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The Lungs of Cannabis Smokers Are Good to Donate

Emily Robertson
organ donor, medical cannabis, cannabis, cannabis users, recreational cannabis, legalization, lungs, lung donor, smoke, cancer

Study finds that the lungs of cannabis smokers are suitable for transplant donation, instantly deepening the donor pool. 

Long has it been said if you smoke, you are not eligible to be a lung donor. The alveolar damage and potential for cancer would make it too risky. Transplant surgery is already very risky with a high rate of failure (25% of kidney transplants, 40% of heart transplants). You want to start the process with the best chance for success possible. Lungs are among the riskiest of transplant procedures with a one year survival rate at 90%, but after five years, falling to 55%.  But, all of this aside, cannabis smokers may have the fittest lungs for donation.


Lungs, like other needed organs, are on permanent back order. This inspired science to investigate other options in order to save lives. Researchers in the Department of Cardiothoracic Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support in Harefield, UK looked into the efficacy of cannabis smokers’ lungs post-donation. They evaluated early and mid-term outcomes of cannabis consumers’ donations and found that there appear to be no negative outcomes of cannabis inhalation on the quality and efficacy of the donation.

This is great news for everyone! That means that if you smoke cannabis, you’re still able to donate your lungs. Organ donation is such an important charitable act, but most people don’t realize how needed it really is.

Organ Donation Rates

In 2016 alone, 260 people died while waiting for an organ transplant. In that same year, just 2,835 organs were transplanted despite the fact that more than 4,500 individuals were in need. Every year, the number of people waiting for a transplant increases.

Many people consider organ donation something you can only do after death. While that may be true for some organs, like the heart, you can actually donate while still being alive; living donors can provide a kidney, part of the liver, and even a lobe of the lung to those in need.

Of course, you need to be in good health. And this study demonstrates that cannabis smoking doesn’t interfere with that, and may even improve things.

The Transplant Study

The researchers evaluated lung transplant outcomes from donors with a history of cannabis smoking, and compared the results of those without a history of cannabis smoking. In total, they compared 302 samples between January 2007 and November 2013. Significantly, every cannabis smoker also had a history of smoking tobacco whereas only 43% of non-smokers (cannabis) had a history of tobacco use.

They found that a history of smoking cannabis does not influence lung transplant outcomes. The study was published in 2016 by Oxford University Press.

However, we should note a few aspects of the study. One, they looked at those with a history of smoking cannabis. Whether current cannabis habits influence donor efficacy requires further research. If you’re looking to donate, make sure your doctor is aware of your smoking habits, whether cannabis or tobacco.

Secondly, they only evaluated 19 cannabis smokers compared to 283 non-smokers. A larger sample size would be required before making definitive statements about the outcome of cannabis history on lung transplant.

Finally, these are early and mid-term results. In other words, they look at the results from 1 and 3 years post-operation. We still have to investigate long-term outcomes. This outlines another area of research that is sorely lacking in the cannabis field. If you’re familiar with the cannabis discussion, then you already know how many questions are still up in the air.

Please Consider it:

What we do know, though, is that organ donation is something everyone should consider. Whether it’s post-mortem or while you’re still living, no matter your smoking habits, it’s worth a conversation with your doctor. The most important thing is that your doctor knows your smoking history.

Woman holding out a card that says organ donor to entice a transplant

Are you considering being an organ donor? Have you or a loved one taken a transplant? Share your experiences with others to help spread the importance of organ donation so we can collectively reduce risk of death by decreasing the wait list.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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