By Steven Adamo
Educating and protecting the community and students against the dangers of marijuana was the goal of the Students Against Substance Abuse Club’s Marijuana: Second- and Third-hand Smoke talk last month.
“It was like a mini town hall. It turned out pretty well,” Gilbert Vasquez, an Addiction Studies graduate and SASA Club member, said. “We filled the room to capacity and there was great dialogue between students, clubs and the California Hispanic Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Inc. in educating what is second-hand smoke, third-hand smoke and the different strains.”
The event was hosted by the SASA club along with the Latino Family Center, a program from CHCADA, and the Environmental Prevention Services for Los Angeles County.
The ultimate goal of these events is to impact on-campus awarenesses of health risks associated with daily, frequent cannabis use. “This year, as a South East Community Alliance coalition that is lead by CHCADA and five other agencies, we partnered with SASA to work on a workplace this year at East Los Angeles College,” said Maritza Alvarez, Environmental Prevention Services coordinator for the Latino Family Center.
During a SASA meeting held Nov. 19, two members from CHCADA’s Environmental Prevention Services were on-hand to share information.
“There’s no need for you to be high all day” said Leo Escobar, Outreach Specialist for the Addiction Studies program and President of the SASA Club. Escobar is concerned about the chemical process involved with making vape cartridges and the harm it can cause to others. Alvarez said that vape cartridges typically have “extraordinary levels of THC.”
“The THC is more concentrated in the vape, as well, so you have higher levels of THC,” said Marlene Marroquin, EPS Specialist for the Latino Family Center. “Some people finish a whole cartridge a day, but since it’s more concentrated, it’s a lot worse.”
Marroquin referenced a study published by Matthew Springer, Ph.D. of California State University San Francisco that compared the effects of second-hand tobacco and cannabis smoke on rats.
“The marijuana second-hand smoke constricted their blood vessels for 90 minutes. For tobacco it was 25 minutes– that’s the short-term,” Marroquin said. “In the long-term, it can affect the blood flow to the rest of your body and your brain and it can eventually lead to a heart-attack or stroke.”
On the topic of third-hand smoke, Marroquin said that there are three types of exposure to third hand smoke: ingestion, through skin contact and inhalation.
“It sticks on the carpet, it can even stick on the walls. It’s all of that exposure to that third-hand smoke that can cause health issues, especially to vulnerable populations such as infants and elderly, or those with a weaker immune system,” Alvarez said.
Now that cannabis is legal in the state of California, the state, the municipalities, the counties and the cities are all coming up with their own regulations. “It’s just a huge mix of stuff,” Alvarez said. “All these bureau offices are trying to figure out what kind of effective laws and regulations should be made.”
“You have the right to decide whether or not you want to purchase and smoke marijuana. That’s up to you. But what happens to the populations that are under 21? To those that are exposed to the second-hand smoke, what happens to them?” Alvarez said. “Children’s heart rate is a lot faster so they’re breathing in a lot more at a quicker rate, so it might impact them as well depending on the type of weed and the level of THC.”
For youth especially, these effects can be serious. “They’re normalizing it as if there are no negative effects, especially toward a youth between the ages of 12 and 25, whose brain is still developing,” Alvarez said.
“For example, if you’re male and have a history of schizophrenia in your family– if you start smoking at 12 and continue using up until young adulthood, you’re increasing the chance of acquiring schizophrenia by 30 percent.”
Under current California law, cannabis is “recommended” or “referred,” not “prescribed.” Unlike drugs obtained at pharmacies, a doctor doesn’t provide a prescription with specific dosages — it’s up to the patient to do their own research. “Because there’s no strict regulations, you can’t rely on the information that’s out there,” Alvarez said.
The cannabinoids, or CBD, are the medicinal extractions from the cannabis plant and are often sold at dispensaries and the internet, though are not always free from THC. “There have been various tests that show that it’s not necessarily isolated — especially over the internet, they may claim they are selling CBD but when they test it, they see that it hasn’t been isolated.”
“In the end, there’s a disproportionate number of dispensaries that are illegal and are operating in working-class communities of color,” Alvarez said.