tell me they cannot legally treat my allergy in my home state, because most of the materials for testing/treating me are themselves illegal. My insurance won’t cover testing and treatment for an illegal substance. Physicians don’t even know if my hemp allergy CAN be treated, as there are no studies available. MJ allergy is a serious medical issue, which will probably become more commonly known as open availability becomes more common. Perhaps some of the anticipated taxes from legalizing pot sales can go into treatment research – not just addiction treatment, but medical effects treatment. But I doubt it.

  20. my doctor suggested it to me as a medical treatment and was surprised that i was allergic. but later he did some research and said it made sense because i’m also allergic to mangoes and latex – apparently the allergenic proteins are similarly shaped.

  21. I’m allergic to pot. It basically means that I have some friends whose parties I cannot attend, or I have to attend briefly and may not get closer than the front porch. Or I have to take enough Benadryl that I’m the highest person in the area. And, of course, music festivals are a challenge. I thought I was going to die at an outdoor String Cheese Incident show.

    I’m all for it’s legalization, though. I really couldn’t care less about using it, but it makes me very mad that there is any of my tax dollars spent on prosecuting people for using something that is obviously benign (except to people like me).

    I get shots for other allergies, and I mentioned this to my allergist. He said that there wasn’t anything he — or any other allergist — could do about it because of all the red tape involved. I don’t have any desire to use, but I would like to not have to run crying out of the room.

    1. I’d be for Pot being legalized in a fashion similar to tobacco – anyone can smoke it, but not anywhere. This is a big part of why.

    2. shhhh don’t let the kids now how high you can get on bendadryl! Its cheap and its also the only allergy med that consistently let me breath during pollen season. I dread the day when goes back to to being prescription only, or only available behind the counter with 5 forms of ID.

  22. Count me in as one of the allergic folks. And here I thought I was the only one!

    Made for a somewhat difficult college experience (in California in the 80s), but I survived. I came pretty close to not surviving on two occasions. Even in the milder cases, it was a lonely experience. At the point of exposure, I’d be on my own — the only people who would have been capable of helping were pretty stoned, and thought it was funny or an act or just couldn’t grok how serious it was.

    I suspect a large number of my friends indulge, but the majority of them have the courtesy to do it away from me.

    Strangely, most hemp products (rope, cloth, soaps, oils) don’t give me a reaction.

  23. This is only anecdotal, but I wasn’t allergic to wood smoke until after the first time I smoked dope. Following that, whenever I go camping, I need saline, sorbolene and some sort of antihistamine to prevent my face from puffing up.

    Ironically, THC makes an adequate antihistamine in these situations.

  24. I would like to point out that there are thousands of chemicals in plant smoke, no matter what particular plant the smoke comes from. Some people are allergic to smoke, and some people may be allergic to the unique chemicals in marijuana itself. I would guess that most people are allergic to the toxins in smoke. Remember there are a lot of other ways to use the stuff.

  25. Can you imagine what it was like back in the sixties having to say no, sorry, I’m allergic to pot? And having to leave the area? I was sooooo ostracized.

  26. The main question here: Why was he drinking marijuana tea? What an inefficient way to get high.

    1. Not really. If you use the weed that still has the oil (or milk) on it leftover from cooking, it can get you really baked. I used to do it all the time before I quit smoking, and there were times when I would be literally high for more than a full 24 hour period off of one tall glass of tea.

  27. I’m allergic to pot. Unaware of this I recently tried medical maryj for the constant pain I’m in. It was the WORSE night of my life. Agonizingly bad. I thought it would never be over. So I guess that I feel nauseous when I’m near people smoking pot at concerts, that’s why.

    Which sucks because all the stupid hipsters in SF seem to have to smoke it at concerts-despite no smoking laws. So now I get very nervous anytime I’m out at a concert.

    Apparently pot is cross-reactive to latex. Which I’m also allergic to.

  28. Urban leets tend to be unaware of stuff like roadside hemp in rural midwestern counties. Just because you clowns actually pay for weed in clandestine street markets doesn’t mean weed isn’t wind-pollinated and common as ragweed out here in the boonies.

  29. I am definitely allergic to weed. Certain strains are worse than others and, of course, the trichome density also affects my reaction. Fortunately, my symptoms are mild: running nose, watery & itchy eyes, etc… and so it does not deter me from imbibing regularly in such a miraculous drug.

  30. People are allergic to the mold that can grow on improperly stored plant material. The same reactions can happen with food like bread.

    Disreputable middle men often wet it down to increase the weight and then wrap it in plastic which dramatically increases the chance of mold growing.

    Government and Big Pharma propaganda is rampant. Pot has been used for longer than recorded history. There has never been a single medically verified death from pot overdose. By contrast, half of all deaths from liver failure in the US every year are caused by acetaminophen (aka Paracetamol, Tylenol, etc).

    If the government cared about saving lives, they would immediately ban acetaminophen. Of course, if the government cared about saving lives, they would end war and fund public transportation instead. 40,000 people in the US die every year from private auto accidents – that’s more than a 9/11 attack every month.

  31. As long as we’re on the subject of allergies to illegal substances: it isn’t well-known either that if you’re allergic to Novocaine, you’re most likely allergic to cocaine — same family, mostly the same chemicals, potentially the same fatal effect.

  32. From the article just cited, quoting from the Judgment:

    “Seriously ill persons who need marihuana to treat their symptoms are forced to choose between their health and their liberty. If they choose their health, they must go to significant lengths to obtain the marihuana they need, including lengthy trips to purchase the drug, resort to the black market, and living with the constant stress that at any time they could be subject to criminal prosecution. These already sick individuals must further cope with the added stress of the stigma and social rejection of friends, family and members of the public who see them as criminals. This is not to mention the real fear of losing one’s doctor simply by inquiring about the drug and damage to the patient-doctor relationship.”

    Oh screw that argument…better just to throw the guy into jail with a mandatory minimum sentence, right?

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