Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Cannabis: Impact on Individuals and Businesses

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The Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) has had a dramatic impact on the world over the last couple of weeks.

As countries like Italy, Spain, and Iran begin to break under the increased demands on the healthcare system, people in countries less affected are taking extreme measures to avoid contracting the infection themselves.

How is COVID-19 affecting the cannabis industry? Is it a good idea to be consuming cannabis as we wait-out the pandemic?

Here’s everything we know so far.

Summary: Cannabis & COVID-19

  • Despite online reports, there’s no evidence to suggest cannabis or CBD extracts can help prevent or treat infection of COVID-19
  • Epidemiology experts are recommending you avoid all public gatherings until further notice — including the upcoming 420 festivities
  • Shortages of cannabis products are not expected as a result of the virus — with the exception of vape pens and cannabis packaging materials from China
  • The best way to avoid the virus is to limit contact with other people and wash your hands regularly
  • If you’ve been infected, don’t panic — contact your local health authority for further steps to take

Staying Informed on the COVID-19 Situation

The spread of the virus is all over every major media outlet in the world. As a result, there’s a lot of misinformation being passed around — it’s important you get your information from credible sources lead by expert medical and public health professionals.

The best source for up to date information on the spread of the virus is the World Health Organization website where you can find a map overview of the infection spread and rolling updates on the global situation.

Other Recommended Sources of Information to Stay Informed:

What Do We Know So Far About the Virus? 

Coronaviruses (Coronaviridae) are a family of similar viruses that include SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome), and a handful of viruses responsible for the common cold.

Sometimes these coronaviruses’ evolve — leading to a change in symptoms and infectability or allowing viruses’ that infect animals to jump species and infect humans.

It’s believed the new coronavirus COVID-19 came from animals, but scientists are still trying to understand what species it may have come from. Some evidence suggests the virus came from bats after researchers found the virus shares about 96% of its genome with a known bat coronavirus. It should be noted that even a 4% difference in viral genome structure is a significant difference and isn’t conclusive evidence that bats were the source of the infection.

The virus affects tissues deep within the lungs — unlike the common influenza virus (unrelated to coronavirus) that tends to infect the upper regions of the respiratory tract. It’s also different from the other main culprit of the common cold — rhinoviruses — which infect tissues in the nose and throat.

Deep lung infections are particularly concerning because the cell damage and inflammation can lead to problems with gas transfer — making it difficult to get enough oxygen to the cells. This can make us feel exceptionally fatigued and short of breath.

What Are the Effects of COVID-19?

Connor Reed, a British man living in Wuhan China spoke about his experience with the infection in an interview on 4 News. He said the virus started out the same as any other cold and flu. However, as the condition worsened and moved deeper into the lungs he developed signs of pneumonia — a deep infection of the mucus membranes in the lungs.

He says that during this stage of the infection he felt like his lungs were only working at about 20% capacity.

Signs and symptoms can take anywhere from 2 – 14 days after initial exposure. 

Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection

(Source: Centers For Disease Control (CDC) Website)

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Other side effects may include nausea, muscle aches, a general feeling of malaise, and dizziness.

What Happens If I Get Sick?

There’s a lot of information going around about what you can do to prevent contracting the virus, but not much information on what to do if you actually get sick. Let’s cover some of the recommendations from the WHO, the CDC, and various health professionals reporting on the outbreak:

1. Don’t Panic!

This step is very important. Panicking is going to cloud your judgment and isn’t necessarily warranted. Most people who get the virus will recover in self-isolation without any major concerns.

Remain calm, stay home, and keep yourself occupied while you wait out the epidemic.

2. Inform Your Local Health Authority

If you think you may have the coronavirus, call your doctor immediately to inform them of your symptoms. They may give you another number to call to report your condition and have a test kit ordered to confirm infection.

3. Stop Hitting The Bong & Smoking Joints… For Now

Coronavirus infects deep regions of the lungs where gas exchange occurs. In order to minimize the risk of severe symptoms and speed recovery from the illness, you should avoid any activity that can cause further damage or inflammation to the lungs. This includes the smoking of any kind — including E-cigarettes, cigarettes, joints, blunts, vapes, and bongs.

A recent study reported the expression of ACE2 (the key receptor the virus uses to infect cells) was much more prevalent in smokers compared to non-smokers. In theory, this could improve the viruses’ ability to infect your cells — potentially leading to more severe symptoms. The same study hypothesized that the reason more Chinese men suffered the most severe symptoms of the illness compared to women was a result of the higher smoking rate among men in the region.

If you must use marijuana, opt for edibles and give your bong a break — perhaps this is a good opportunity to finally get your filthy bong cleaned anyway.

4. Quarantine Yourself Immediately

Cancel any scheduled events, work from home if you can, or call in sick. While it’s likely you’ll recover from the illness in a matter of weeks, you need to take measures to stop the spread from reaching populations that are most at risk.

You should wear a mask at all times if you live with roommates or family to reduce the chances of transmission. It’s also important that you clean surfaces regularly with a powerful disinfectant and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Do this many times throughout the day.

5. Keep a Lookout for Signs of Emergency:

The majority of cases don’t require intensive care or treatment. For most people, the best course of action is to remain at home, drink plenty of fluids, get a lot of rest, and avoid contact with other people to limit the spread of infection as much as possible.

With that said, keep a lookout for signs of emergency — any of the following symptoms should prompt you to seek medical attention immediately:

  • Severe difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to stand up without fainting
  • Bluish lips or face

General Tips For Staying Healthy During the Coronavirus Outbreak

If you haven’t contracted the virus, there are a few key measures health authorities are recommending to limit your chances of transmission:

1. Keep Your Distance — No Sharing Blunts

COVID-19 is very contagious, it spreads via water droplets emitted through the mouth and nose. If an infected droplet is inhaled or transferred into the body through contact with the eyes, nose or mouth — you could become infected.

The best method of prevention is social distancing — remaining at least 6 feet away from other people at all times. This means no sharing joints or bong hits with your friends, at least until the epidemic comes to an end.

2. Wash Your Hands Often

Soap destroys the virus, so it’s vital you spend plenty of time throughout the day washing your hands — especially if you’ve come in contact with public places like doors or bus handrails.

Read this guide from the WHO on proper handwashing techniques.

3. Switch to non-Inhalables or Stop Using Marijuana at All

It’s recommended you avoid all smokeable forms of marijuana during the outbreak, or consider stopping consumption completely for the next couple of weeks.

Smoking, in particular, increases your risk of developing more severe side effects if you do get infected. Smoke inhalation can irritate the mucus membranes of the lungs — leading to a reduced ability to resist the infection and more severe symptoms.

4. Don’t Fall Victim to False Information in the CBD Space

There are currently no confirmed alternative health supplements for stopping the spread or severity of infection from COVID-19 — including CBD. With so much hype in recent years around this cannabis extract, it’s no surprise some CBD companies are trying to peddle their products as a preventative during the outbreak.

While it’s true CBD has potent anti-inflammatory effects, and can be helpful for promoting sleep and managing pain — there’s no evidence that CBD can be used to treat or prevent COVID-19.

If you’re using CBD oil to manage symptoms like chronic pain, anxiety, or other health conditions — there’s no immediate reason to stop taking the supplement. A little bit of stress-relief may even do some good to prevent fear and panic while you endure the quarantine periods.

With that said, if you begin to experience symptoms of the infection, it’s a good idea to ease-off for a while.

Here’s why.

While there’s potential for CBD to be helpful for reducing fevers and other symptoms of the infection — there are some concerns as well. For example, CBD has known blood-pressure-lowering effects — which could pose a greater risk to people with the virus that are already showing signs of low blood pressure.

Until we know more about how supplements like CBD are affecting COVID-19 symptoms, it’s best to hold off and instead focus on getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, and keeping yourself busy at home.

Has COVID-19 Affected The Supply of Cannabis in the United States? 

There’s been a ton of coverage on industries suffering severe supply shortages as a direct result of the outbreak. Dramatic reductions in Chinese manufacturing and overseas imports are limiting access to household items like toilet paper, canned food, and personal protective equipment.

Making matters worse, widespread hysteria among the public is draining the stock of various products from store shelves faster than it can be replenished.

So how has all of this affected the supply of cannabis?

A) Raw Cannabis Products Remain Unaffected

Experts don’t expect there to be any major shortages of raw cannabis products because most of the supply comes from local sources. Additionally, cannabis products haven’t been a common priority for people preparing for the impending quarantine measures in the United States.

As you might expect, sales of cannabis products spiked recently as people stock up in preparation for a potential quarantine. Restocking has been a common trend for all consumables, including food, toiletries, and cleaning products.

The CDC officially suggested people stock up on at least one month’s supply of essential medicines — which includes cannabis for many people.

Despite the recent pump in sales of cannabis products the past week has already seen this taper off dramatically. Dispensaries aren’t yet reporting any major problems with supply and report business as usual.

B) Vaporizers & Batteries Coming From China Are Experiencing Severe Delays

Most vape pens and e-cigs are produced in China, which was the first region to be heavily affected by the virus. With widespread shutdowns and quarantines, manufacturing within the country is expected to cause shortages of these products over the next couple of months at least.

C) Packaging Materials From China Are Likely To Affect the Cannabis Industry

A lot of cannabis companies manufacture their packaging in China and India. Slowed production is likely to affect the ability of companies to source their packaging materials from these countries.

How this will ultimately affect the availability of cannabis products is unknown. Dried herb is unlikely to be affected as other packaging options are readily available — however, tinctures, capsules, and other cannabis products that rely heavily on the use of specific packaging may become unavailable if the pandemic persists more than a few months.

Will 420 Celebrations Be Cancelled? 

With international 420 celebrations just around the corner, a lot of people are wondering if events near them will be canceled in light of the pandemic.

The simple answer here is yes — most, if not all 420 celebrations will be canceled or postponed until concerns over the virus diminish.

Countries throughout Europe, North America, and Asia have already banned public events from taking place. In places where these regulations haven’t been put in place, it’s recommended you avoid the event on your own will to avoid placing yourself at risk of contracting or spreading the virus.

Large public gatherings are a perfect way to expose yourself and others to the virus.

Final Thoughts on Cannabis & The Coronavirus

The cannabis industry is unlikely to be severely affected by the COVID-19 virus aside from the annual 420 celebrations being canceled or postponed until later this summer.

While CBD and marijuana products have a lot of medical value, there’s little these products are going to do to stop the spread of infection, and in some cases could make symptoms and transmission rates much worse (such as smoking or sharing joints with friends).

If you’re using CBD or marijuana products to alleviate specific symptoms, you don’t need to stop using the herb — but try to make the switch from using smokeable products to edible or topical cannabis options instead.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ramp up and infect more people at exponential rates, it’s important to remain informed on the situation by following official sources like the CDC, WHO, and medical authorities. Avoid feeding into the frenzy of misinformed reporting on social media networks.

Remain calm and follow the CDC-recommended methods of prevention (frequent handwashing social isolation, masks, and avoidance of public events) and be patient. This will all be over soon if everybody works together to stop the spread.

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