Cannabis products are legal for recreational use as of October 2018. They have been legal for medicinal use since 2001. Some products can be smoked or vaped. Oils should not be vaped because of a possible link to respiratory illness. There is currently little high-quality scientific evidence about the impact of recreational cannabis use on heart conditions and stroke.
- Emerging evidence shows an increased risk for heart disease and stroke from the effects of cannabis on blood pressure, inflammation of the blood vessels and cardiac arrhythmias.1,2,3,4
- Other reports link cannabis use with cardiovascular emergencies, including heart attack, arrhythmias, heart failure, stroke and cardiac arrest (cardiopulmonary arrest).5,6,7
- Some research shows that long-term or excessive use of cannabis, increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.1,3,8
- While many studies are underway, we are not able to draw definite conclusions or make recommendations at this time.
Recreational use of cannabis
If you are considering using cannabis for recreational purposes, read the Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG). It outlines what you can do to reduce your risk. We also recommend that you speak to your healthcare provider about the effects of cannabis on your personal health – especially if you have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
Vape products and cannabis
There have been over 800 cases of vaping related respiratory illness in the US, including 12 related deaths. Several cases have emerged in Canada, without any deaths.
Smoking cannabis is considered the most harmful for respiratory health and ingestion is the least harmful. Vaping is somewhere in the middle. All modes of delivery have some level of overall health risk.
Heart & Stroke is working to ensure government regulations are in place to make sure young people are protected from vape products with nicotine or THC. These include:
- warning labels
- marketing restrictions
- flavour ban
- Restricting sales to special vape shops
Cannabis for medical purposes for heart disease and stroke
Using cannabis products to help you with pain from heart disease and stroke is a personal decision. To get cannabis for medical purposes, you need a prescription from a healthcare provider.9
Talk to your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits of using cannabis for medical purposes. While cannabis products are legal, Health Canada does not endorse, nor has it evaluated, the use of cannabis for medical purposes.10
Gaps in research
Further research is needed to better understand the short-term and long-term effect of cannabis on heart disease and stroke. We encourage more research on the impact of recreational cannabis use and the medicinal benefits of cannabis products on heart disease and stroke.
1. Desbois AC, Cacoub P. Cannabis-associated arterial disease. Ann Vasc Surg. 2013 Oct;27(7):996-1005. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2013.01.002. Epub 2013 Jul 10.
2. Barber PA, Pridmore HM, Krishnamurthy V, Roberts S, Spriggs DA, Carter KN, Anderson NE. Cannabis, ischemic stroke, and transient ischemic attack: a case-control study. Stroke. 2013 Aug;44(8):2327-9. Epub 2013 May 21.
3. Westover AN, McBride S, Haley RW. Stroke in young adults who abuse amphetamines or cocaine: a population-based study of hospitalized patients. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64:495-502.
4. Kalla. American College of Cardiology. Marijuana use associated with increased risk of stroke, heart failure: As marijuana legalization spreads, better understanding of side effects is needed. 9 March 2017.
5. Lindsay AC, Foale RA, Warren O, et al. Cannabis as a precipitant of cardiovascular emergencies. International Journal of Cardiology, 2005; 104: 230–232.
6. Aryana A, Williams MA. Marijuana as a trigger of cardiovascular events: Speculation or scientific certainty? International Journal of Cardiology, 2007; 118: 141–144.
7. Jones RT. Cardiovascular system effects of marijuana. Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2002; 42: 58S–63S
8. Ravi D, Ghasemiesfe M, Korenstein D, Cascino T, Keyhani S. Associations Between Marijuana Use and Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2018 Feb 6;168(3):187-194.
9. Health Canada website 1
10. Health Canada website 2