Nonsmoker Exposure to Secondhand Cannabis Smoke. III. Oral Fluid and Blood Drug Concentrations and Corresponding Subjective Effects

J Anal Toxicol. 2015 Sep;39(7):497-509. doi: 10.1093/jat/bkv070. Epub 2015 Jul 2.


The increasing use of highly potent strains of cannabis prompted this new evaluation of human toxicology and subjective effects following passive exposure to cannabis smoke. The study was designed to produce extreme cannabis smoke exposure conditions tolerable to drug-free nonsmokers. Six experienced cannabis users smoked cannabis cigarettes [5.3% Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in Session 1 and 11.3% THC in Sessions 2 and 3] in a closed chamber. Six nonsmokers were seated alternately with smokers during exposure sessions of 1 h duration. Sessions 1 and 2 were conducted with no ventilation and ventilation was employed in Session 3. Oral fluid, whole blood and subjective effect measures were obtained before and at multiple time points after each session. Oral fluid was analyzed by ELISA (4 ng/mL cutoff concentration) and by LC-MS-MS (limit of quantitation) for THC (1 ng/mL) and total THCCOOH (0.02 ng/mL). Blood was analyzed by LC-MS-MS (0.5 ng/mL) for THC, 11-OH-THC and free THCCOOH. Positive tests for THC in oral fluid and blood were obtained for nonsmokers up to 3 h following exposure. Ratings of subjective effects correlated with the degree of exposure. Subjective effect measures and amounts of THC absorbed by nonsmokers (relative to smokers) indicated that extreme secondhand cannabis smoke exposure mimicked, though to a lesser extent, active cannabis smoking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Affect / drug effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Dronabinol / blood
  • Dronabinol / metabolism*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Smoke / adverse effects*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Time Factors


  • Smoke
  • Dronabinol