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Can cannabis prevent or cure the coronavirus? The data look dubious

Cannabinoids’ roles against infectious disease need the clarity that only prohibition’s end can bring. (bdspn/iStock)

In these times of coronavirus, one big question is on cannabis users’ minds: “Can cannabis cure or prevent the coronavirus… or could it make it worse?”

Researchers can’t legally just jump in a lab and start testing cannabinoids versus the coronavirus specifically. But we know cannabis has medical properties that might harm or help someone trying to avoid, or battling, SARS-CoV-2.

In fact, smoking cannabis may make people more susceptible to infection.

Only the end of federal prohibition can unlock cannabis’ multiple roles against this nasty new infectious disease, and others.

Can weed prevent the coronavirus?

Strictly speaking, we don’t have much evidence suggesting that cannabis can prevent a coronavirus infection.

In fact, smoking cannabis may make people more susceptible to infection. Dr. Donald Tashkin, a UCLA professor who has extensively studied cannabis’ effects on the lungs, previously found evidence that cannabis smoking temporarily increases the symptoms of bronchitis such as inflammation in the lungs, coughing, and phlegm production. While these effects were much less serious than those found for tobacco, Tashkin told the Los Angeles Times in April that “smoking anything increases risk.”

All the doctors we spoke with agreed that avoiding smoking is a good idea right now. “In general, I would suggest much less smoking,” advises Dr. Frank Lucido, a GP and cannabis clinician. “Since COVID-19 deaths are respiratory deaths, it’s best to avoid even cannabis smoke in this case.”

Cannabis and coronavirus: Here’s what you need to know

Still, if you are a patient using cannabis medicinally, and don’t find other methods of using cannabis effective, don’t panic.

“Some people need to smoke or vape it and they shouldn’t feel bad about it,” explains Dr. Peter Grinspoon, a physician, and instructor at Harvard Medical School.

He says it’s best to stop smoking, but not at the expense of your other medical needs.

Cannabis dampens inflammation

Furthermore, it appears that cannabinoids dampen the immune system’s response to a new infection. Cannabis’ immunosuppressive qualities stem from the fact that it reduces inflammation.

Those properties are useful in fighting some viruses that exploit inflammation to replicate. Still, it’s not clear from the research whether these immune effects would be helpful or harmful for coronavirus, but we expect to see more researchers studying it.

A new NIDA grant hopes to entice researchers to study how marijuana use changes risks associated with COVID-19.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Emily Earlenbaugh on Leafly
Published: April 22, 2020
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