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are a convenient source of human cells, the problems described above apply here as well. In addition, the cell lines might not be the same as the original cells. For example, cell lines do not necessarily have the same number of cannabinoid receptors as the original human cells.

Rodent Studies

The most widely used approach is to evaluate the effects of cannabinoids in rodents, using rodent-derived cells in vitro. The rationale is that the human and rodent immune systems are remarkably similar, and it is assumed that the effects produced by cannabinoids on the rodent immune system will be similar to those produced in humans. Although no substantial species differences in immune system sensitivity to cannabinoids have been reported, the possibility should be considered.


The complete effect of marijuana smoking on immune function remains unknown. More important, it is not known whether smoking leads to increased rates of infections, tumors, allergies, or autoimmune responses. The problem is how to duplicate the "normal" marijuana smoking pattern while removing other potential immunomodulating lifestyle factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use. Epidemiological studies are needed to determine whether marijuana users have a higher incidence of such diseases, as infections, tumors, allergies, and autoimmune diseases. Studies on resistance to bacterial and viral infection are clearly needed and should involve the collaboration of immunologists, infectious disease specialists, oncologists, and pharmacologists.

Marijuana Smoke

Tobacco is the predominant cause of such lung diseases as cancer and emphysema, and marijuana smoke contains many of the components of tobacco smoke.69 Thus, it is important to consider the relationship between habitual marijuana smoking and some lung diseases.

Given a cigarette of comparable weight, as much as four times the amount of tar can be deposited in the lungs of marijuana smokers as in the lungs of tobacco smokers.162 The difference is due primarily to the differences in filtration and smoking technique between tobacco and marijuana smokers. Marijuana cigarettes usually do not have filters, and marijuana smokers typically develop a larger puff volume, inhale more deeply, and hold their breath several times longer than tobacco smokers.119 However, a marijuana cigarette smoked recreationally typically is not packed

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