APR 03, 2020 8:49 AM PDT

Nope, Marijuana Does Not Cure COVID-19

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

As the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled panic across the world amid global lockdowns and spiking death tolls, some have started to claim that cannabis is able to cure people of the virus despite a lack of scientific evidence to support these claims. 

Although no study to date has examined the effects of marijuana as a possible treatment for COVID-19, some preclinical studies looking at the possibility of cannabidiol (CBD), a key constituent of cannabis, have suggested that the substance may be able to enable some positive results in those with hepatitis C and Kaposi sarcoma. Meanwhile, another study has shown that CBD was able to reduce neuroinflammation in a virus-induced animal model of multiple sclerosis. 

Apart from these research samples however- none of which came from clinical sources- the only other evidence that marijuana may cure coronavirus, or indeed, may be effective against any virus, comes from anecdotal and nonscientific sources. This means that, although CBD may have some application against the novel coronavirus and other viruses, due to a lack of proper research, any claims towards this are inconclusive. 

That isn’t to say however that medicinal marijuana and indeed CBD may not be effective in treating some of the indirect symptoms of the virus. It is well-documented for example that medical marijuana may be effective in treating anxiety among certain people- something that may explain the rushes on cannabis dispensaries across the US during the pandemic. 

Despite this, it is nevertheless worth noting that people who smoke are at a higher risk of more severe complications from COVID-19 than non-smokers. Although research towards this point has predominantly focused on tobacco smoke, as cannabis is often smoked alongside tobacco, and is nevertheless combusted when smoked, it may mean that smoking the substance could pose a health risk by needlessly damagingthe lungs- not a great prerequisite for contracting the novel coronavirus. 

This has thus led Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to recommend that people limit or even avoid exposure to combustion smoke, and instead consume cannabis as an edible. He said, “Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, some of you may wish to limit or avoid their exposure to combustive smoke — as this can put undue stress and strain on the lungs. Alternative delivery devices, such as vaporizer heating devices can significantly mitigate combustive smoke exposure, and of course, the use of edibles or tinctures can eliminate smoke exposure entirely.”


Sources: NORML, Labroots, Washington Post, Liebertpub

About the Author
  • Science writer with a keen interest in behavioral biology, consciousness medicine and technology. Her current focus is how the interplay of these fields can create meaningful interactions, products and environments.
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