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What to Know About Using Cannabis Right Now

A close up of a glass dropper with a dark liquid in front of a background of cannabis leaves.

The coronavirus pandemic is something none of us expected. Lockdowns across the globe have impacted the lives of billions. Here in the United States, the battle to legalize marijuana seems to have hit a standstill. Thankfully, some states have deemed medical marijuana and recreational marijuana dispensaries essential businesses. This has allowed them to stay open during lockdowns in order to offer curbside pickup and other social distancing options to customers. But should cannabis users be concerned about using marijuana as a virus that wreaks havoc on the respiratory system runs rampant?

Smoking Marijuana During the Pandemic

The truth is there’s not enough information on the effects of smoking cannabis and Covid-19. Most experts agree that smoking and vaping, in general, aren’t good for the lungs and can damage cells. According to the American Lung Association, smoking damages type 2 pneumocyte cells within the lungs. The coronavirus also happens to bind to these same cells. Therefore, if you already have damage to these cells from smoking and get COVID-19, then you’ll likely be much worse off than non-smokers. There’s also concern that vaping could pose a similar threat.

Some people may decide to consume cannabis in ways that don’t involve smoking or vaping. However, one of the known health effects of marijuana is how it interacts with the immune system.

How Cannabis Interacts with the Immune System

Since there is so much red tape limiting cannabis research due to federal laws, the information out there is somewhat contradictory. There are over 100 different types of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. The two most well-known and well-researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. Both of these cannabinoids interact with the immune system in some way. Unfortunately, the conflicting information due to a lack of research has made it difficult to say one way or another if this impact on the immune system presents a problem during the coronavirus pandemic. Some say that cannabis could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19, while others believe that cannabis could prevent infection or relieve symptoms.

There’s not enough research or evidence to confidently point one way or the other. However, there is evidence to indicate that when cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system it produces an anti-inflammatory effect. This is why it’s such a popular treatment option for patients suffering from chronic pain caused by inflammation as well as other autoimmune conditions.

Some people also use cannabis-based products including CBD products to treat conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and much more. However, it remains to be seen if cannabis helps in the event of a viral infection such as COVID-19.

Should I Stop Using Cannabis?

If you’re using medical cannabis as part of your treatment plan, then it’s a good idea to seek medical advice before changing your course of treatment. For many patients, the benefits of continuing treatment outweigh the risks. However, it may be a good idea to change your method of consumption if you smoke weed in order to minimize lung damage. Thankfully, there are many other cannabis products available for you to choose from for either recreational or medical use. Other alternatives may include oils, edibles (including candies, cookies, gummies, mints, and even beverages), and more.

If you do decide to change your method of consumption, then it’s a good idea to seek medical council or talk with someone at your local dispensary about the recommended dose as dosage can vary from method to method. However, it’s important to understand that some patients may not get the same level of relief from another delivery method. This seems to be most common in people treating digestive disorders.

If you’re unable to get the same relief without inhaling cannabis, then the safest method is to use a dry herb vaporizer. This method uses buds or flowers rather than oil cartridges that may contain unnecessary additives. It also doesn’t combust the plant matter, therefore not causing the damage associated with marijuana smoke.

Understanding the Risks

Many people may choose to continue the recreational or medical use of cannabis during the pandemic and that’s okay. Everyone has to do what they believe is best for them. In many cases, the benefits may outweigh the risk. The most important thing is to stay informed in order to make an educated decision about what you want to do. It’s equally important to discuss a change in treatment plan before altering your treatment in any way.

Until studies have been conducted regarding any positive or harmful effects of cannabis on COVID-19 there isn’t any clear answer. Even if research begins, it could be years before we understand any long-term effects. The solution for many may be to continue recreational, medical, or therapeutic use and instead focus on social distancing and doing what you can to protect yourself from the virus.