In just a few short months, the world went from a relatively sober place to a state of worldwide panic. On one side of the globe, coronavirus has Australians clearing the shelves of toilet paper, while in the northern hemisphere, the Dutch are lining up to buy their last stash of weed before social distancing measures are enforced. Meanwhile, here in Canada, “caremongering” (the opposite of fearmongering?) has become the latest trend in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario.

And then — there are all the expert opinions circulating the media; those with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or cancer are more likely to develop severe symptoms. But the conversation omits one really important risk factor: smoking. Are smokers at a higher risk of ending up with COVID-19-related (the disease caused by the coronavirus) pneumonia? 

What about all of those using cannabis and cannabis-derived products for medical reasons — how does the threat of coronavirus impact them? Well, the media doesn’t seem nearly as interested in how coronavirus impacts cannabis users, but we’re especially interested. Hopefully, we can bust some questions for you about how to make your cannabis consumption for you right now.

Smoking during a virulent outbreak that causes respiratory issues? Not recommended.

Well, we don’t need to state the obvious, do we? Smoking is obviously not good for your lungs — even if you consider the argument that cannabis smoke is less harmful than tobacco smoke. Needless to say, the best way to protect yourself from a virulent outbreak that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is to protect your lungs. Even though cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke are not equally carcinogenic, smoking cannabis is still associated with respiratory injury and dysfunction.

Regular cannabis smoking can have all kinds of effects on your lungs, but the ones we’re most concerned about are the immunological effects and the effects on respiration. Lungs were made for breathing in air — or atmosphere — and aren’t designed for inhalation of smoke. Anything other than oxygen and other atmospheric gases damage the delicate alveoli of the lungs, which can lead to obstruction of airways and nasty chronic conditions like bronchitis. Even air pollution contributes to a decline in lung health.

In terms of immunological factors, some research indicates that cannabis smoke disrupts some of the immune function of the lungs. Antimicrobial activity of certain immune cells, T-cell activity, and cytokine production are all immunological deficits that have been observed in regular weed smokers. By the way, T-cells are police-like immune cells that go around killing cells that aren’t meant to be there. And these are all things that help to protect your lungs from an infection — like pneumonia, which is one of the severe symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus.

Understanding the endocannabinoid system and cannabis “immunobiology”

An umbrella describes the concept of immunity and protection.

What about edibles, then? Can you safely use weed edibles to improve your immunity from coronavirus? Sadly, the answer is no. And that’s all because of the role your endocannabinoid system (ECS) has to play in your immunity. 

You can think of the endocannabinoid system as a “gatekeeper” of the immune system. It makes sure your immune system doesn’t get too over excited and begin killing its sovereign cells (your body!). This is exactly why some researchers are touting cannabis as a prophylactic and adjunct therapy for cancer. Without convoluting this article with meaningless scientific acronyms, a lot of the targets for cannabinoids and endocannabinoids are receptors, ion channels, and brain areas that specifically affect immunity. 

However, they don’t affect immunity in the way you think. Like we just mentioned, the endocannabinoid system is like an “off switch”. Think about it: we consider Crohn’s disease patients to be perfect candidates for cannabis. Crohn’s disease is considered an autoimmune condition of the bowel, and interestingly enough, Ethan Russo theorizes that many treatment-resistant conditions like Crohn’s disease are caused by a dysfunction of the endocannabinoid system. Basically, the mechanism by which the immune system is checked and balanced (the ECS) doesn’t work.

In terms of immunity, cannabis is used in the clinical setting to suppress potentially dangerous pathological immune responses — i.e., dangerous auto-immune responses. And to be honest, we don’t really know enough about COVID-19  to know how much of the damage is caused by the virus, and how much of it is caused by an overreaction of the immune system.

The fact that it takes so long for the body to recognize that it has been infected with coronavirus (up to 14 days, according to some sources) might have something to do with why the immune response is so strong for some people when it finally does happen. 

No-one is immune to the novel coronavirus

What makes the novel coronavirus different to the normal flu is that nobody in the world has an acquired immunity to it. Acquired immunity is the reason that you can’t get glandular fever (Epstein Barr virus) twice, for example. If no human has ever had this virus, then it’s safe to say that the human genome doesn’t have antibodies for it yet. 

That’s why nobody is immune to the novel coronavirus, and its consequent disease, COVID-19. And that’s why immunity isn’t actually implicated in this pandemic — it’s your health that’s implicated. You can’t really improve your immunity to something that we have no real immunity for. But what we do know is that those who are generally in good shape are the least likely to develop severe symptoms.

Now what does that mean for you, dear cannabis user? It means — do whatever keeps you healthy! If you use cannabis to maintain your health, and it effectively does that for you, keep doing it (this also includes mental health). If you exercise regularly and like to sunbathe for a few minutes every day, you should keep doing that too! 

Keep calm but be kind to your lungs

An illustration of lungs with flowers and leaves

Obviously, we think remaining calm is important.

For some people, cannabis is a means for that. And so by all means, remain calm.

But you should also be kind to your lungs. COVID-19 is spreading, and before the end of the year, it’s likely that most of us will have contracted it. You can help your lungs by choosing edibles instead of joints, or you can even try tinctures if that’s more appealing than edibles.

In any case, we all know smoking is kind of bad for us, even if we love to do it (guilty as charged). And having fun is equally as important, but if you come down with something, it’s better to avoid inhalation products and stick to the edibles or tinctures!

Sweet and simple products you can try that go easy on the lungs

My Supply Co has all kinds of smokeables, edibles, and tinctures available for sale. Seeing as we are primarily concerned with preserving the lungs, we have some product suggestions that allow you to substitute smoking with another consumption method. Check them out!

Indica THC Caramelts by Twisted Extracts

The THC lovers out there can enjoy Twisted Extracts’ THC Caramelts. Each melt contains 10mg THC and there are a total of 8 melts in the bag. As the strain used for the Caramelts is indica, we generally recommend using this as a night-time joint replacement, or a means of reducing coronavirus-related anxiety. 

For those who usually smoke a 1-paper green joint, your average joint contains around 0.75g of cannabis. If the strain you use averages out at around 15% THC, your average joint generally delivers about 10-15mg THC. So you can consider each 10mg Caramelt to give you the same level of intoxication as a single, pure green joint.

Sativa 1:1 THC:CBD Tincture by Twisted Extracts

If you prefer to balance things out with CBD, you can try the Sativa 1:1 THC:CBD Tincture by Twisted Extracts. The bottle contains 300mg of cannabinoids, or 150 mg each of CBD and THC. Each dropperful contains 5 mg CBD and 5 mg THC. Simply drop it under the tongue, and allow it to dissolve sublingually. 

This tincture is made with sativa genetics, so it’s better for use during the daytime. We recommend using the Sativa 1:1 THC:CBD tincture to reduce stress, pain, and inflammation during the daytime without causing a couchlock effect. Perfect for those afternoons in quarantine. 

Indica 5:1 Blue Sour Raspberries by Mota Cannabis

Mota Cannabis’ 5:1 Indica Blue Sour Raspberries are delicious, balanced, and perfectly measured. Each bag contains 100 mg THC and 20 mg CBD; each soda bottle candy contains 10mg THC and 2mg CBD. They provide a relaxing high that can help to reduce stress, insomnia, anxiety, and nausea.

As these candies are made with indica genetics, we typically recommend using them at night time or after a day’s work. They may make you feel sleepy, relaxed, and in the mood to binge on Netflix!

What are some of your favourite non-smokeable products? Share your favourite with us in the comments!

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