What to Know About Using Cannabis Right Now
Should consumers be concerned about weed in the age of Covid-19?
During this time of national lockdown, some states have deemed medical and/or recreational cannabis dispensaries to be essential businesses, keeping them open while following new safety precautions, such as allowing for curbside pickup so customers don’t have to come in contact with other shoppers and dispensary employees and delivery people wearing gloves and masks while working. (Rules are changing every day, but as of March 30, 21 states had dispensaries open to some extent.)
But should consumers be concerned about using cannabis — particularly inhaling it — considering Covid-19 attacks the respiratory system, especially your lungs?
While research on the effects of smoking cannabis on the novel coronavirus is scarce, experts warn that smoking or vaping anything is certainly not great for the lungs, no matter if it’s during a pandemic or not. “[Whether you’re] smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis, or vaping, you’re introducing foreign elements down deep into the lungs,” says Richard Castriotta, MD, a pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine specialist at Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California. “If you do a lot of it, you have more risk of a sustained injury with less of a chance for the lungs to recuperate and heal themselves over.”
American Lung Association spokesperson Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, MD says smoking specifically damages type 2 pneumocyte cells in the lungs — cells that are crucial to providing support to the lungs.
“It turns out the coronavirus also binds to the type 2 pneumocytea and causes significant illness that way,” Rutland says. “If you already have less type 2 pneumocytes, your lung is already under a significant amount of stress. So if you smoke and you contract the coronavirus, you’re probably going to be that much worse off.”
Castriotta also urges people to stop vaping — tobacco and cannabis — due to the added chemicals and their unknown long-term effects. He especially warns against using illicit cannabis vapes that have not been properly regulated and tested and are sold legally. Illicit vapes are often contaminated with vitamin E acetate, a chemical that has been linked to…