The myth of the contact high
A cloud of pot smoke isn’t a chemtrail. It isn’t Ebola. It isn’t nerve gas.
Your brain won’t change just by being around cannabis. And you won’t fail your next drug test, either.
Even the government’s fear-mongering drug websites say you “probably” cannot get high from second-hand marijuana smoke. And scientists found that non-smokers in a Dutch coffee shop — a marijuana smoking lounge — had only trace amounts of marijuana in their blood, and all passed drug tests. More than 90 percent of THC is absorbed in seconds by your lungs.
This is welcome news. A lot of people think the contact high is real. They feel high when their roommate dabs right next to them. They know that THC lingers in your blood like an unwelcome houseguest. For people who have drug tests at their jobs, who are on probation, or who have caring wives who will notice bloodshot eyes, this fear changes how we live. We avoid parties that might be fun. If our friends light up, we’ll stick our heads out the window or disappear into the hall. Friends disown friends, roommates change apartments.
Jake Browne sees this all the time. After The Denver Post hired him to be its pot critic, Browne became one of the world’s most famous cannabis journalists. Other reporters now interview him.
They come from stuffy news organizations where nobody smokes weed. They hardly know anyone who tokes the dope. They think of weed as being uncivilized, toxic and contagious.
When Browne lights up, some of the scribes scatter, shuffle away or duck and cover. One writer, a hip Frenchie, pulled his shirt collar up over his nose like a kid who just found a dead festering raccoon. “I think it’s cute,” Browne admits.
Cannabis isn’t public enemy number one anymore. It’s being smoked openly. And so regular, non-druggy people are now walking into hazy living rooms, cloudy concert halls and house parties that look like a Dr. Dre video — and worried that their lives are about to change.
“It’s born out of people being scared of cannabis,” says Browne. “Like, ‘Don’t hang out with a pothead or you’ll get all potty.’”
A warning: few studies confirmed that a contact high was possible. However, most of these studies were performed under “extreme conditions,” which rarely occur in real life, like super-tiny spaces filled with crazy quantities of weed. So, yes, you can get a contact high if you share a telephone booth with Wiz Khalifa or if you perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the Dabbing Granny.
But in concert venues or house parties, it’s unlikely.
Most contact highs are psychological. You’re around people acting blazed; you act wasted, too.
In the end, you can’t get high off secondhand pot smoke much more than you can get syphilis from secondhand sex or get smart from secondhand reading.
Secondhand pot smoke is, however, linked to secondhand coolness. And Browne has another solution for helping people chill out: “People who are worried about a contact high should try getting actually high.”