Cannabis Consumers and COVID-19 (Coronavirus): How to Stay Safe
Cannabis Consumers and COVID-19: How to Stay Safe
By Karen Korn, PhD & Cathleen S. Graham, RN CHPN
The coronavirus has taken the world by surprise, creating social panic and prompting the spread of misinformation. People are advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) to stay away from population centers and to limit social encounters. The CDC is urging people to wash their hands and to stop touching their faces whenever possible and to “maintain social distancing.” There have been runs on stores supplying masks, and recipes for homemade alcohol hand-sanitizer have been making their way around the internet.
What should cannabis consumers do differently to avoid contracting the coronavirus? According to the CDC, the best prevention methods include the recommendation to:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
For cannabis users, this can really harsh one’s mellow. The kind practice of passing a joint or bong to share with friends or acquaintances could potentially contribute to the spread of the virus. It is possible that legal dispensaries and provisioning centers in areas where the virus has been confirmed will experience a decline in on-site sales as patients/customers will be more likely to employ delivery and other means of accessing their medications, providing them the option of avoiding being in a crowd. There are a myriad of financial impacts predicted for the cannabis industry, and it will take time to see how the spread of the virus influences a variety of supply chains.
Xenophobia is quickly becoming a huge issue. Cannabis consumers understand unfair stigma and the impact of misinformation on quality of life. Prejudice and discrimination are a piece of the legacy of prohibition for many cannabis consumers. Therefore, it is important to respect science and the recommendations of organizations like the CDC over popular media sensationalized reporting on the topic. This Reddit subthread has some great information.
What forms of social cannabis use are less risky for consumers? According to Cathleen S. Graham, RN, generally patients who consume products that only they touch are going to be safer. Graham explained the role that sharing devices and wet paper can have in the spread of viruses:
While the cannabis community emphasizes sharing, it might be time to make an exception to the rule. By sharing, you are essentially making mouth-to-mouth contact with everyone that is in the group. This increases the risk of contracting about 80% of all direct contact infectious diseases, including COVID 19. There are some things you can do to protect yourself during a cannabis consumption session:
- Do not smoke with a group if you are sick
- If you are sick or think you might be sick smoke from a separate bowl, bong, nectar collector, dab rig, or joint
- After each use, before the next person uses it, take an alcohol wipe to clean the mouthpiece of the bowl, bong, nectar collector, dab rig or other device used to consume cannabis
- Use a portable mouthpiece
Cannabis is a highly effective plant-based medicine that can help the patient with a wide variety of symptoms. Coronavirus fears should not stop patients from continuing to use their cannabis medicine. Standard personal health and safety practices should keep the average consumer safe from contamination. If you are concerned and believe you might have the COVID-19 or come into contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread, please contact your physician immediately. Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.