In an effort to minimize the spread of the ongoing coronavirus, we've been subjected to lockdown and social distancing measures for quite some time. In turn, the legal sales of cannabis have skyrocketed from an average of 52% to 132% in sales revenue across the nation.
Cannabis lovers everywhere get to revel in the "new normal," where it's now socially acceptable to get high all day and relax. However, medical experts are concerned about the potentially life-threatening mixture of cannabis and COVID.
Does that mean we shouldn't be using cannabis right now? Read on to get all the facts about the relationship between cannabis and COVID.
Cannabis and COVID: Is it Safe to Light Up?
Cannabis and COVID have a very interesting relationship. On one hand, smoking cannabis can cause temporary inflammation to the lungs and throat. It can also temporarily suppress the immune system. On the other hand, current research suggests that medicinal cannabis may have the potential to treat coronavirus symptoms.
There's no current evidence that suggests a link between cannabis use and an increased risk of COVID. There are far too many health benefits of cannabis use for the novel coronavirus to be the plant's downfall. However, medical experts are concerned about the highly contagious virus and cannabis use due to its effects on the respiratory system.
We all know that the coronavirus is transmitted through the air via respiratory droplets. Namely, talking, coughing, sneezing, breathing—anything that causes us to expel moisture from our orifices. Hence the need for socially distancing ourselves at least six feet apart and wearing protective coverings.
Once the coronavirus has been transmitted, it hijacks the healthy cell within an individual's body, causing infection. The lungs become inflamed and it gets harder to breathe. The inflammation affects your entire respiratory system, i.e., the throat, nose, sinuses. From there, it can lead to pneumonia, acute respiratory disease, and of course, death.
So, what gives?
It's Not the Weed, it's the Smoking
It's safe to say that during these trying times that puff, puff, pass, is completely out of the question. Anyone sharing their cannabis, whether it be a joint or other smoking devices, is putting themselves and everyone else in the room at risk. However, this isn't due to the cannabis itself—but the act of smoking and its effects on the lungs.
Plus, there's also the fact that everyone is essentially putting their mouths on the same object and exhaling with a bit more force to expel the smoke from their lungs.
As we mentioned above, smoking cannabis—or anything else for that matter—causes the airways to become temporarily inflamed. When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body's white blood cells spread throughout the blood and tissues to put up a wall of protection against bacteria and viruses.
This is the immune's systems natural response to fighting off irritation and infections. It's also something that leaves the immune system vulnerable as it uses its energy to protect the body from harm. Additionally, THC has shown to have some adverse effects on the immune system apart from taking up its time and energy.
According to scientific research, certain cannabinoids can trigger an onrush of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), Which actively suppress the immune system. This is apparently done to "keep the immune system in check," as it fights off invaders to keep our bodies safe.
MDSCs can only be activated through the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. If you have any knowledge of the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), that should tell you that it's overall a means of checks and balances. The ECS is what produces endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) naturally to maintain homeostasis throughout all of our body's systems—especially the immune system.
Considering the complexity of our immune systems, calling this a "negative impact" remains something to be further examined. The bottom line is that the act of smoking cannabis itself is risky during a time where a highly-infectious respiratory disease is on the loose.
What About Tobacco Smokers?
You're probably wondering why cannabis and its health risks are in the spotlight right now when tobacco products are known for their toxic chemicals that wreak havoc on our bodies. The truth of the matter is that right now, any substance that involves inhalation isn't totally safe right now.
While chronic smokers of all kinds are at the highest risk of infection, it's important to note the differences between smoking tobacco and smoking cannabis. While cannabis is used much less than cigarettes in a single day, cannabis is still inhaled at a much higher "puff" volume and inhalation rate. That includes vaping.
The typical puff volume of cannabis smoke is somewhere around 66% higher than the puff volume of a cigarette. The inhalation rate is at least 33% higher—plus it's held in much longer. This also increases the amount of carbon monoxide within the red blood cells at one time.
Additionally, cannabis burns differently than tobacco—specifically at a much lower temperature. Therefore, cannabis smokers often inhale raw, unburned plant material, which can lead to bronchial spasms and a dry cough. These are also symptoms of the coronavirus, which can lead to a misdiagnosis or even a delayed diagnosis in individuals with more sensitive airways.
Once again, smoking anything right now puts you at risk. That risk is compounded when you're in the presence of one or more individuals that are also partaking in the smoking. However, the way in which we smoke cannabis makes it that much riskier than the way we would normally smoke tobacco products—even when we go the vaping route.
What Are the Alternatives?
There's more to cannabis than the recreational feeling of euphoria that it provides. Many people are relying on cannabis for mental health reasons, especially during this time. Just because cannabis and COVID don't agree with each other in terms of inhalation, doesn't mean you can't use it at all.
There are plenty of alternatives to smoking and vaping cannabis that will provide you with the same benefits, regardless of whether you're using it for recreational purposes or medicinal purposes.
Edibles are an excellent alternative to smoking and vaping cannabis. You can find edible cannabis in many forms including gummies, desserts, drinks, powders, teas—the list goes on. It's also a much safer method of consumption since it doesn't involve inhaling, exhaling or sharing of any kind.
If you already have cannabis in your possession, you can always make your own cannabis butter and use it to bake or cook your own edibles.
One of the key factors to be aware of with edibles, however, is their potency. When you consume cannabis orally, it must bypass the digestive system. The result is a slower onset of the effects. However, those effects will feel much stronger compared to smoking—and they last longer.
Oils and Tinctures
Cannabis oils and tinctures fall into the edibles category. However, they can be consumed sublingually (under the tongue) or you can add them to your food or drinks. The availability of these types of cannabis products vary by state, but they make a great alternative to those who can't consume the regular edibles on the market due to food sensitivity.
For individuals that smoke cannabis to relieve pain and inflammation, topical cannabis products may be a worthwhile alternative. Topical solutions include lotions, balms, salves, creams, and so on. They're primarily used for localized treatment such as joint pain and surface injurious.
Most topical solutions don't penetrate beyond the skin barrier, which means they won't enter the bloodstream. Luckily, there are some transdermal cannabis products that can enter the bloodstream. Unfortunately, transdermal cannabis products are harder to come by, especially if you're looking for a THC fix.
Smoke With Caution
As of right now, cannabis and COVID are a risky partnership in terms of smoking. However, that doesn't mean you can't smoke responsibly.
If you're still planning on smoking cannabis it's critical that you do so with caution. Don't share your joints or other smoking devices—even with your own family members. It's best to smoke alone in your room or outdoors to ensure that you're not exhaling your droplets in the wrong direction.
Remember it's better to be safe than sorry. The post-COVID long term health implications are still largely unknown. It's also better to grow your own than frequently visiting your local dispensary—and we can help you with that!
Grobo is an automated indoor grow box that allows you to grow up to three ounces of your favorite cannabis strain in just a few short months. With Grobo you'll have the advantage of using deep water culture techniques for maximum purity and potency. All you have to do is set up your Grobo tent and its automation system will take care of everything else until it's time to harvest.