Although marijuana is now consumed extensively, little is known of its biologic effects on the lung. To study this problem, the intrapulmonary inactivation of an aerosolized challenge of Staphylococcus aureus was quantified in rats exposed to graded amounts of fresh marijuana smoke. Controls inactivated 85.1 percent +/- 0.3 percent of the bacteria six hours after inoculation. Following an in vivo accumulative exposure to smoke from progressively increasing numbers of marijuana cigarettes for periods of ten minutes each hour for five consecutive hours, intrapulmonary bacterial inactivation was impaired in a dose-dependent manner. Evaluation of the effects of parenterally administered delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or of exposure to fresh smoke from THC-extracted marijuana placebo cigarettes indicated that the cytotoxin in marijuana was not related to the primary psychomimetic component. Thus, marijuana smoke is toxic to the lung and impairs the pulmonary antibacterial defense system in a dose-dependent manner.