How to stay healthy when sharing cannabis: Puff, puff, pass (swab gear with alcohol), repeat. ( Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Cannabist Q&A: Avoiding “Cup cough” illness; Colo. DUI/DUID statistics

Welcome to our Ask The Cannabist column. Clearly you have questions about marijuana, be it a legal concern, a health curiosity, a Colorado-centric inquiry or something more far-reaching. Check out our expansive, 64-question Colorado marijuana FAQ first, and if you’re still curious, email your question to Ask The Cannabist at

Hey, Cannabist!
It’s a social and cultural thing to share cannabis, but I’ve talked to so many people who have caught a cold after cannabis events where everyone is sharing rigs and pipes. I’ve gotten more colds this year than ever. I think it’s because I’m so exposed. I seem to catch everything that comes along. Not the flu, fortunately. So how do I avoid “Cup cough”? –RX MaryJane

Hey, RX MaryJane!
Yes, sharing herb is big part of cannabis culture. Sharing on a large scale at any cannabis event can have negative health consequences for friendly social stoners. This High Times Cannabis Cup is expected to have more than 30,000 people in attendance, that’s a lot of people!

There are two kinds of “Cup cough.” One is a temporary cough caused by throat irritation from smoking a lot; the other is picking up a cold or flu from sharing cannabis. Protect yourself from catching a cold or flu by taking preventative measures, and modify your smoking behavior when you’re sampling at the booths and smoking with friends.

From her experience as attendee at nine Amsterdam High Times Cannabis Cups and event designer at fourteen U.S. Cannabis Cups, Elise McDonough has learned how to stay healthy during and after cannabis events. Elise recommends first off, don’t share joints with a lot of people, only close friends.

Cannabist Q&A: Avoiding "Cup cough"
A sadhu — holy man — smokes a chillum before a religious festival in Allahabad, India in 2012. (Sanjay Kanojia, AFP/Getty Images file)

When you do, hold the joint chillum style. Place the joint between second and third finger. (The joint might feel more comfortable placed between different fingers, depending on your hand size.) Form your hand into a hollow fist shape. Use your other hand to cup the hand and use your fingers to plug the gaps, creating a seal. Put your mouth on your hand to inhale.

Elise says when sampling at a booth, make doubly sure the mouthpiece of the pipe or rig gets thoroughly cleaned with an alcohol swab before your turn. It’s a good idea to bring your own alcohol wipes. Consider bringing your own pipe and smoke only from your own piece.

Another easy health tip from Elise is to boost your immune system with extra vitamins or supplements during and a few days after the event.

It might feel awkward to impose these new habits for large cannabis events, but with a little diligent effort, you’ll hopefully stay happy and healthy after all the smoke clears.  XO

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Hey, Cannabist!
Of all DUI arrests since the first of the year, how many were directly because of marijuana? It would be interesting to see what percentage of those arrests were because of marijuana use and if that number is up or down, being the overall numbers were down from last year. Should that not be reported so the rest of the nation can see that DUIs didn’t go up to exorbitant numbers with legalized use? –Chicken Little’s Sensible Uncle

Hey, Sensible Uncle!
Let’s look at some citation metrics, shall we?

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Nate Reid shared with me the available marijuana DUI/DUID stats for January and February 2013 and 2014. These citation numbers reflect only CSP numbers, and does not include any local city or county citations.

It’s hard to say how this year compares to previous years because marijuana DUI/DUID citations were not tracked before recreational marijuana sales began. In 2013, CSP had 368 citations in January and 347 in February.  Now, CSP collects data on DUID charges with marijuana only, marijuana and alcohol, and marijuana with other controlled substances.

In January 2014, marijuana citations comprised 14.7% of 416 total DUI/DUID citations. In February, marijuana citations were 9.4% of the total 341 DUI/DUID citations written by CSP. Although the March data wasn’t yet available, March likely is a bigger month for total DUI/DUID citations because of the alcohol consumption associated with St. Patrick’s Day. XO

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