NOV 04, 2022 8:00 AM PDT

Cannabis Users and Liver Transplants

WRITTEN BY: Helaine Krysik

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites that as of 2019, 18 percent of the U.S. population used cannabis; a number that is likely much larger now. However, despite this large number of weed consumers, these very same people are oftentimes excluded from receiving liver transplants.

Why? Reasons range from legal status, to concerns over potential fungal infections, to fears of the body rejecting a new liver.

But is there any substance to these concerns when you break down the data? Researchers seem to think otherwise, claiming there is no major difference between mortality rates in cannabis users versus non-users.

The main driver is because most cannabis have actually been excluded from the transplant list to begin with. According to one study, only 32 cannabis-using patients out of the 111 received a liver transplant. The remaining 79 were denied for other reasons - just 11 were denied solely for using cannabis. Another study from 2021 cited similar results, with the conclusion that cannabis users were denied the procedure based mostly on the stigma associated with weed consumption.

One of the ironies of this trend is that other research has indicated potential positives associated with cannabis and transplants. CBD has been shown to provide protective benefits for the liver in studies with rats and mice.

So, research is at best inconclusive. Until there is a better sampling available of cannabis users having undergone transplants, it will be difficult for the science community to make any recommendations one way or the other, such as they have with alcohol use.

When cannabis consumers see studies making claims as to what the plant can do, as well as any associated benefits or risks, they should always be aware of any bias behind the studies. Claims should be based in data, not in stigma.  

Sources: CDC, BuzzFeed, American Journal of the Medical Sciences, Clinical Transplantation, Sage Journals

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Helaine is a cannabis industry writer and marketing consultant. She has been active in the Illinois cannabis industry since 2020, and writes for a variety of national publications.
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