The Fragrance of Marijuana Before and After Consumption
Marijuana is the dried leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant. Cannabis has psychoactive and medicinal properties because of its chemical makeup.
Marijuana can be rolled up in a handmade cigarette (a joint), in a cigar, or in a pipe (a bong). It can be used for pain relief, to treat anxiety, or for recreation.
In many states, the sale and use of marijuana without a prescription is still illegal.
You can usually tell if someone has been smoking marijuana by detecting the scent of piney, slightly skunky grass that smoked cannabis leaves behind.
But figuring out for sure if what you’re smelling is weed can be a little difficult if you aren’t attuned to the scent. Various strains of marijuana can smell different from each other, making it even more complicated.
This article will cover what marijuana smells like in different stages of its use and consumption, as well as some differences between strains.
The strongest factor in the way marijuana smells is the age of the cannabis plant when it’s harvested. Cannabis that’s harvested earlier in its life cycles has a milder, less skunky scent.
It’s also less powerful when you smoke it. Cannabis that grows older before it’s picked and dried will have a stronger odor.
Organic compounds called terpenes are found in all plants, including cannabis. Myrcene (mango), pinene (pine), and limonene (lemon) are terpenes found in some strains of cannabis.
Terpenes change the scent of marijuana. For example, cannabis strains with pinene will smell more like pine.
Marijuana plants smell similar during the growing process and when they’re harvested and dried. They give off a slightly weedy, piney “skunk” scent that gets stronger as the plant grows older.
When cannabis flowers and blooms, the scent becomes powerful.
Indica vs. sativa
For decades, botanists and marijuana connoisseurs claimed that indica and sativa are different species with distinctly different effects on the body. Indica strain smells more acrid, while sativa smells more spicy or sweet.
But it would appear, at least to some experts, that there’s no way to smell the difference between indica and sativa definitively. Part of the reason is that there’s a lot of crossbreeding between these two particular strains.
However, one small study did find that participants who had purchased weed within the prior several months were able to smell the difference between several different strains of marijuana.
Marijuana consumers describe the scent of the plant as earthy, herbal, and woody. Sometimes the plant scent carries notes of lemon, apple, diesel, or plum.
Dried marijuana smells a lot stronger than some other dried plants.
When you’re smoking marijuana, the natural scent of the cannabis scent is amplified by the smoke it creates. Fire, smoke itself, ash, and the smell of rolling paper add additional layers to the scent.
When a person is smoking cannabis, notes of lemongrass, pine, fire, and wood may stand out. The distinct “skunk” smell of marijuana is often reported.
Learn about what gives marijuana its distinctly "skunky," strong odor, and how marijuana smells in plant form, when it's smoked, and more.
What Are the Side Effects of Secondhand Marijuana Smoke?
Marijuana smoke is created whenever someone burns the leaves, flowers, stems, or seeds of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is used by an average of 26 million Americans per month. It’s been studied for some medical uses.
But despite marijuana’s prevalence, its safety is sometimes in dispute. Smoking it, or being near someone else who is smoking it, does cause side effects.
Marijuana contains a chemical called THC, which can block pain and bring on a feeling of relaxation to people who breathe it in or consume it. Smoking weed has depressant, hallucinogenic, and stimulant effects. Inhaling THC can also impair your ability to concentrate and to operate a car.
Whenever you’re breathing in THC, it’s possible to get high. Effects of THC vary from person to person, as well as how much of the chemical you’re exposed to.
Drug test results can differ for people who are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke and people who smoked marijuana.
In 2015, a small study of six smokers and six nonsmokers showed that marijuana smoked in highly concentrated quantities could trigger a positive urine drug test among people who were simply exposed to the smoke in an unventilated room.
However, ventilation during marijuana exposure, as well as how often exposure occurred, were critical factors in what the drug test result would be.
For example, smelling marijuana smoke in passing once in a while is a lot different from living with a habitual marijuana smoker who uses marijuana in your presence regularly.
Another small study attempted to mimic a more true-to-life example.
Rather than stick nonsmokers in a closed, unventilated room for long smoking sessions, these study participants spent three hours in a coffee shop where other patrons were smoking marijuana cigarettes.
After their exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke, participants were tested for THC. While a trace amount of THC did show up in their blood and urine, it wasn’t enough to trigger a positive drug test result.
It was unlikely that any contact high was passed during this study.
With that being said, getting a contact high is possible.
Being near marijuana smoke often and in poorly ventilated areas (like a car with the windows rolled up or a small bedroom without a fan) may result in feeling a limited amount of the effects that the person smoking experiences.
But catching a whiff of marijuana fragrance through your apartment window or entering a room where people were smoking several hours ago is very unlikely (maybe even impossible) to affect you at all.
There isn’t much by way of clinical data to understand if secondhand marijuana smoke is as bad for your health as tobacco smoke.
According to the American Lung Association, regularly smoking marijuana yourself can damage your lungs and weaken your immune system.
And a 2016 study on rats showed that just one minute of secondhand marijuana smoke impaired lung function for at least 90 minutes — which is longer than the lungs are affected by tobacco secondhand smoke.
Secondhand marijuana smoke exposes you to many of the same toxic chemicals as smoking it directly does. Because of this, the American Lung association recommends that people avoid exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.
Contact high may be less common than we think, but it’s possible. Here are some of the other side effects and symptoms of secondhand marijuana smoke exposure.
Smoking weed can slow your reaction time when you’re on the road. If you have high levels of THC in your blood from secondhand marijuana smoke, it might have the same effect.
If you’re around marijuana smoke for a long period of time, you may begin to feel lightheaded or dizzy.
One effect of the THC in marijuana is the feeling of calmness it gives some users. For others, this calmness can take the form of feeling tired or lethargic.
Researchers are still trying to understand the connection between excessive marijuana exposure and mental health. It appears that marijuana use can trigger or worsen some mental health conditions, including depression.
No link has been established between secondhand smoke marijuana exposure and depression.
The legal and medical use of marijuana is changing rapidly, but that doesn't mean it's safe for everyone to be exposed to it. Here's what you need to know.