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Why The Cannabis Community Needs To Avoid Spreading Misinformation

  • by Alfonso Colasuonno

The cannabis community needs to avoid spreading misinformation.

Sharing misinformation about cannabis is politically irresponsible towards the goal of fighting cannabis prohibition. And if the misinformation is health-related, it can also place lives in jeopardy.

Does Cannabis Prevent Covid Infection?

If you’re like us, you make it a habit to keep tabs on the latest science about cannabis.

And if that’s the case, then you’re probably aware of the recent study about how certain compounds in cannabis were found to prevent Covid-19 infection.

Of course, cannabis has medicinal properties. It’s also true that different cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis have specific medicinal benefits.

But it’s patently false to state that cannabis cures Covid-19.

It’s also wildly incorrect to state that cannabis blocks Covid, whether through dabbing, ingesting a few edibles, or any other method of consuming cannabis.

Let’s break down the facts according to the actual study.

What was discovered by the researchers and shared in the peer-reviewed Journal of Natural Products was that CBDA and CBGA (and most likely THCA as well) were largely effective at preventing entry because these cannabinoids were able to bind to the virus’ “spike” protein.

That spike penetrates human cells easily, which is one of the causes for the high rate of Covid infections worldwide.

However, these acidic compounds are found in extremely small amounts—if at all—in most cannabis products.

Furthermore, if you smoke, vape, dab, or otherwise heat your cannabis, the heat applied transforms those acidic cannabinoids into the more familiar CBD, CBG, and THC. And there is no evidence that any of those cannabinoids can prevent Covid, much less cure it.

In fact, the study’s lead author, Richard van Breemen, told VICE in a recent interview that “CBD, CBG and THC are not active against the virus.”

And it’s important to note that the study was not done on people. Dr. Patricia Frye of the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy explained that:

“What happens in a test tube does not always translate into what happens in animals or humans…As it stands, we do not know if cannabidiolic acid or cannabigerolic acid will prevent infection…And given that there are now treatments for Covid infections in at-risk patients (monoclonal antibodies, anti-virals), I would not recommend using cannabis in lieu of available treatments if a person is at high risk of poor outcome.”

If you need any more proof that the science does not show that cannabis prevents Covid, Dr. Peter Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School—son of Dr. Lester Grinspoon, the groundbreaking leader in cannabis research—agreed with Dr. Frye. According to Grinspoon:

“These compounds would need to be tested in animals, then in humans, and actually demonstrated to be effective against Covid. This is a long way off, assuming they work, which is by no means guaranteed…I don't think many molecules at that level actually pan out into functional medicines.”

In short, cannabis does not prevent Covid infections and cannabis does not cure Covid.

Why Sharing Misinformation About Cannabis Can Harm Legalization Efforts

Optics are a key consideration in modern American politics. The public’s perception of issues, events, and groups matter a great deal. Although some politicians are fierce ideologues, many can be swayed by polls and the general social mood of the nation.

A majority of Americans support ending cannabis prohibition. This holds true for Democrats and independents by large margins. And for registered Republicans, this also holds true, albeit by a slim margin.

Some members of Congress, most of whom are Democrats, have advanced legislation to scale down or even end the war on cannabis.

Among the most ardent proponents of a change in perspective are Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC).

It’s doubtful that the spread of misinformation from some members of the cannabis community would change the opinions of Booker, Warren, Wyden, Mace, or other members of Congress who have led on this issue.

However, given the continuation of the Covid pandemic, as well as the frequent use of straw man arguments in the political sphere, it’s easy to imagine that overzealous and untrue positions, such as that cannabis blocks Covid, may persuade Congress against legalization or decriminalization. At the very least, it could keep the issue on the back burner.

One can easily imagine most of the Democratic Party continuing to drag their feet on cannabis legalization because of a desire to avoid association with the anti-scientific and conspiratorial viewpoint advanced by those who believe that cannabis prevents Covid.

One can also easily imagine most of the Republican Party remaining entrenched in anti-cannabis positions due to perceptions of our community as irresponsible and out of touch because of those who state that cannabis prevents Covid.

The spread of misinformation about cannabis and Covid is not as trivial or benign as some may perceive it. Indeed, it could prove to be a tipping point against federal change, delaying it for quite a number of years.

Let’s Hold Ourselves As A Community To A Higher Standard

The issue is not just about politicial goals, though. We have to hold ourselves—and others in the cannabis community—to a higher standard.

This isn’t some abstract moralistic notion. These are human lives. Over 880,000 in the United States and 5.5 million worldwide, to be exact.

It’s true that the science about cannabis’ medicinal efficacy has been suppressed in the past. And it still is, just to a lesser extent. For example, federal regulations still sharply limit scientific and scholarly research on cannabis, especially on THC.

But that doesn’t mean that cannabis is a panacea for every single illness known to humanity. And to think that we could end the pandemic if everyone just smoked some weed is misguided and not backed by any science.

Let’s care not just about our right to get stoned. Let’s also care about facts. Let’s also care about science. Let’s also care about our communities.

Let’s stop spreading lies. We’re better than that.

Benefits Backed By Science: Cannabis Works for Pain Management

It may not be true that cannabis prevents Covid, and it’s certainly not the way out of the pandemic, but research shows that cannabis is far better (and safer) than opiates for chronic pain.

Read our science-backed post on the topic or consider our infographic print with the results of this study.


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