When the United States government called for a national emergency and most of the nation was placed under lock-down, many of us were pleasantly surprised to see cannabis businesses remain essential. The surprise was also felt by the cannabis industry as sales skyrocketed by 52% to 130% across the country.
This news comes as a great relief as the health crisis along with economic pressures is without a doubt weighing down on people’s stress and anxiety. A quick toke is essential for many of us simply to calm the nerves and relax.
However, let’s not get too comfortable. Consuming cannabis isn’t necessarily the safest activity to participate in during the coronavirus outbreak. In fact, puffing a joint comes with many dangers you may have overlooked since this lock-down began.
Throughout this article, we’re going to look over some of these dangers while discussing safe measures cannabis connoisseurs can take as COVID-19 continues to spread.
COVID-19: The Lung Killer
When the coronavirus first made its way into the United States, we still weren’t sure how exactly this disease attacked the body. While we’re still learning new information day-by-day, we have a much better understanding of how coronavirus works than we did back in early March.
Generally speaking, COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that attacks the respiratory tract. More particularly, this strain of coronavirus attacks ACE2 receptors which lie lower in your airways. This makes it more difficult for your immune system and body to fight off.
In turn, you may be left with a number of symptoms, include:
- Body aches
- Chills, sometimes shaking
- Loss of senses (namely, taste and/or smell)
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
While most people who contact COVID-19 will only experience mild symptoms, the infection has been found to be extremely severe in certain individuals. Particularly, those with compromised immune systems and those with pre-existing health conditions – even more specifically, those already experiencing lung damage.
It’s common knowledge that cigarette smoking causes lung damage and, in turn, smokers are at a higher risk of COVID-19 than non-smokers – no matter their age or immune response. With that said, there’s been some discussion as to whether or not cannabis smokers are at a similar risk.
How Does Cannabis Smoke Affect the Lungs?
According to the American Lung Association, smoke is harmful to lung health no matter what type it is – whether it’s wood, cigarette, or marijuana smoke. All smoke contains toxins and carcinogens that are produced from the composition of any burned material.
Not to mention, people who smoke cannabis inhale the substance differently than cigarette smokers. It’s granted that you want to obtain as much of a high from your bud as possible and, with that, cannabis smokers tend to take deep inhales while holding their breath for longer periods of time. While this certainly produces a better high, it does come with the danger of exposing your lungs to tar.
Since there’s only been so much research on the matter, it’s not entirely clear how marijuana smoke damages the lungs. It is known that smoking cannabis can cause chronic bronchitis and damage cell lining in certain airways. It may also produce air pockets. 
It should be noted that most of the above information pertains to heavy marijuana smokers. If you’re not inhaling cannabis daily, your risk to lung damage is substantially less.
Cannabis and COVID-19
One of the biggest concerns with cannabis consumption and COVID-19 is the way in which the cannabis community socializes. Generally speaking, puffing a joint and passing it around with a group of friends is the standard. And it goes without question that this does have potential dangers in a time when a 6-foot social distance is highly recommended.
However, the real danger lies in cannabis smokers who contract COVID-19. As we’ve discussed above, smoking marijuana already does damage to the lungs. Considering this strain of coronavirus attacks the respiratory system, it comes as no surprise any smoker is at a higher risk of facing more serious symptoms from this virus.
To take things a step further, cannabis and the many phytocannabinoids found within it also suppress the immune system. When you have tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) in your system, your immune response is attacked by myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). In turn, it has a weakened effect in concerns to fighting of unwanted visitors.
So, what does all this mean? According to medical professionals, people should stay as far away from cannabis as possible – we find this quite ironic considering cannabis dispensaries are considered essential. Frankly, it’s difficult to tell people not to consume a little cannabis, especially during a time of so much stress and anxiety.
So, what should you do in order to best protect your health?
Protecting Yourself From Coronavirus Infection
Admittedly, the best action to take in this situation would be to drop cannabis consumption all together. This would provide you with minimum risk in terms of infection and, if you are infected, would promote a quicker recovery.
Still, as we’ve discussed, it’s impossible to tell everyone to quit consuming cannabis.
If you do plan to continue consumption, we have a few pieces of advice. The first is you should try to avoid smoking marijuana as much as possible. The inhalation of smoke is the biggest concern among health professionals and there are ways around this.
There are so many cannabis products floating around your local dispensary, we’re positive you can find another way to get your high without inhaling. Whether it’s through edibles, tinctures, or beverages, any means of consumption other than smoking offers your health the best chance at fighting COVID-19.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how you consume cannabis, it will still inhibit your immune system. With that said, it may be best to cut back on how much you intake.
We hope this article better informed you on how cannabis works in correlation to the coronavirus strain currently plaguing the world. We understand times are stressful and a joint can really take the edge off. However, we’re also just as concerned with your overall health and well-being.
Keep in mind, new information about the coronavirus (and cannabis, for the matter) is coming out day-by-day. What we’ve discussed here is simply what we know as of this time and things may change in the coming weeks or months.
With that said, we invite you to bookmark this blog as we learn more about COVID-19 and it’s connection to cannabis.
 Tashkin DP. Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2013;10(3):239-47.
 Howden ML, Naughton MT. Pulmonary effects of marijuana inhalation. Expert Rev Respir Med. 2011;5(1):87-92.