Marijuana, or weed, has a very unique and distinct smell. Most people can recognize immediately when they smell weed smoke around them, even if they only smell it while walking down a hallway someone was in. Because marijuana has such potent smoke, many people wonder, can you get high from smelling it? But, burning marijuana isn’t the only thing that smells. Cannabis plants can put off quite a smell as well. Growers or people working around growing plants may also wonder if they can get high from smelling the plants. The answer to both may surprise you.


Everyone knows smelling cigarette smoke secondhand can have adverse effects on our health. Being around cigarette smoke can lead to various health issues, including lung cancer and emphysema, even if you don’t smoke yourself. Because of this, marijuana smokers and smokers alike often wonder: Will secondhand marijuana smoke get me high? Or impact my health?  The answer is it depends. Believe it or not, there has been some research done to answer this question. They found that under extreme conditions, smelling someone’s marijuana smoke (called a contact high) could cause someone to experience the effects of marijuana or for THC to get into their system. So, what are the extreme conditions needed to make this possible? People would need to be in an unventilated or poorly ventilated room for an extended period of time. Sitting in a car with no windows down or a small room without a fan may result in non-smokers feeling some effects. However, merely catching the scent of marijuana in the air while you are out and about, or having some smoke enter an open window, is unlikely to affect you at all.


If you live with someone who smokes marijuana or you are in a place with lots of smoke, you may not experience the same effects as the person who is smoking but will likely experience similar ones. Common effects of secondhand marijuana smoke include:
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Increased appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Red, itchy eyes
The Effects of Secondhand Marijuana Smoke


Some marijuana smokers may choose to smoke (either alone or with others) in an enclosed place that is not ventilated. Picture the stereotypical car with windows rolled up and piles of smoke built up inside. This is called hotboxing. People may do this for many reasons. Some are simply trying to contain their smoke if they are smoking in an area around others. Others may find it a fun way to enjoy cannabis. Others still choose to hotbox to get a better high (though there is no evidence to show this will leave users “more high”). If you choose to hotbox, be careful. Seek out fresh air should you start to feel lightheaded or woozy, and make sure you hotbox in a place where it is legal.


Marijuana growers know that cannabis flowers themselves can put off quite a strong aroma. This can be detected by neighbours or visitors to the area in which your flowers are grown. Despite the potency of cannabis flowers, they will not get people high from simply being around them, unlike smoke. THC, the ingredient responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects, is activated by heat. When you simply smell a plant, this THC is not activated, so you will not experience a high.


There are some steps growers can take to help temper the smell of their plants. These include:
  • Purchase carbon filters and scrubbers. These devices pull the smell out of the air, neutralizing any odour that goes through them.
  • Buy an air purifier. These may not be strong enough to remove smells from the room you are growing plants in but can help reduce the smell in other areas.
  • Get odour eliminators. Sprays can also be used to help eliminate odours. They should not be used around the plants, though. Like air purifiers, these are more effective when used in other rooms of the house.
What Smelling Cannabis Can Tell You


Although sniffing a cannabis plant won’t get you high, it can give you some important information about the flower or the buds you have received. Smelling a plant can tell you:
  • If it is fresh. It should have a strong scent. If you purchased a bag of buds, you should be able to smell it through the bag.
  • The taste. Part of our ability to taste is driven by smell. The smell of your buds will give an indication of the flavour of the plant you are about to enjoy.
  • If it is damp. Marijuana that is too wet will not only smell damp but have a reduced smell. Wet marijuana is susceptible to mould and mildew.


While people passing by marijuana smokers won’t get a contact high, it is still important that marijuana smokers be respectful of those who don’t smoke cannabis. Before lighting up, weed aficionados should:
  • Be aware of their surroundings. If a crowd of people is nearby, it may be a good idea to light up when fewer people are around.
  • Don’t blow smoke in the direction of strangers. Try to keep the smoke away from non-smokers or those you don’t know.
  • Only smoke around others if you are outside or in a well-ventilated area.
If hanging out in a group, ask if it’s okay with everyone if you light up. Whether you are smoking a traditional joint or have a vape, keep the smoke factor in mind.


Although people will not get high by simply smelling marijuana smoke in passing, they can experience some effects if exposed to marijuana smoke for an extended amount of time in a poorly ventilated area. Even though growing cannabis plants can be a smelly business, smelling a plant will not get you high. This is due to the fact that the plant’s THC compound is activated by heat.

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