The Cardiovascular Effects of Marijuana: Are the Potential Adverse Effects Worth the High?

Mo Med. 2019 Mar-Apr;116(2):146-153.


Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States (US) and much of the Westernized World with a steadily increasing prevalence in usage and abuse over the past decade, especially among adolescents. Much of the available data on 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, relates to its neurological effects and anti-emetic properties, with very little on the cardiovascular (CV) effects of THC. Available literature shows that THC has three major effects on the CV and the peripheral vasculature in the form of "cannabis arteritis," cannabis-induced vasospasms, and platelet aggregation, with an unknown verdict on the relationship between marijuana use and atherosclerosis progression. This manuscript reviews these effects and possible mechanisms of action. Moreover, limitations on current views of marijuana and indirect causes of CV toxicity will be investigated, such as concurrent drug use, lifestyle, and mental health. The effects of marijuana on the CV system are extremely worrisome and likely need more attention due to the growing legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use across the US. As a result, awareness among health care professionals about potential side effects and toxicities associated with acute and chronic exposure of cannabis will increase in importance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabis*
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Marijuana Abuse*
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • United States


  • Cannabinoids