Cannabis & the Coronavirus – Weed’s Unexpected Role in Surviving the Pandemic

Beyond the care taken to protect each other from being part of the line of coronavirus transmission lies the broader question as pertains to cannabis: 

“Is it safe to consume THC during the coronavirus pandemic?”

In this article we’ll:

  • discuss the safety of cannabis use in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic
  • look at ways cannabis can benefit a pandemic world

A Pandemic Mess

As 2019 gave way to 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic encircled the globe, it became obvious that the planned celebration of 4/20/2020, possibly the most anticipated cannabis date of our century, would be supplanted by our communal desires to protect ourselves and our loved ones from an unseen and mostly unknown virus. 

Celebrations of the advancement of cannabis acceptance continued, but in somewhat muted tones as we watched with trepidation, realizing that gatherings could be life-threatening, if not to us, to those we came into contact with, should we be inadvertently carrying the unseen danger. 

COVID-19/Cannabis Concerns

Recreational adjustments 

As the novel coronavirus made its way towards the United States, I began considering what this means for the cannabis patient and/or recreational consumer. Social distancing as we work to flatten the curve of viral transmission restricts the number of people you can share our favorite social drug with in person.

Vape cartridges are perfect for self-use.

Sharing the joint, passing the pipe, and communal use of any device for the consumption of cannabis products are, for a time, practices cautious consumers will be avoiding until the planet has learned to live with this new coronavirus without the losses to life the first wave left us with. Thankfully, your local dispensary has many products, among them individual cartridges and vaporizing pens that allow you to share the experience of cannabis with friends without sharing the same device.  THCSD even offers curbside pick-up for your safety and convenience.

Protecting your airways

A scanning electron micrograph of cilia in a bronchial wall. The cilia that project from the tops of the epithelial cells help to cleanse the lung by moving trapped particles.

It seems pretty obvious to me that if you believe you’re at risk for contracting the novel coronavirus, or any virus that affects the respiratory system, avoiding consumption methods that may damage the airways is a sound idea. Smoking will always be the fastest way to relieve breakthrough symptoms for most patients, but with a little planning one can substitute other dosing methods and limit the times when combustion is the chosen pathway to get more cannabinoids into a healing body. 

  • Vaporization uses less heat, sparing the delicate bronchial cilia from the damage smoking causes. 

NOTE: Every administration method will create a different experience for the consumer. Euphoria produced by smoking feels different than vaporizing, and to be honest, many of us who smoke prefer combustion for the quick onset and increased feelings of being high. If switching from combustion to vaporizing, be aware that some people need about two weeks for their bodies to adjust to the subtly different experience. 

  • Edibles (foods, capsules, tinctures, etc.) offer tighter control of the regimen without the respiratory concerns. Edibles also open a wider therapeutic window than combustion or vaporization, expanding relief from around two hours upwards to eight hours. 

NOTE: When dosed through the gut delta-9 THC is converted into 11-hydroxy THC, which can be four to ten times more potent than delta-9 THC. A wise consumer starts with a low dose and tapers up slowly, waiting up to two hours to assess the dose effectiveness before consuming any more.

What about medical cannabis use during the coronavirus pandemic? How safe will I be?

Cannabis tinctures are ideal for those trying to avoid combustion during the coronavirus pandemic.

Turning to the medical side of the cannabis picture it becomes a bit more muddled. Is it possible cannabis could be dangerous to use during the coronavirus pandemic? In mid-March of 2020 there was a ripple of concern that research done years ago on mice infected with H1N1 influenza had demonstrated a danger of THC use during a viral infection. 

In the drive to create fear about the safest drug we know of available to humans, the facts often get left by the wayside. 

A closer reading of that data shows that while the infected mice treated with THC initially showed less ability to fight the virus, in the end the mice with cannabinoids did significantly better than their counterparts without the benefit of THC. 

Looking deeper into available research led me to animal studies from 2011 and 2017 that found THC supporting the immune response in monkeys infected with SIV, the simian version of HIV, following an extensive daily regimen of THC (twice a day injections directly into muscle tissue over a 17 week period in the second study). 

Already confident about my healthy body and brain’s ability to stay healthy, I came away from my deep dive into the endocannabinoid system and immunology feeling more comfortable about my chances of surviving infection with the coronavirus over someone who lacked my years of constant support of this fundamental cellular signalling system

Although anyone actively fighting a virus should be cautious if using cannabis as a new medicine, it appears a regular cannabis regimen does exactly what we anticipated it would – support a vigorous immune response.

What can cannabis offer during the coronavirus pandemic?

An electron micrograph of a T cell.

Cannabis can help boost immune response

The immune system kicks into high gear when a viral load enters the body. Cytokines do their best to block the entry of the tiny molecules with inflammation, while calling in other important immune cells to overcome the threat and clean up the mess left behind. 

It’s the ECS that modulates everything the immune system does in response to viral infection. Your body produces endocannabinoids to generate just the right cellular response to the invasion or injury. 

  • Cannabinoids modulate immune reactions throughout the body, creating the particular cellular response needed at each cell, just when it’s needed. 
  • Cannabinoids influence the balance of the types of T cells called into action. (Different T cells perform critically different jobs.)
  • Cannabinoids influence cytokine expression to control inflammatory response. You don’t want too few, or there’s not enough immune response. You don’t want too many, or you end up with a destructive “cytokine storm.” Your ECS keeps it all in balance. 
  • A viral assault will cause some damage to brain cells. Cannabinoids play a role in the balance between your brain’s inflammatory response to viral infestation and the cellular degeneration that may result, with the goal of protecting your brain cells.

Most importantly for those of us including cannabis in our daily lives, all this work endocannabinoids can do to offset a viral attack will also be done by analogs of those molecules. Analogs are organic molecules similar in molecular structure to other organic molecules. 

The phytocannabinoids found in cannabis will act as near-perfect analogs to your own endocannabinoids. 

Cannabis can help control unhinging emotions

In proper doses, both THC and CBD help control anxiety, depression and fear.

The stresses of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic and the threats to world health and economies has most of the planet’s human populations living on the razor’s edge of constant fear. There’s still so little we know of this coronavirus, and until we have a greater understanding of how it can be controlled we’re all going to be under this extra stress in an already over-stressed world. 

One thing we know for sure about cannabis is that with proper dosing it will help keep anxiety, depression and fear at controllable levels. In these extreme conditions you may find yourself needing to adjust the doses, but you’re still benefiting from the extreme safety profile that makes cannabis such a joy to experiment with. 

Cannabis can help increase creative awareness and inspiration 

Surviving the coronavirus pandemic will take thinking outside the box to new levels. The multiple, synergistic components of cannabis can be a boost to creative thought, something we’ll be needing a lot of in the years ahead as we learn to live through the waves that will surely follow. 

Cannabis supports a healthy gut

The thing about an unhappy gut is that your gut has the unique ability to make every other part of your body suffer when it’s feeling out of sorts. Since studying peptides, I’ve been impressed with the necessity to keep serotonin levels in good balance. THC will signal the production and availability of serotonin, the major peptide keeping your gut running smoothly. 

Cannabis high in terpenes that support healthy digestion, like B-caryophyllene with its anti-inflammatory action and linalool with its ability to calm the cellular vibrations, would be an invaluable addition to your coronavirus pandemic cannabis regimen.

Whats your cannabis regimen during the coronavirus pandemic?

In the end I’m thankful to have been a regular consumer of cannabis products of many forms, dosed in a multitude of ways. I’ve been boosting my body’s ability to fight off this dangerous pathogen threatening our planet’s human population for over five years, which puts me – and hopefully you – in a special class. 

There are no guarantees with a novel virus, and the truth is that the restrictions of prohibition hobble the research that would give us more precise directions for using cannabis as medicine or demonstrate beyond doubt the protective nature of cannabis we who use it feel in our own bodies. Until we have firmer research behind us, proceed carefully and listen to your body.  As always


We’re all in this together

Stay home.  Stay safe.

Humans are an adaptive species, and I have every faith that we’ll get through this massive challenge and rebuild. Keep your social distances and wash your hands frequently to protect an inadvertent transmission of the coronavirus from you to anyone else.  Should you choose to use cannabis as a medicine or to simply help you keep your brain in a more playful creative mood in the midst of global panic, know you are using a uniquely safe drug that will also be helping your body defend itself against many disease states.

We’d like to hear ways you’ve found to let cannabis help you maneuver the waters of the coronavirus pandemic. Leave your comments below and we can all learn from the shared wisdom. 

Be safe. Above all, be kind.