Can Some People Be Allergic To Cannabis? Yes, But It’s Complicated

Allergic reactions to cannabis are rare and are more common in people with many allergies – In 1971, a middle-aged woman decided to smoke marijuana for the first time in her life, only to find out that she was allergic. Her doctors, baffled by her mild anaphylactic reaction, published her case in the first report to ever document this phenomenon.

Despite leaving behind a medical legacy, it’s unlikely that this woman was the first person in history to have this unfortunate allergy. As recent studies show, cannabis allergies are on the rise as more people around the world try the drug. Some workers in the hemp industry have also reported allergy-like symptoms, which may include rhinitis (nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, red eyes, etc.), hives, or swelling.

Still, cases of cannabis allergies are rare and little is known about what causes this effect.

Recently, a team of researchers from Canada and the U.S. set out to identify what was responsible for these allergic reactions. Their findings, published in the July issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, did not point to a specific compound in cannabis as the cause.

Rather, subjects seemed to react to a wide range of proteins found not only in marijuana, but throughout the plant kingdom. The proteins identified – mostly enzymes – include RuBisCO (a photosynthesis catalyst and the most abundant protein in nature), luminal binding protein (also responsible for hazel pollen allergies) and certain parts of the ATP synthase enzyme (also responsible for wheat and fungi allergies).

Although subjects weren’t tested for other plant allergies, previous studies have found ragweed and pigweed allergies to be common in people who react to cannabis. What’s more, in a study involving 32 subjects with tomato allergies, all tested positive for cannabis allergies as well.

Overall, the new findings bring mostly good news: people who react to cannabis aren’t allergic to THC or any other medically useful compound in marijuana. The bad news: if cannabis gives you an allergic reaction, you’re probably allergic to a lot of other plants too.

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