Friday March 13, 2020
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has drastically changed many aspects of day-to-day life around the globe, and cannabis is no exception. In light of these tumultuous times (most recently President Trump declaring a national emergency), we’ve gathered some tips and information to help you reduce the risk of infecting yourself or others as cannabis consumers.
***Please note, we are not medical experts (View PotGuide’s Medical/Health Disclaimer here). Any information presented in this article should not be used as medical advice for dealing with Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) for up-to-date medical coverage on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.***
Be Aware of How Germs are Spread
Part of the difficulty in understanding the virus is that healthcare professionals are still figuring out how the virus acts. Regardless of further details, there are some qualities generic to similar infections that can be useful to reduce risk.
The CDC information page states very clearly, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.”
We have discussed the risk of sickness and cannabis smoking before, which is always present when smoking with others, but in light of these heightened health circumstances, wanted to talk about further steps you can take to stay healthy.
Consume Marijuana with a Personal Device and Do Not Share
What we mean by “personal” is that each person smoking is using a consumption method to themselves without sharing. Or “one person, one joint” to put it simply. As reported by the CDC, the current understanding of COVID-19 is that it spreads primarily, “through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” “Respiratory droplets,” is another way of saying saliva and phlegm and all the gunky things that live in them, which are in close proximity and exposure if you’re sharing smoking devices. Regardless of how careful we are, a certain amount of germs from our mouth are going to get on a consumption device.
Reduce your risk of spreading germs by not sharing smoking devices with others.
It may be necessary to think of alternate ways to enjoy cannabis with company. For example, roll two small joints instead of a bigger one to share. There are also options for personal joint tips and pipe barriers, which can help to lessen exposure. If you plan on smoking with a friend and you’re unsure if they have additional smoking devices, ask ahead, and plan on bringing your own if not. Don’t have one? No better time than ever to get your first piece. Sharing the experience of cannabis is often what really matters, even if the smoking device isn’t passed from person to person.
Keep Your Hands Clean
The CDC notes, “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Some people may read that and say, “it’s not thought to be the main way, so I’m probably okay.” That is the opposite intended reaction. Respiratory droplets, and the infections they carry, may have a reduced ability to transmit on hands and objects, but are still believed to get the job done. One study asserts that the corona virus can possibly live on surfaces for 2-3 days. Another suggests up to 9 (specifically 4-5 days on glass).
Effective hand washing is one of the primary methods of exposure reduction, both from respiratory droplets and touched surfaces. So be sure you have thoroughly washed up before touching anything that may go even remotely near your mouth, including cannabis.
If someone else is giving you cannabis, it would be ideal to make your best effort to ensure that they are healthy, and have taken the proper washing and safety precautions as well. Soap and water are the ideal way to wash, but alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used as a backup. The CDC recommends using solutions that contain at least 60% alcohol.
Clean Smoking Devices Before and After Use
Similarly, be thorough when cleaning your glass and other smoking devices. While rubbing alcohol can be effective in sanitizing your hands, it is not recommended as a disinfectant for surfaces due to its high rate of evaporation. Dr. Andrew Alexis, MD, chair of Mount Sinai West's department of dermatology, relayed as much in an interview with Women’s Health.
Using rubbing alcohol alone to clean bongs, pipes and other smoking devices is not seen as an effective way to reduce contamination factors.
Thorough washing with soap and water is still seen as the best method, however cleaning your device with rubbing alcohol and salt before a good soap wash can help clear out any lingering resinous material that can host germs. Be sure to clean it as completely as possible, and consider doing a cannabis spring cleaning of all your paraphernalia.
Consider Alternate Purchasing Methods
Limiting exposure to other people also means reducing your risk of infection, for both parties. If your state has cannabis delivery available, consider getting your products that way. Delivery minimizes the number of people needed for a transaction, and allows for a wider proximity than a retail space would. Even order-ahead might be better. Less time in the dispensary = less contact time with people.
Additionally, banking regulations require that most cannabis businesses operate in cash, a currency not particularly well known for its sanitary qualities. Utilize other payment methods where available (tap payment options, or credit, if you can reasonably avoid a keypad). If you must handle cash, be sure you thoroughly wash your hands afterwards, and avoid touching things until you do, especially your weed, or anything else that will come in contact with your mouth.
Shop at Responsible Businesses
Under no circumstance should anyone in a cannabis job handle flower without gloves on. We have heard arguments to the contrary, and can outright say, we don’t agree. Unfortunately, we have witnessed more than one budtender reach into a jar with their bare hands to weigh out a portion.
If you witness a cannabis professional handling product in an unsafe way, it would be best to not purchase there during the COVID-19 outbreak, and alert any management if they are not aware (unfortunately, we have seen it be the case where a manager knew and still didn’t care, and in that case, we double recommend you no longer shop there at this time). While there is no guaranteed way to ensure how cannabis has been handled, take whatever steps you can to reduce risk.
Put Safety First
Cannabis has traditionally been associated with sharing. Unfortunately, during these times of extreme health concern, that perception may need to adapt. There are many reasons that cannabis is viewed as a shared substance that we won’t dive into here, but regardless, the social standard is there, and for many, can be hard to deter. It may be time to forge new understandings of sharing. If respectfully denying sharing with someone, we urge you to feel confident in standing your ground. These are rare times, and no one should be put at risk to satisfy a perceived social norm.
For many, cannabis is a vital healthcare item. Immunocompromised people are one of the largest groups of medical cannabis patients, and are also particularly at risk of infection and serious harm from COVID-19. Medical patients, and their caregivers, should take extra caution during these times, for themselves and when consuming cannabis. As travel is limited, it may also be a good idea to stock up on any needed supplies. However, just as with other needed healthcare items, hoarding stock unnecessarily can force others who need it to go without.
Keep Calm, Use Caution
Panic and misinformation can cause additional detriment to this situation, and it is best to remain calm and cautious. Sensible measures in all areas of life can help keep everyone safe and, with a little help from the green herb, hopefully happy. The CDC and WHO both have informational resources to help you reduce your risk of infecting yourself and others. They continue to update on the status and understanding of the pandemic. For the most recent information, check those sources (linked at the top of this article).
We at PotGuide will continue to follow the situation as it progresses, and add any new insight into how COVID-19 may affect cannabis consumers.
Have your own tips for reducing infection risk? Or just want to share your COVID-19 cannabis safety precautions and experiences? Leave us a comment in the chat.