Why smoking weed isn't going to protect you from COVID-19

Published May 30, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / VictoriaBee

It’s been in headlines all over the world, as there is a handful of researchers who seem to have discovered some incredibly promising effects in clinical trials where cannabis oil was used as a preventative for the coronavirus. This is great news, as with each coronavirus update comes more fear for what the future might bring, which means that any amount of hope is being celebrated as a potential victory. However, it is important to recognize how and why they came to this conclusion because many people are taking the wrong message away from their statement.

The research

There are a couple of bold claims that have been made by cannabis enthusiasts since the news broke to the world, and they include the idea that smoking weed could somehow prevent the coronavirus, and that cannabis is a potential cure for the disease. These two statements might sound very similar, but in reality, the delivery method is much different, which is very likely to have an effect on the outcome of a person who attempts to use smoking weed as a way to protect themselves against COVID-19.

The study that so many people and news agencies are referring to was done at the University of Lethbridge, an esteemed Canadian school of scientific research and their findings are quite intriguing, but the way they got to their conclusion is essential. For this research, participants were given various doses of cannabinoids through various methods, including inhalation and oral, and in total over 400 strains were used in the process.

It seems that so far, at least 12 of those strains when taken orally, may be effective at blocking viruses from infecting a person, but this research didn’t start with the introduction of this latest pandemic, and it hasn’t been tested with COVID-19 specifically. In fact, this database has been in the works over the course of several years, so even though this finding sounds exciting, the ability to block one virus doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be effective at preventing the coronavirus from spreading.

What they found through trial and error is that through an oral method of consumption, participants' viral receptors were effectively coated in a layer of protection, which reduces the opportunity for a virus to invade the body. These receptors are found throughout the whole body, and that includes the respiratory system, which is how this virus spreads, but the majority are much deeper within, and that is likely why an oral method of consumption is most effective.


The second claim that smoking weed could reduce an individual's chance of contracting COVID-19, this came from a man named David Hockney, and it was based on a small study of pot smokers who fared better than their non-smoking counterparts, but since then, the evidence is growing against this idea. Though it certainly gained steam and even warranted an entire video on YouTube, it’s simply not fact.

The reality

The truth is that smoking anything can significantly reduce your ability to handle a contagious disease such as COVID-19 as it is spread through the respiratory system, which is a major part of the body that is adversely impacted by inhaling smoke. Now, this isn’t to say that it doesn’t have any effect or that it has any adverse impacts on a person’s chances of catching the coronavirus, but there simply isn’t enough proof to assume that it offers any real or reliable level of protection in this pandemic.

Clinical cannabis research looks promising for blocking COVID19


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