Survey finds US cannabis smokers adapting to COVID-19 amidst fog of unclear information

Apr 22, 2020

The novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has changed the way that global citizens the world over conduct themselves and their daily activities, with social distancing forcing people to adapt while in isolation. While the advent of telehealth and other communication technologies have allowed many to continue on with some semblance of regularity, the global pandemic has brought forth many of the already glaring cracks in our social fabric. As people exposed to the criminal justice system, those with unsecure housing situations, and others who struggle financially to pay for food and medical care find themselves caught at a crossroads, the coronavirus pandemic creates a demarcation line between the haves and the have-nots.

One group of people who have found themselves bullied to exhaustion throughout the COVID-19 ordeal are people who use drugs, including medical and recreational cannabis users who find solace from their drug of choice while in isolation during these uncertain times. As the team that runs the Narcotica Podcast tweeted out earlier this week, “Cannabis is basically my Xanax and Adderall and a little bit of ibuprofen.”

But just how much is the coronavirus affecting cannabis users, and how have they been adapting to recent events?

American Marijuana's cannabis user COVID-19 survey

At American Marijuana, they undertook an extensive survey of cannabis users to answer those and more questions, the results of which were a bit unexpected. The poll, which included only US cannabis smokers, had 1017 respondents. Of those, 144 noted that they have current lung problems, with 873 responding that their lungs were clear. 

According to Editor-in-Chief Dwight K. Blake, there were a few major takeaways from the survey. American Marijuana found that 54.35 percent of participants who noted they have lung problems believe that cannabis smoke will make them “more susceptible to coronavirus.” Along the same lines, 34.47 percent of those surveyed without lung problems similarly think they're more likely to fall ill when smoking cannabis.


Moreover, since social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country almost two months ago, cannabis users have changed their habits. According to the survey results, nearly 30 percent of US users started smoking more since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. In contrast, perhaps surprisingly, a little over 5 percent of people claim to have quit smoking weed.


And even though there’s been strong messaging put out by many medical experts state that smoking cannabis can, in fact, make one more susceptible to the coronavirus. Only around 30 percent of survey respondents say they’ve stopped smoking marijuana in place of other forms. The bulk of US cannabis users continue to stick with their preferred method of ingestion.


American Marijuana also dug into the economics of the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on respondents’ fears of an upcoming recession and how it may affect cannabis use. Asked if they were worried about not being able to pay for cannabis since the start of the outbreak, those surveyed mostly said no. However, a large margin, nearly 36 percent, did agree that they were concerned about their financial prospects over the coming months.


Interestingly enough, the survey found a slight outpouring of perceived negative attitudes toward cannabis from non-users during the pandemic as well. Asked if they felt their cannabis use was being discriminated against by family members or friends, almost 30 percent of those who responded agreed that there was some kind of negative stigma, whether it was minimal, or full-on discrimination.


So what’s the truth about cannabis and COVID-19?

While it’s clear that cannabis users are adapting to the new reality of COVID-19, it’s also true that there’s a lot of misleading information out there regarding smoking cannabis, especially from those people and groups who have an agenda. The FDA, for example, initially stated that people with underlying health conditions who smoke or vape were at higher risk for coming down with the coronavirus. However, they recently changed their stance, admitting that they were unsure of the effects.

And that’s probably the honest answer right now, because nobody knows for sure, as the novel coronavirus is new. However, many doctors and other professionals recommend taking a harm reduction approach to smoking weed during the pandemic to ensure personal health and wellbeing.

For example, try and switch to edibles if possible. As Matthew Springer, a professor of medicine and smoke researcher at UCSF, told The CUT, “it’s a reasonable presumption that smoking things will be bad in general.” 

The most important thing to do during this time, however, is to listen to the experts.

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