Can Marijuana Cause COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)?

Fact-checked by Alexandra Arnett, MS

Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Kessler, MD

medical cannabis doctor

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a condition in which airflow is blocked, causing difficulty breathing. The disease has been studied for over 200 years and is often accompanied by emphysema or chronic bronchitis. The exact number of people with this condition is unknown because many go undiagnosed, but it is estimated that 15 million people suffer from COPD in the United States.

There is no cure for COPD. It is a progressive condition that can worsen over time but is treatable with medications like inhalers. Other treatments have been recently developed, like implantable lung valves that help reduce breathing difficulty.

Get Your Medical Card Online Get approved today in minutes with the nation's #1 trusted medical card provider.
No appointment needed. Only billed if approved.

What Causes COPD?

COPD is a condition caused by extended exposure to harmful and irritating particles and gasses in the air. It results in a person having difficulty breathing. One of the leading causes is tobacco smoke. It has also been found that a rare genetic condition, alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency, can also lead to the development of COPD. Other risk factors include;

  • Poor air quality and pollution,
  • Family history,
  • History of respiratory infections.

COPD Signs & Symptoms

If you are experiencing COPD, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • A chronic, ongoing cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Swelling feet and ankles
  • Tight chest
  • Wheezing
  • Unintentional weight loss

COPD is a progressive disorder that has four stages.

  1. Mild/Stage 1– This is the early stage where symptoms may not be noticeable. It is characterized by mild shortness of breath during regular activities, like exercising. 
  2. Moderate - Severage/ Stage 2 & 3 – These stages are where difficulty breathing is more apparent. People at this stage can experience ‘exacerbating’, where symptoms may worsen from average and last several days.
  3. Severe/Stage 4 – Daily activities are challenging, with most patients needing an oxygen tank for assistance. 

Can Cannabis Can Help Alleviate COPD Symptoms?

medical marijuana doctor

Cannabis can be consumed in various ways, but the most common way is to smoke it. Although it may seem like a “healthier” alternative to tobacco, cannabis smoking is linked to cases of chronic bronchitis. However, the research does not indicate that cannabis use was linked to COPD.1

One study showed that the carcinogens in smoking cannabis were similar to those in tobacco, but cannabis smokers inhaled more per puff. The study also acknowledged that cannabis has some bronchodilator properties. They were unclear about the significance it played in COPD.2

Cannabis usage may help alleviate some symptoms of COPD, like sleeping issues that come from staying up with coughing or wheezing, or appetite, which COPD may reduce. It is better to avoid smoking methods, like joints, bongs, bowls, or dabs. These may make COPD and its symptoms worse. Alternative modes of less harmful consumption are tinctures, edibles, topicals, and suppositories.

There is limited research into how other components of cannabis affect COPD.3 It is best to consult a physician on whether cannabis can help treat COPD and its symptoms.

Legality and Doctor’s Recommendation

To determine if your state considers COPD to be a qualifying condition for medical marijuana, check out our Laws & Regulations section for the medical cannabis rules for your state.

If you find that your state recognizes COPD as a qualifying medical condition, you can seek a doctor’s recommendation to register for your state’s medical marijuana program. 

How NuggMD Can Help

mmj card

NuggMD is the nation's leading medical marijuana technology platform, serving patients in 25 states and growing. We’ve connected over 1,000,000 patients with their new medical marijuana doctors face-to-face via our state-of-the-art telemedicine platform. 

We believe that every human being has the right to explore the benefits of medical cannabis and are fully committed to helping each patient explore all of their options in their journey to wellness. For further information on whether you qualify for medical cannabis, select your state.

Get Your Medical Card Online Get approved today in minutes with the nation's #1 trusted medical card provider.
No appointment needed. Only billed if approved.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis & COPD

Can CBD oil help with shortness of breath?

THC and CBD tinctures may be the better consumption method to help with shortness of breath as opposed to smoking, which may exacerbate the symptoms of COPD. 

Can I smoke weed if I have COPD?

Smoking cannabis and smoking tobacco produces similar carcinogens in the lungs. Anyone with COPD is not recommended to smoke any substance, including weed.

What symptoms of COPD can weed help with?

Cannabis may be helpful for symptoms of COPD like sleep, appetite, and pain issues. Non-smoking alternatives, like tinctures, edibles, topicals, or suppositories, may be considered a less harmful consumption method. Consult with your physician before using cannabis as a treatment.

What cannabinoid is good for COPD?

It is theorized that CBD might be the better cannabinoid for treating COPD and its symptoms. However, no evidence supports that this cannabinoid or any other is a helpful therapy.


1. Ribeiro L, Ind PW. Marijuana and the lung: hysteria or cause for concern?. Breathe (Sheff). 2018;14(3):196-205. doi:10.1183/20734735.020418

2. Tashkin DP, Roth MD. Pulmonary effects of inhaled cannabis smoke. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2019;45(6):596-609. doi:10.1080/00952990.2019.1627366

3. Montero-Oleas N, Arevalo-Rodriguez I, Nuñez-González S, Viteri-García A, Simancas-Racines D. Therapeutic use of cannabis and cannabinoids: an evidence mapping and appraisal of systematic reviews. BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. 2020;20(1). doi:

The information in this article and any included images or charts are for educational purposes only. This information is neither a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional legal advice or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult with an attorney, physician or other licensed professional.

Successful team

The NuggMD Promise

We are a team of cannabis and technology professionals focused on connecting you with state-licensed doctors. We believe all people deserve access to medical cannabis if they think it might improve their quality of life. Since our founding in 2015, we’ve held ourselves and our partners to the highest standards to ensure every patient we serve is able to access reliable cannabis information, trustworthy medical practitioners, and proactive updates on the cannabis healthcare ecosystem and legislation that may affect their experience as a medical cannabis patient.

Whether you’re a cannabis connoisseur or thinking of becoming a first-time medical marijuana patient, our network of doctors will listen to your needs and give you an honest opinion about whether they think cannabis can help.

Billed only if approved.