The marijuana industry has taken the extraordinary step of exploiting the current COVID-19 crisis for its own ends. We felt compelled to set the record straight and, in cooperation with health authorities, release the following guidance on COVID-19 and marijuana.
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.”
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: https://go.usa.gov/xdFCP
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