There is a television commercial showing a woman on her porch smoking a cigarette, as the smoke circles up and away from her an ominous voice says, “Secondhand smoke kills.” The commercial’s final frame shows a baby laying on his back as the smoke lingers around him. The ad was sponsored by the state of California.

The irony is that on Monday, for the first time in California, people lined up to legally purchase recreational marijuana and all we heard from the media was about how much money it would make for the state. Why is it that no one talked about how smoking pot creates secondhand smoke and the possible health implications caused by it?

Anyone in the proximity of someone smoking marijuana will also consume the pot secondhand and those exposed can get what’s called a contact high. In such instances, those who don’t want to smoke marijuana, are inadvertently forced to do so.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”] People who tuned in to CNN New Year’s Eve, got to see exactly what I’m talking about. During the broadcast that evening, CNN reporter Randi Kaye, gave the audience periodic updates as she reported from a “Cannibus” party in Denver, Colorado. During the event, partiers welcomed in the New Year with a puff, pass and paint marijuana party. Here is one news account of Kaye’s demeanor by the end of the evening.

“After Kaye noted she ‘wasn’t thinking right” during the interview (a first for her in the field), a very amused [Anderson] Cooper made sure to clarify, ‘But it was just a contact high, I just want to make that clear. Is that correct?’”

Some are happy marijuana is now legal in California. However, I believe we should not ignore the possible health implications associated with marijuana’s secondhand smoke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand marijuana smoke contains tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana’s psychological effects. The agency also warned it contains many of the same toxic compounds found in smoked tobacco. The CDC cautions, “breathing it could affect the health and behavior of nonsmokers, including babies and children who are exposed.”

Because the CDC has confirmed marijuana contains many of the same toxic compounds as smoked tobacco, I just want to remind my readers that years ago, the agency determined that secondhand tobacco smoke in kids causes ear infections; more frequent and severe asthma attacks; respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and shortness of breath; bronchitis; pneumonia and a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome.

Check out our updated map showing shops licensed to sell recreational cannabis in California.

I don’t know about smoking marijuana, but I do have a concern about the impact of secondhand smoke already classified by the CDC as a carcinogen.

Research indicates more than 86 percent of Californians do not smoke and more than 70 cities have adopted some sort of outdoor smoking restrictions. In 2011, California passed SB332, giving landlords authority to ban tobacco smoking in rental units. This was good news for those with health concerns because it expanded the availability of cigarette smoke-free housing in the state. The law, however did not address marijuana.

Although some can argue this law might be applied to any kind of smoke, there is no comprehensive statewide law that addresses secondhand smoke for both marijuana and tobacco.

Proposition 64 prohibits smoking weed in public or in places where tobacco use is restricted—including near schools or child care centers. Those caught doing so will be fined $100 (or more if happens near a school). However, the unintended consequences of legalized marijuana, like the impact of its secondhand smoke, calls for legislative action so everyone is not forced to be in that environment.

Cheryl Brown of San Bernardino represented the 47th District in the California Assembly from 2012-2016. This article was first published at

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