Cannabis Science

Can you get High from Smelling Weed?

is a contact high real

There are many myths surrounding marijuana use and sometimes it’s hard to know which one is true. You may have heard people tell you not to hang around people smoking because it may get you high. Maybe that might have scared you when you were younger but now you’re probably wondering if there is any truth to it. So, can you get a contact high actually? Here is what science says.

Photo: Unsplash

Is Contact High Real?

Secondhand smoke can actually cause a contact high under certain conditions. According to Healthline, “Being near marijuana smoke often and in poorly ventilated areas (like a car with the windows rolled up or a small bedroom without a fan) may result in feeling a limited amount of the effects that the person smoking experiences.” It should be noted that contact highs aren’t really common but they can happen.

According to Heathline, these are some side effects of a contact high:

  • Delayed reflexes
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy

According to a review of passive cannabis exposure, “Passive exposure to cannabis smoke may induce effects on behavior and psychomotor skills, and have legal consequences, including the risk of being falsely considered as a cannabis user.”

However, in an environment that is a bit more open and ventilated, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a contact high but you may have still absorbed tetrahydrocannabidol (THC).

Can Smelling Weed Show Up on a Drug Test?

 A study examined whether or not secondhandsmoke could result in a positive drug test. Since weed is more potent these days, having a positive test may be possible. The small study showed that secondhand smoke can show positive tests. The study said, “These results demonstrate that extreme cannabis smoke exposure can produce positive urine tests at commonly utilized cutoff concentrations.” The study also said, “However, positive tests are likely to be rare, limited to the hours immediately post-exposure, and occur only under environmental circumstances where exposure is obvious”.

In another study conducted in the Netherlands, researchers measured the blood and urine of non-smoking participants exposed to cannabis smoke. The volunteers were in a ‘well attended’ coffee shop and exposed to cannabis smoke for three hours. The results concluded, “It could be demonstrated that all volunteers absorbed THC. However, the detected concentrations were rather small.”

Is Smelling Weed Dangerous?

It’s pretty well documented that the secondhand smoke coming from tobacco is dangerous. Since both the smoke of burning tobacco and weed have carcinogens, we dug deeper.

According to a study done on rats, secondhand exposure affects blood vessel function. The impairment of the blood vessels lasted 90 minutes even though the rats were only exposed for a minute. The study says, “One minute of exposure to marijuana SHS substantially impairs endothelial function in rats for at least 90 minutes, considerably longer than comparable impairment by tobacco SHS”. (SHS stands for secondhand smoke).

There isn’t a lot of information about whether or not secondhand smoke is dangerous to humans. That’s why Healthline says, “If you’re pregnant or nursing, or if you have a mental health condition, be especially mindful to avoid exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke”. Meanwhile, the American Lung Association takes it a step further and recommends that everyone should stay away from secondhand smoke. 

What Does Weed Smell Like?

According to Heathline, “When a person is smoking cannabis, notes of lemongrass, pine, fire, and wood may stand out.” The article also noted a skunk smell. In addition to that, the paper, fire and smoke may add its own unique scent to the weed. 

How Did Weed Get Its Smell?

Healthline notes that the smell comes from the terpene content. To be more specific the terpene myrcene. The article says, “Myrcene is in lots of other highly fragrant plants, such as bay leaf, mangoes, hops, and thyme. Different strains of marijuana can contain more or less myrcene.”

How to Get Rid of Weed Smell

Weed smoke can stick on your clothes, breath, and hair. If you wanted to mask the smell of your last smoke session, WikiHow suggests that if you need to use air fresheners, scented candles, and spray odor removers. You can also keep the room ventilated. As for your body, they suggest, using mints to freshen the breath or brushing your teeth as well as spray perfume on your clothes. Just don’t overdo it!

If the smell is really bothering you, opt for a strain with a different smell or use marijuana in different ways such as edibles.


Yes, you can technically get high from smelling weed in terms of second-hand smoking. However, it’s not common. It also depends on the conditions as well as the person. It’s not immediately clear the effects of secondhand smoke. However, THC is absorbed in the body and can produce a positive drug test. Since there aren’t many scientific studies done, we can’t share the real effects of secondhand marijuana smoke is.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].