A Prospective Study of Humoral and Cellular Immune Responses to Hepatitis B Vaccination in Habitual Marijuana Smokers

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2018 Jun;13(2):219-229. doi: 10.1007/s11481-018-9776-7. Epub 2018 Jan 16.


Exposure to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in vitro and in animal models can significantly impair the differentiation, activation and function of dendritic cells, T cells and B cells. However, studies directly assessing the impact of marijuana smoking on human immunity are lacking. A prospective study of immune responses to a standard hepatitis B vaccination was therefore carried out in a matched cohort of 9 marijuana smokers (MS) and 9 nonsmokers (NS). In addition to their regular marijuana use, MS smoked four marijuana cigarettes in a monitored setting on the day of each vaccination. Blood samples were collected over time to assess the development of hepatitis B-specific immunity. The majority of subjects from both the NS (8) and MS (6) groups developed positive hepatitis B surface antibody titers (>10 IU/L) and of these 6 NS and 5 MS were classified as high antibody (good) responders (>100 IU/L). The development of a good response correlated with the presence of hepatitis B-specific T cell proliferation and cytokine production, resulting in a clear distinction regarding the immune status of good responders versus non-responders. However, even though there were slighter more non-responders in the MS cohort, there were no significant differences between MS and NS with respect to peripheral blood cell phenotypes or vaccination-related changes in hepatitis B responses. While a larger cohort may be required to rule out a small suppressive effect, our findings do not suggest that habitual marijuana smoking exerts a major impact on the development of systemic immunity to hepatitis B vaccination.

Keywords: Dendritic cells; Hepatitis B surface antigen; Hepatitis B vaccine; Marijuana; T cells; Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / blood*
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Immunity, Humoral / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / immunology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Hepatitis B Antibodies
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines