With cities, states and entire countries on lockdown due to COVID-19, many have decided stockpile cannabis products. However, is it healthy to smoke during the spread of the virus?
We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.
Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has sent the world into a tailspin, with over 336,000 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 15,000 deaths globally.
Italy has been one of the hardest countries hit, with nearly 5,500 deaths and climbing, forcing the country to enter a lockdown in which nobody leaves their home. Similar measures were taken by Wuhan, China, where the virus first emerged and proved largely successful, with the numbers of people infected decreasing rapidly each day.
Other countries and states are now following suit, like California and New York in the United States, and Australia is set to do the same shortly.
As a result of the impending lockdowns, toilet paper was stripped from the shelves, grocery stores were inundated with irate shoppers, and weed dispensaries saw a stockpiling of cannabis like never before.
Evidently, when work is put on hold, and people are forced to stay at home indefinitely, a lot of people immediately think of cannabis as a way to take the edge off of an otherwise uncomfortable and unpleasant situation. Moreover, given the seemingly endless litany of medical benefits that cannabis can provide, like alleviating inflammation, insomnia, chronic pain and the growing evidence that CBD can be used for antimicrobial purposes, many are beginning to think that cannabis might even help them prevent coronavirus.
While we have already debunked this recurring myth that cannabis is the cure to the coronavirus crisis, many are simply smoking the plant for recreational purposes, regardless of its impacts.
But should people be smoking weed during the coronavirus crisis which the World Health Organisation has labeled a "Pandemic"? Let's explore some of the impacts that smoking cannabis might have during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To Smoke or Not To Smoke?
The decision to smoke weed may be a very tempting one, given the relative inaction during a coronavirus lockdown, though there are some things to consider before you spark up.
Firstly, smoking is not good for your immune system. While this is particularly the case for cigarettes, a suppressed immune system also occurs upon smoking cannabis. While cannabis's ability to suppress the immune system can be useful in the case of fighting inflammation or auto-immune conditions, it might not be desirable during a crisis such as COVID-19 where individuals will depend on their immune system should they come into contact with someone suffering from the virus.
In fact, it's estimated that 60% of people that are carrying the virus actually don't show symptoms, or their symptoms are considered very mild. This might mean that you are carrying COVID-19 without realizing it, and if you smoke weed at this time, you are compromising your immune system while it fights the virus. Not only that, but the COVID-19 virus specifically attacks lung cells.
"Right now, we are facing a pandemic where SARS-CoV-2 attacks lung cells, preferentially in the lower respiratory tract. In my view, better to be safe than sorry, so I'd advise anyone who uses marijuana to switch to edibles, especially if they have underlying health conditions like respiratory problems (asthma, COPD), heart problems (hypertension, diabetes), or immune deficiencies," Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, an infectious disease epidemiologist told Leafly.
This, of course, also applies to sharing joints, as the virus is spread through human contact. While you may think your housemates are fine, underlying symptoms may not present themselves for up to two weeks, and if you're all smoking together, you're all likely to get sick together.
Worsening your immune system effectively defeats the purpose of the lockdown in the first place, as quarantine measures are being enacted to reduce the burden on the healthcare system. If too many people get infected at once, there won't be enough staff to take care of them, which will leave many sick people unattended.
What Are The Alternatives?
For medical marijuana patients, or those who rely on weed for their sleep or chronic pain issues, going cold turkey on cannabis can be a tall order. So what can be done, without risking a heightened susceptibility to COVID-19?
While the specifics behind COVID-19 remain largely unknown, it is clear that the virus affects the respiratory tract, and creates lung-related issues. With this in mind, you'll want to seek out smoke-free alternatives if you need to consume cannabis for medical purposes. In this instance, you can look toward edibles, oils and CBD products to get your fix.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis that gives many of the health benefits without the high that THC brings. If you live in the UK or the U.S., you can access CBD products online, and simply drop some CBD oil under your tongue or in a drink for them to take effect.
If you're unable to access CBD, and only have cannabis buds or plant matter at home, then consider making some cannabutter and turning it into edibles. Though it's important to note for those that are used to smoking, edibles take much longer to kick in than smoking a joint does, so don't make the common mistake of biting into that second brownie because you think the first one was "too weak." Take things very slowly if it's your first time with edibles, and try to calculate how much weed you're consuming as you do it.
So there you have it, your guide to weed during the coronavirus crisis and the lockdowns occurring globally. While we wouldn't recommend consuming cannabis during this time, we also understand that cannabis provides many necessary medical benefits to those in need, and avoiding the plant entirely may not be an option for some.
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