Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be allergic to marijuana. It’s a very rare and
unfortunate occurrence, but there are people out there who cannot be around the plant. In
some cases, the secondary components that come with the herb, such as pesticides or molds,
are to blame for puffy eyes and persistent sneezing.
“Now as the prevalence [of marijuana use] is increasing, and with the legalization in many
states, it is going to become increasingly more common, and all these cases will surface that
were not recognized before,” said Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist from the Allergy & Asthma
Network, a nonprofit organization that promotes allergy research and education.
Allergens in Marijuana
There are several things inside marijuana that have been linked to sensitive allergies in
consumers. The first is cannabis pollen, which is commonly produced by male plants and
“females that express hermaphroditic male flowers.” A study published in Annals of Allergy,
Asthma & Immunology highlighted that 73 percent of participants with low tolerance to
marijuana pollen were also sensitive to other types plants, including hemp, ragweed and
Russian thistle. Like typical pollen allergies, this type of condition manifests externally through
sneezing, headaches and watery eyes.
What about individuals who are allergic to female cannabis flowers? Previous studiessuggest
that the plant’s proteins could be causing unwanted reactions in some individuals. Researchers
have uncovered Rubisco, a plant protein found in weed that aids the conversion of carbon
dioxide into natural sugar, to be closely linked with allergies in other plants and potentially
cannabis. Interestingly, in a 2011 report, scientists found that most people who are sensitive to
marijuana may also be allergic to tobacco, tomato or peach.
“In the 2011 study, it was found that pollen allergy was not associated with cannabis allergy
itself. This implies that individuals can be allergic to only the pollen, or only the other allergens
present, but that it is unlikely for someone to be allergic to both,” said Seshata from Sensi
Recommendations for Cannabis Allergies
If your marijuana allergy is associated with the ingredients used during cultivation, it would be
best to stick to suppliers with clean growing practices. If you’re in a state that permits personal
cultivation, you could eliminate all possible risks by growing your own bud at home. For
individuals who are mildly sensitive to the plant, it is recommended to avoid exposure in large
quantities, which may trigger allergic reactions. If marijuana smoke is causing you problems, it
might be worth exploring other cannabis mediums, including edibles, drinks and tinctures.
Lastly, as with all allergies, getting properly diagnosed from a licensed doctor is the key to
prevention. If you’re unsure about your cannabis allergy (as mentioned earlier, you may not
actually be allergic to the plant itself), try getting a skin test to verify your medical condition.