New Orleans-based metal band Down said it best: “And when I die, bury me in smoke.” The sentiment behind the words, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that once this life is over, there is no better tribute to all of the good, the bad and utterly rotten that we’ve cast out into the world than if our friends and family roll up our ashes in a fat joint and smoke us straight to the great beyond.
It’s a seemingly insane ethos that’s been a part of the stoner community for a long time, especially among celebrities. In fact, several years ago, members of Tupac Shakur’s circle claimed they had smoked the late artist’s ashes, while Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones says he snorted his father’s remains in a pile of cocaine.
And, just when it couldn’t possibly get any weirder, just this week, a Wisconsin man was arrested for selling marijuana laced with his mother’s ashes. This got me thinking: Man, it really is a weird world. But it also made me question whether any of the people who ever engaged in such a ritual ever experienced any health repercussions. We are talking about inhaling the dust of corpse, after all. It cannot be sanitary.
We already know that the consumption of marijuana via smoking is not the healthiest thing for humans to do. Just like any other burnt plant matter, marijuana smoke contains carcinogens that have been known to cause a pesky disease called cancer. But toss in a lump of ash from something that used to walk the Earth, and the risk of harm should increase exponentially, right?
Well, not exactly.
Apparently, a person would need to smoke marijuana laced with human remains quite regularly before it would cause any real health issues. It’s sort of like what coal miners might experience after spending years in the mines inhaling the dust. On occasion, breathing in these particles isn’t going to destroy the lungs, but do it for a decade or more and the harms could be significant, even deadly.
There are all sorts of factors that could seemingly cripple the lungs of anyone who dares smoke the ashes of a dead relative. But it really depends on how the body was dealt with before cremation that dictates the level of danger.
The real risk comes into play if the body was embalmed before entering the oven. The chemicals used in this process are incredibly toxic and can bring about some severe adverse effects if they are consumed. Interestingly enough, embalming fluid soaked marijuana is highly sought after in some circles. It creates a PCP type effect that some folks, for whatever reason, tend to enjoy. But health experts advise against this practice wholeheartedly. Not only can it lead to poisoning, but it can produce long term health problems.
Fortunately, there are no laws in any state that requires embalming for bodies set to be cremated. Some funeral homes might have policies that mandate embalming if a body is going to be viewed publicly. Some may even require the process if the body cannot be dealt with within a certain amount of time.
But for the most part, the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces funeral rule, does not require embalming for cremation. Most of the time, refrigeration is an acceptable method of preservation until it comes time to fire up the oven. Therefore, anyone wishing to smoke the remains of a loved one should discuss memorial options with the funeral director that do not involve embalming.
Whether or not you choose to share with them your plans is entirely up to you. But don’t worry about breaking the law. While there are strict rules for handling a body before cremation, there aren’t any for what can or cannot be done with the remains after the ashes are in hand. There are, however, some cases when smoking human remains could be considered “abuse of a corpse,” which is a criminal offense. But most states do not treat it as such.