Smoking Cannabis: How Long Should I Hold In a Hit of Marijuana?

Dear Cheri,

My friend and I are having an argument and we hope you can settle a bet for us. When smoking marijuana, I was always taught to inhale a hit and hold it for as long as possible before exhaling in order to get the most from it. My friend says you can inhale and immediately exhale and get the same effect or better. There’s an 8th of top-shelf riding on this.  Who’s right?


Sorry Doug,  you’re going to need to buy your friend that 8th!

According to Dr. Sunil Agarwal, a cannabinoid integrative medicine specialist, THC absorption occurs within milliseconds, in other words almost instantly upon inhalation.  From there it can take a minute or so before the effects are felt by the brain, but as to the lungs and how long you need to hold the hit, you don’t.

When smoking marijuana, inhale deeply and immediately begin to exhale. I say inhale deeply because THC is absorbed in the lungs, not the mouth or trachea. However, holding that smoke in your lungs, once you have inhaled, serves no practical purpose. To the contrary, it only exposes you to more tar, toxins, and carcinogens.  Yes, cannabis smoke does contain all of these, but unlike cigarette smoke, no link to smoking cannabis and increased cancer risk has been established (read more about marijuana smoking and the lungs here).

So for best results when smoking or vaping cannabis, inhale deeply, and let it out.

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