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Cannabis and the Coronavirus

Apr 22, 2020
Cannabis in the News

Cannabis and the Coronavirus

In recent months, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has affected just about every aspect of people’s lives, from how they socialize with friends to whether they can work. It should come as no surprise that as COVID-19 continues to spread and U.S. states continue to implement control measures, cannabis consumption and cultivation are also being affected. Read on to find out about what precautionary measures consumers and growers should take to make sure they remain safe and healthy during this time of crisis.

Buying on the Black Market

For marijuana users used to buying from local growers or sellers on the black market, purchasing cannabis has become a difficult and frightening affair. Many states have restricted movement both across state lines and within individual cities or towns, and even in those that haven’t issued shelter-in-place orders, citizens who want to protect themselves and others are staying home. That includes plenty of growers and sellers.

Those who have no choice but to purchase marijuana on the black market should exercise caution and follow the CDC advice concerning personal hygiene and social gatherings. Wear a mask or face covering while out in public and avoid close contact with anyone, not just those who appear to be ill. Up to ¼ of all people carrying COVID-19 are asymptomatic, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Supply chain disruptions have become commonplace during this pandemic. That applies not just to things like meat and toilet paper, but also marijuana and even marijuana seeds. If a local dealer is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 like dry cough, fever, or shortness of breath, don’t risk contagion. Find someplace else to buy bud or try to go without.

Any consumer heading out into public to buy marijuana should make a point of avoiding potential risks like touching his or her face without hand-washing first. That includes smoking up. Buyers should wait until after they’ve washed their hands to roll a much-needed joint or should bring along hand sanitizer to avoid trouble.

Buying from Dispensaries

Most states that have issued shelter-in-place orders and closed non-essential businesses are allowing marijuana dispensaries to stay open in some form. In Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, and Alaska, dispensaries remain open to both medical patients and recreational users. Some have switched over to curbside delivery, while others remain open but have put strict social distancing guidelines in place.

Those who live in states where recreational dispensaries are considered essential businesses should still prepare to spend some extra time procuring marijuana. Many dispensaries have reported lines out the door since they can only allow in a certain number of customers, but don’t be too put off. The lines look longer than they are since everyone standing in them has to remain separated by at least six feet of space. Consumers who have the option of having their orders delivered or scheduling curbside pickup should do so even if it’s not mandated by the state.

Unfortunately, some states with legal recreational marijuana have deemed only medical marijuana sales essential. These states include Massachusetts, which closed recreational dispensaries on March 23, before it became an epicenter for the pandemic. Other states, such as Maine and Vermont, continue to allow medical marijuana facilities to serve the public but, despite legalizing recreational marijuana, have yet to open any dispensaries to the public.

Live in Massachusetts and not sure what to do about buying marijuana now that the recreational dispensaries have closed down? Consumers can wait out the crisis, or they can apply for medical cards. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a doctor who will write a prescription, and then at that point it becomes easy to find places to buy medical marijuana.

Smoking Marijuana

For many consumers, smoking marijuana is ordinarily a social activity. Now is not the time to be gathering with friends and sharing joints, blunts, or anything that passes from mouth to mouth, so put those social gatherings on hold. Smoking marijuana at home is fine, though, as is practicing suggested forms of social distancing without isolating. Feel free to schedule a telesesh.

What’s good for students, at-home workers, therapists treating their patients, families keeping in touch with each other, and others is good for social smokers. Give Zoom a shot if smoking alone feels strange, but don’t risk meeting up with friends in real life. Even the organizers behind this year’s 4/20 celebrations have made the switch to digital media, focusing on virtual gatherings instead of 4/20 block parties. Clearly, protecting vulnerable populations is now the cool thing to do.

Is it Safe to Consume Marijuana Right Now?

The short answer is, yes. The coronavirus pandemic has elevated stress levels across the country and many marijuana consumers use it as a form of anxiety control. That’s a good practice, so keep it up.

The long answer is, there are two sides to the story. While alleviating stress is a great way for consumers to give their immune systems a boost, smoking anything, including marijuana, can place some users at elevated risk of developing complications from COVID-19. The smoke can also irritate the tissue in consumers’ upper and lower respiratory systems, which can increase their susceptibility to infections.

For young, healthy cannabis smokers who aren’t experiencing symptoms and are practicing social distancing, the risk may not be that great. The existence of underlying health conditions is still a much larger contributing factor to COVID-19 risk than marijuana smoking. Medical marijuana patients who smoke to alleviate the symptoms of underlying health conditions may be at greater risk.

How the Coronavirus Affects the Lungs

COVID-19 infections begin in the upper respiratory system, then move to the lungs. When the virus reaches patients’ lungs, it causes inflammation in the respiratory lining. This irritates the nerves that line the airway, contributing to coughing and soreness. The infection can also spread into the alveoli, the cells responsible for gas exchange. When the alveoli are compromised due to inflammation, it can cause fluid buildup and pneumonia.

As the disease progresses, normal, healthy lung tissues develop a thick coating, blocking the flow of oxygen and causing shortness of breath. The lung tissue of severely infected patients takes on the consistency of marshmallow, then eventually begins to stiffen. At this point, patients are usually hospitalized and need to be put on ventilators. Smoking marijuana, or anything else, is obviously off the table.

Any consumer who is experiencing early symptoms of the coronavirus should abstain from smoking marijuana entirely until his or her symptoms subside. Most people can’t get tested with only a cough, a sore throat, or a mild fever, all of which can also be caused by colds, the flu, and other respiratory diseases, so there’s often no way for those who are experiencing only minor symptoms to tell if they have COVID-19. Given that few marijuana consumers continue to smoke when they have the flu or a serious cold, there’s no reason to risk using this form of ingestion if there’s even a possibility that they have the coronavirus.

What About Vaping?

High-quality vaporizers designed for vaporizing flowers, not oil, are safer to use than vape pens. It’s worth investing in a temperature-controlled module. Marijuana burns at around 950 degrees Fahrenheit, but vaporization requires a temperature of only around 390 degrees. This allows consumers to take advantage of all the medical and psychoactive benefits of marijuana without causing smoke inhalation damage.

Those who switch to vaporizers to protect lung tissue should avoid vape pens and should keep the temperatures as low as possible. It’s also wise to sterilize the mouthpiece before each use. Otherwise, vaping buds is a good method for harm reduction in consumers who do not have any symptoms of the disease. Those who are symptomatic should also avoid vaporizing marijuana and should switch to oral ingestion.

Edibles and Drinkables

The best solution for medical and recreational consumers who want to keep using marijuana but don’t want to place themselves at elevated risk for COVID-19 is to switch to edible or drinkable alternatives. They can be purchased at most dispensaries or made at home.

How to Make Cannabutter at Home

Out of work due to the coronavirus shut-downs and want to find good uses for all that free time? Now’s a great time to start experimenting with making marijuana edibles at home. Making cannabis-infused butter can be a little tricky, so follow these steps to ensure success:

  • Deoxycarbolate the buds by breaking them up and placing them in an oven preheated to 245 degrees Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes. Exposing them to heat will convert the THCA naturally found in uncured cannabis into THC.
  • Grind the cannabis coarsely.
  • Bring one cup of butter and one cup of water to a simmer in a saucepan and let it melt.
  • Add one cup of ground, decarbed cannabis flower.
  • Let the mixture simmer at low heat for two to three hours.
  • Strain the cannabis out of the butter.
  • Use it to replace ordinary butter in any recipe.
  • Enjoy in moderation, as homemade cannabutter can be difficult to dose.

You can begin edible journey by first growing your own feminized sativa seeds or indica weed seeds cannabis from scratch and compare the difference in the effect those different strains have on your body.

CBD and the Coronavirus

CBD is often touted as something of a cure-all. To be completely clear, CBD does not prevent, treat, or cure the novel coronavirus, so don’t believe those articles on the Internet and seriously, stop sharing them. CBD is a great treatment for a wide variety of diseases, but spreading misinformation about its ability to prevent or treat a potentially deadly virus is irresponsible and it could get people killed. Don’t do it.

Treating Coronavirus-Induced Anxiety

Whether they’re ordinarily prone to anxiety or not, many consumers’ stress levels are through the roof right now. Prolonged stress can cause inflammation and weaken the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to infection, but responsible marijuana use can alleviate stress. Here are a few strains to try:

Treating Insomnia

Getting enough sleep is also a great way for consumers to boost their immune systems. Here are a few strains of marijuana that can help with tackling insomnia:

Growing Cannabis

With the growing season fully in swing, some hobby and commercial growers may be questioning whether they should be making any changes in how they operate because of the coronavirus crisis. As long as they practice good hygiene and follow the CDC recommendations, especially those concerning social distancing, growers should still be able to come up with a good crop of marijuana this year. Buying marijuana seeds online instead of buying them in person is a good way to start since it reduces the need for social contact.

Those who have never grown marijuana before may also find that this is a great year to get started. Starting an outdoor garden if space and local regulations permit it is a great way to spend time outside without putting anybody at risk of COVID-19 transmission. Growing marijuana can be an intensely relaxing and meditative experience, especially on a small scale, and getting out into nature has been shown to reduce stress.

Growing a huge crop of dense buds takes a lot of research and hands-on practice, but even the uninitiated can try their hands at producing their own marijuana. Just buy high-quality seeds, give them plenty of water, light, and nutrients, and keep an eye out for signs of pests and diseases. Here are a few easy-to-grow outdoor strains to get novice growers started:

The Bottom Line

The current global pandemic has changed a lot of things about how people live their lives, but it doesn’t have to stop marijuana enthusiasts from partaking. Follow social distancing guidelines and use that extra time at home to learn how to grow a few plants, make some cannabutter, or connect with friends online. The coronavirus crisis won’t last forever, so it’s important for all Americans to stay in good spirits and do everything they can to prevent it from spreading. That way, fewer people will die and life can get back to normal as soon as possible.

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