Pulmonary alveolar macrophages were obtained by bronchopulmonary lavage from male rats after 30 consecutive days of in vivo exposure to marijuana and tobacco smoke. No significant differences were found between either group of experimental animals and controls in the number of cells recovered, the protein content per 10(6) cells, or the percentage of cells that adhered to plastic surfaces. The ability of macrophages to phagocytize viable bacteria was not affected by exposure to either marijuana or tobacco smoke in that both treatment groups ingested Staphylococcus aureus over a 60-min period as well as did control cells. Differences were found between the groups, however, with respect to cellular metabolism. Marijuana smoke inhalation caused a small decrease in the amount of oxygen consumed by macrophages during phagocytosis, as compared with control cells. This may have been reflected in the even greater decrease in superoxide formation observed during particle engulfment by these treated cells. Tobacco smoke, on the other hand, increased oxygen consumption and was without effect on superoxide release. Neither tobacco nor marijuana smoke treatment had an effect on the direct oxidation of glucose via the hexose monophosphate shunt. Our results indicate that, despite several metabolic alterations in response to marijuana and tobacco smoke, alveolar macrophages were not compromised with respect to their ability to ingest a particulate challenge.