Cannabis use and covid

The Covid-19 virus is certainly bringing some changes to the way we live and some of these changes are things we’ll just have to get used to. Welcome to the new normal. What does this all mean for the way people consume cannabis? To answer this we have to understand what Covid-19 does:

Although most people only experience mild symptoms from the virus – some don’t really get anything worth moaning about at all and if that’s you fine, all’s good. Others experience a severe flue-like illness although most recover after a week or so of nasty illness, a main symptom is a difficulty in breathing. One person who had in a fairly mild form described it as feeling as if she had been “punched repeatedly in the chest”, lots of pain and she was short of breath. In some people this gets much worse, leading to pneumonia which can kill.

This is how the new virus was identified as being the cause of severe acute respiratory syndrome. There’s a decent description of what happens courtesy of the Guardian that’s worth a read.

The point is the more your lungs are compromised, the greater the risk of that happening. That’s why smoking is an issue.

So fairly obviously anything you do that impacts your lungs, especially when you have Covid, is going to make things worse than they need be and that’s true even if you only experience mild symptoms. Smoking is one of the things clearly best avoided.

Now of course there’s smoking and smoking. Tobacco filled joints or chillums are the very worst option and something UKCIA has long advised against with the Tokepure campaign, all that advice holds true. The more smoke you breath in, especially when it’s mixed with the killer drug tobacco, the more problems it will cause. But even smoking pure cannabis – hash or grass – is going to irritate the lungs and cause problems which means the illness could be worse than it would otherwise have been.

All smoke contains small particles (PM <10) which get down into the lungs and leave deposits of gunk. All stoners are familiar with the coughing after a good solid toke with or without tobacco. Doing that is going to lower your chances of getting through it all without too much painful bedridden illness.

So what about vaping? There are two sorts of vape, the “dry” sort and the “wet” sort and either is a lot better option than smoking.

“Dry” vapes simply heat the cannabis up to around 157 degC and don’t involve breathing in any particulate stuff you get in smoke. But as I’m sure regular vapers will testify, they can still make tokers cough and so again it’s not really something you want to do. Smaller tokes are better than long, deep inhales.

“Wet” vapes that use vape juice are easier on the lungs and would be a better option, if it weren’t for the prohibition policy. In the UK we’re very likely to see the black market products found to be associated with the problems seen in the US known as EVALI – The name given to vaping-related illness (E-cigarette, or Vaping, product use Associated Lung Injury) which seems to be caused by the additive Vitamin E acetate in black market THC vapes. Remember our drugs laws mean all the THC vape juices sold in this country are unregulated and potentially dangerous at the best of times, all the more so now. Mark this up as another unnecessary problem caused by our stupid drug laws

Covid-19 is spread in water droplets coughed or sneezed out by the carrier of the virus. Using vape liquid involves breathing out clouds of water vapour and this is may be a very good way to spread the disease, although it may not be as big a problem as it first seems.

For some good information about smoking, vaping and Covid, see this paper from Roberto Sussman and Carmen Escrig. For juice vapes they suggest: “vape with low powered devices, avoid vaping in public indoor spaces and in outdoor spaces vape at least 2 mts away from others”. I would add that if the vapour does contain the virus it will probably land on things like door handles which others could touch, so bear that in mind if you see others vaping.

Just to rub salt into to wound, remember not to share a joint or vape with anyone either, that’s another way to pass the virus on.

So where doe that leave lovers of cannabis if you catch covid-19?

In short smoking with tobacco is right out, smoking pure is less bad but still probably best avoided, dry vaping is OK if you go slowly and gently and using liquid vapes is OK if you’re not close to anyone else and can avoid the government created dangers. It’s not looking good is it?

The one silver lining to this black cloud is that edibles are still OK. They avoid smoking problems and eating or drinking cannabis foods do not spread the virus. In short if you get this bug and still want to use cannabis your only real option is hash cakes. If you don’t know where to start with cooking with cannabis, take a look here – UKCIA’s Cooking with cannabis

Over the next weeks or months we could be looking at long periods with very little to do, which will tempt people to pass the time getting stoned, assuming you can get hold of it of course, and who could blame you? But anything done to excess is asking for problems, not least that you’ll get used to it and develop a tolerance, which will mean you need more to ge the same effect. Less can sometimes be more.


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.