Will I Get High From Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke?

It's possible, but it's REALLY difficult.

Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke
Photo by Dominik Martin via Unsplash

You’ve heard the fabulous stories about the second-hand high. A friend of a friend got blitzed at music festival by just sitting next to a joint-toking hippie. Or your neighbor went to a house party and felt dizzy from all the smoke. Or your co-worker blamed his lethargy on the dude down the hall in his apartment building.


Is it really possible to feel the intoxicating effects of cannabis by just inhaling second-hand fumes?

It depends.

Nearly every story you hear, however, is, um, highly embellished. Yes, it is possible. But it is even more likely that it’s the placebo effect in action.


What You Need To Know

If your intent is to actually get intoxicated from second-hand smoke, it’s possible. Hotboxing, according to Urban Dictionary is the practice of smoking marijuana in an enclosed space (e.g. a car or a small room) in order to maximize the narcotic effect. The “enclosed space” part of the definition is important. If there is ventilation or air flow, the chances of getting high is limited. Also, copious amounts of smoke will be needed.

If you are outdoors (music festival, backyard barbecue party, waiting at the bus stop) it is simply not possible to inhale enough second-hand smoke to feel any effect.


Even the National Institute of Drug Abuse agrees.

“Studies show that very little THC is exhaled back into the air when a smoker exhales. So little, in fact, that if you sat in a room while people exhaled the smoke of four marijuana cigarettes (sometimes called joints) in one hour, you wouldn’t get high.  You would have to be trapped in a room breathing the smoke of 16 burning joints before it you started to show signs of being high,” NIDA reports.

What About a Positive Drug Test?

Once again, the chances of you inhaling enough THC to test positive is nearly impossible.

From NIDA:

In a 2010 study, researchers measured the effect of secondhand marijuana smoke on non-marijuana smokers.  The non-smokers were placed in a well-ventilated space with people casually smoking marijuana for 3 hours.  The researchers then took blood and urine samples from the nonsmokers. They found that THC was present, but the amount was well below the level to needed to fail a drug test.  Another study found similar results: Testing positive is rare and limited to the hours directly following exposure.

The Bottom Line:

If you are bothered by second-hand cannabis smoke, definitely let the offending person know of your concern. But if you are afraid of getting high or failing a drug test, chill out. The only way you will get buzzed is if you try really hard to do so.

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