Monday May 11, 2020

By Erin Hiatt


When states and local governments began to more fully realize the implications of the coronavirus on the citizenry and U.S. hospitals, a rush to stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and ventilators – put simply, a machine that helps you breathe – began. Reports from hard-hit countries, like China and Italy, saw that a significant number of people who contracted COVID-19 had to be hospitalized because of severe respiratory illnesses, primarily pneumonia.

A Chinese study that looked at 78 COVID-19 patients found that those who had a history of smoking had more severe symptoms than those who didn’t smoke. No study has been undertaken examining the effects of smoking or vaping cannabis and coronavirus. But we do know that COVID-19 causes many patients to have respiratory illness, and smoking and vaping are both linked to inflammation of the lungs. Because of this, some people, medical marijuana patients especially, have been looking for alternative methods to combustion.

The Impact of Combusting Cannabis

Every good cannabis consumer knows that partaking of cannabis via combustibles like joints, blunts, pipes, or even vaporizers (anyone remember last year’s vape cart crisis?) is not necessarily the healthiest way to consume, even when there’s not a pandemic threatening the health of everyone, even the young. But COVID-19 has had even loyal smokers and vapers reassessing consumption methods and buying more edibles instead.

Any form of smoking isn't great for your lungs. photo credit

Researchers have known for decades that smoking cigarettes is incredibly dangerous to your health, especially the respiratory system. While the effects of consuming cannabis via combustible methods are much less known, it is believed that long term and frequent consumption may lead to lung conditions like emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Smoking of any kind weakens the immune system and lessens the body’s ability to fight infection, something of the utmost importance at this critical coronavirus moment. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to consume cannabis that don’t have anything to do smoking or vaping.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Executive Director Erik Altieri strongly urged cannabis consumers to avoid smokeable consumption methods while the pandemic plays out, directing consumers and patients to consume via methods that won’t impact the lungs, like cannabis edibles, oils, and tinctures.

Consuming Cannabis in Other Methods

Making the transition to non-combustible methods may be a bit of a learning curve for some, especially edibles, which can be notoriously difficult to dose. However, given that you may have some extra time at home, consider trying your hand at making your own cannabutter to infuse homemade baked goods, or canna-oil to add to savory dishes or as dressing for vegetable dishes and salads. For some edible tips and tricks, spend a little time looking through our educational resources for edibles. To go to the next level, try your hand at tinctures, which are surprisingly easy to make at home.

Edibles are a great consumption method to choose during the COVID crisis. photo credit

For medical patients whose consumption dosage is titrated by smokeable methods, going without a vaporizer or joint could be a hard transition or one not made at all. In such cases, avoid sharing with others, and regularly clean devices with at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol. And of course, wash hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds both before and after consuming.

Another way to keep yourself safe during COVID-19 is to buy cannabis from licensed and legal businesses only. Not only will you support an essential business and workers, but you will be consuming cannabis that has been tested for impurities and lung irritants like pesticides and mold. Stay safe out there!

Have you changed your consumption habits in response to COVID-19? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Victor Garcia (license)

Erin Hiatt Erin Hiatt

Erin Hiatt is a New York City-based writer who has been covering the cannabis industry for more than six years. Her work - which has appeared in Hemp Connoisseur Magazine, PotGuide, Civilized, Vice, Freedom Leaf, MERRY JANE, Alternet, and CannaInvestor - covers a broad range of topics, including cannabis policy and law, CBD, hemp law and applications, science and technology, beauty, and psychedelics.

Erin's work and industry insights have been featured on the podcasts The Let's Go Eat Show, In the Know 420, and she has appeared as a featured panelist on the topic of hemp media. Erin has interviewed top industry experts such as Dr. Carl Hart, Ethan Nadelmann, Amanda Feilding, Mark A.R. Kleiman, Dr. James Fadiman, and culture icons Governor Jesse Ventura, and author Tom Robbins. You can follow her work on LinkedInWordpress, @erinhiatt on Twitter, and @erinisred on Instagram.

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