COVID-19 and Marijuana: What You Need to Know


COVID-19 has rapidly spread throughout the world and though there is some confusion about the details of the disease and its spread, one thing is certain: there are populations within the United States that are particularly vulnerable. Among these vulnerable populations, reports the National Institutes on Health and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), are individuals who smoke or vape marijuana, or have a history of smoking or vaping marijuana.

Underlying respiratory issues are a serious risk factor for negative outcomes from COVID-19. NIDA reports that “Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes  COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape:”

  • A report published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed data from China and found that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 was 6.3 percent for people with chronic respiratory disease, compared with 2.3 percent overall (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020).
  • Deaths and serious illness from COVID-19 have been concentrated among vulnerable populations. NIDA reports, that it “is therefore reasonable to be concerned that compromised lung function or lung disease related to smoking history, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), could put people at risk for serious complications of COVID-19.”
  • NIDA also reports that vaping can harm lung health just as smoking can, and as such, people who vape can be exposed to increased risk from COVID-19.
  • In 2019, the country experienced a vaping crisis in which as many as 2,739 people were hospitalized and 68 people died (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). The more than 2,700 people who were hospitalized and suffer from residual complications associated with vaping-related lung illness are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

NIDA concludes: “We can make educated guesses based on past experience that people with compromised health due to smoking or vaping and people with opioid, methamphetamine, cannabis, and other substance use disorders could find themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 and its more serious complications—for multiple physiological and social/environmental reasons. The research community should thus be alert to associations between COVID-19 case severity/mortality and substance use, smoking or vaping history, and smoking- or vaping-related lung disease.”

Marijuana worsens symptoms related to COVID-19, and keeping marijuana stores open threatens public health. We have seen numerous reports of marijuana stores with long lines of people stocking up on the drug and have additionally seen states move to keep these stores open. Quite frankly, this presents a unique harm to public health and safety. Across the country, states are doing everything in their power to limit the gathering of people in one location. Long lines outside of establishments engaged in the distribution of marijuana should be a tremendous cause for concern.

What’s more, studies have found that the consumption of THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana, in any form can negatively impact a user’s immune system, making them less capable of fighting off and recovering from COVID-19. This means we must also assume the consumption of high potency THC candies, gummies, ice creams, and oils can exacerbate issues with this virus.

Unfortunately, the marijuana industry has taken advantage of the situation. According to LegiStorm, “the first lobbyist to explicitly register on coronavirus-related issues is Jack Burkman — a right-wing trickster and conspiracy theorist…who has recently called for the president to ban coronavirus testing.” Burkman is working on behalf of marijuana industry executive Richard Goulding and registered effective Feb. 27 for work on unspecified coronavirus “issues” and “treatments.”

Furthermore, the Federal Trade Commission warned “There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat/cure #coronavirus (#COVID19). Coronavirus-related ad claims will be subject to exacting scrutiny.” More on this can be found here:

In light of these facts, we are urging governors in states with ‘legal’ marijuana operations to suspend the operations of these facilities in an effort to combat the spread of this pandemic and empower those who become infected to stand the best chance at a full recovery. With the very real shortage we are facing with ventilators, hospital beds, and other medical supplies, we must do all that is within our power to lessen the stress this will place on our healthcare system.