Many people across the globe are stocking up on food and essential supplies in an effort to comply with public health regulations and keep themselves and their loved ones safe from the novel coronavirus. If you’re a medical marijuana patient, you may have stocked up on cannabis, too.
But because the novel coronavirus, which can lead to the potentially fatal disease known as COVID-19, primarily affects the lungs, the CDC is warning the public that smoking at this time is not advised.
It’s true that most research on lung damage from smoking concerns nicotine, not marijuana. For instance, we know that smoking tobacco can damage, or kill, the lung’s cilia. Cilia are microscopic structures in the lungs that help move whatever doesn’t belong—like viruses, bacteria, mucus, and solid particles—out of your lungs. When cilia are compromised with long-term smoking, people are at increased risk of colds and more severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
Effects from the novel coronavirus come on much more quickly than smoking—causing inflammation in the airways and lungs, coughing, and, sometimes, pneumonia. Because pneumonia reduces the lungs’ ability to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide, most of the deaths from the novel coronavirus have flowed from this particular complication.
Frequent marijuana smoking has been associated with coughing, shortness of breath, and increased mucus production—which indicates some degree of harm to the lungs. While researchers haven’t found a clear link between smoking cannabis and lung cancer, it’s still safe to assume that marijuana smoking may also damage cilia in a way that could significantly reduce a person’s ability to fight off a primary infection like coronavirus, as well as a secondary, bacterial infection resulting from excess mucus.
Vaping may be safer than smoking if you’re vaping products from a legal dispensary that are also free of additives like vitamin E acetate. However, because we don’t have a lot of data on the long-term effects of vaping yet, it’s worth considering a different mode of consumption at this moment.
People over 65 and those with asthma, diabetes, hypertension, or otherwise compromised immune function should particularly heed the warnings against irritating the lungs with smoke or vapor. But younger, healthy people are also advised to exercise caution.
Fortunately, there are numerous cannabis products that don’t necessitate inhalation; at this moment, consider pivoting to edibles, tinctures, and topicals for your medical marijuana needs. And if you find yourself holding excess flower, consider making a simple cannabutter recipe, which you can put to use in cannabis-infused treats, topicals, and tinctures.