As the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe, there has been a litany of voices claiming that all types of miracle cures and home remedies that can cure, prevent, or treat COVID-19. The cannabis industry has not been spared from this misinformation, which stands to aggravate an already worsening public health crisis.
Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program said this week that while some drugs “may have an impact” fighting the coronavirus, data is very preliminary and “there’s no proven effective therapeutic or drug against COVID-19.”
To boil that down to the simplest terms possible: there is no evidence that cannabis, or any cannabinoid, can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 or kill the novel coronavirus.
FDA warns CBD companies over fraudulent claims
On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it had issued warning letters to some CBD companies “for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products, as part of the agency’s efforts to protect consumers.”
The FDA and Federal Trade Commission have also issued a warning letter to the CBD company Neuro XPF for “the misleading claim these products can mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19.”
The FDA added that it will continue to take action against those “that place public health at risk.”
No evidence cannabis can prevent or treat COVID-19
To paraphrase an old saying: the meme circled the globe and back while the truth was still getting its pants on. It portrays what looks like a still from a cable news program, featuring a marijuana flower and a chyron reading “Breaking News: Weed Kills Corona Virus.”
The picture is an obvious fake but that did not stop it from getting shared on social media thousands and thousands of times in early February.
But beyond driving home the value of getting your news from reputable and reliable sources (the CDC is a good place to start), here’s what we do know:
Cannabis and the immune system
Chemicals in cannabis called cannabinoids interact directly with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which, among other things, helps regulate the immune system. This is why cannabis can be effective as an anti-inflammatory for patients with certain autoimmune conditions. At the same time, animal studies have indicated these immunosuppressive effects could potentially make the body’s immune system less able to fight off some pathogens like influenza.
Regardless, researchers have yet to confirm in clinical studies whether cannabis users are more susceptible to infection, and there is no indication that using cannabis makes people more likely to contract COVID-19.
Does smoking increase your risk of COVID-19?
According to the World Health Organization, smokers — of Cannabis and anything else — are “likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19,” for reasons that have no connection to the chemical effects of the plant in the human body, rather, to factors involved in the act of smoking it.
For one, smoking is a hand-to-mouth action, which is one of the primary means by which the virus is transmitted. Also, smoking cannabis tends to be a social experience, and passing joints or pipes from one person’s mouth to another is a perfect way to transmit a virus.
Finally, long-term cigarette smokers can develop respiratory issues, ranging from wheezing and coughing to actual lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Considering that the virus can destroy lung tissue and result in severe complications like pneumonia, people with weakened respiratory systems may be at a heightened risk.