COVID-19 + Pot: Lung Issues, Suppression of Immune System, ER Problems

By David G. Evans, Esq

Hundreds of businesses in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.  However, “medical” marijuana stores remain open as officials revise public health orders to include cannabis as an essential medicine.

Who is Vulnerable to Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Is keeping marijuana stores open a good policy? The science shows that it is not.

The Centers for Disease Control states that the people at high risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19 include:

1. Older adults

2. People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:

Heart disease

Diabetes

Lung disease

Asthma – People with asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick. COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

What does the science say about marijuana use and impaired immune function or lung and respiratory problems?

A comprehensive study of the dangers of marijuana smoke by the Hazard Assessment Branch of the California Environmental Protection Agency concluded in part that: Marijuana smoke is genotoxic, immunosuppressive, and can alter endocrine function. Studies of 9-THC and other cannabinoids provide evidence for alterations of multiple cell signaling pathways, in endocrine function, and suppression of the innate and adaptive immune response. Prolonged exposures to marijuana smoke in animals and humans cause proliferative and inflammatory lesions in the lung.

Immune function impairment

One of the most serious findings in marijuana research was the effect of marijuana on various immune functions. Cellular immunity is impaired, pulmonary immunity is impaired, and impaired ability to fight infection is now documented in humans. This impairment leaves the patient unable to fight certain infections and fatal diseases. The potential for these complications exists in all forms of administration of marijuana. Habitual smoking of marijuana has a number of effects on the respiratory and immune systems, including alterations in lung function, increased prevalence of acute and chronic bronchitis and airway injury.

A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine states: “We conclude that smoking marijuana, regardless of tetrahydrocannabinol content, results in a substantially greater respiratory burden of carbon monoxide and tar than smoking a similar quantity of tobacco.”

Guy Cabral, author of the book, Marihuana and Medicine, pp. 317-325 concludes in the chapter on marihuana and the immune system:  “Marihuana has been shown to decrease host resistance to bacterial, protozoan, and viral infections in experimental animal models and in vitro systems. Recent immuno epidemiological studies suggest that marihuana may also influence the outcome of viral infections in humans. The main substance in marihuana that exerts these immuno depressive effects is its major psychoactive constituent Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

Marijuana Contamination Poses Serious Risks to Health

Contaminants of marijuana smoke include bacteria, molds and fungi. Those at particular risk for the development of infection due to inhaling marijuana smoke are people with impaired immunity. For example, Aspergillus is a group of molds that can cause allergy-type illnesses to life-threatening generalized infections. Aspergillus is found in marijuana and can cause illness in marijuana users. This is thought to be due to the direct inhalation of fungal spores that are present on the surface of the plant. The heating of cannabis buds may not be sufficient for sterilization and so users (particularly those with compromised immune systems) are potentially exposed to life threatening pulmonary infection.

A study done at the University of California, Davis, discovered that medical marijuana from 20 dispensaries contained multiple fungal and bacterial contaminants that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections among marijuana users. Smoking, vaping or inhaling aerosolized marijuana is a serious health risk, especially for people with chronic conditions or other conditions requiring immunosuppressing therapies. The study revealed a multitude of microorganisms, many of which are known causes of serious lung infections, including Cryptococcus, Mucor, and Aspergillus fungi.

The authors of the study concluded:  “Our results suggest that handling marijuana in any form might expose the patient to a number of both bacterial and fungal pathogens well known to cause serious infections in the immunocompromised population. Smoking or vaporization provides a direct portal of entry into the terminal bronchioles and alveoli. Moreover, the recovery of these organisms in a symptomatic patient would be unlikely to initiate a search for unusual exposures. Aspergillus and other molds may therefore be attributed to breakthrough infection, and recovery of Gram-negative bacilli would be attributed to healthcare-associated pneumonia and/or a failure of prophylaxis.”

Vaping

Use of vaping devices such as those used for vaping marijuana cause a serious, potentially fatal lung disease called Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).  Most of the sick EVALI patients used THC extract products in their vaping devices.  THC is the addictive psychoactive mind-altering compound of marijuana that produces the “high.” Having vaping lung injury will hurt your chances of survival if you get CONVID-19.

From: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html; https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/balanced/202001/vaping-and-evali (Posted Jan 31, 2020); https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/products-ingredients-components/vaporizers-e-cigarettes-and-other-electronic-nicotine-delivery-systems-ends

This may be especially true with young people who vape marijuana.

Can marijuana use open your body up to a virus?

A study from Harvard Medical School showed that marijuana use opens the door for the virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma. This is a serious life-threatening problem for people with HIV infection. The major active component of marijuana could aid the Kaposi’s sarcoma virus in infecting cells and multiplying, according researchers. They report that low doses of THC, equivalent to that in the bloodstream of an average marijuana smoker, could be enough to facilitate infection of skin cells and could even foster malignancy. “These findings raise some serious questions about using marijuana, in any form, if you have a weakened immune system,” said lead study author Jerome E. Groopman, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “

Damage to Our Emergency Health Care System

In addition to the damage to marijuana users that results from marijuana use, marijuana user causes problems for our health care system, especially the emergency medicine system. We do not need more overloading of our health care system.

Emergency rooms in states that have legalized marijuana have to deal with Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. CHS is a condition with recurrent bouts of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration. It can lead users to make frequent trips to the emergency room, but can be resolved when a person stops using marijuana. CHS which can result in kidney failure. 

Marijuana users flood the Emergency medicine system when users become paranoid and psychotic. 

Marijuana related emergency room visits by Colorado teens is substantially on the rise. They see more kids with psychotic symptoms and other mental health problems and chronic vomiting due to marijuana use.

Marijuana Exposures Increase

The rate of marijuana exposures among children under the age of six increased by 610% in the “medical” marijuana states according to a study published in Clinical Pediatrics. The data comes from the National Poison Data System. 75% percent of the children ingested edible marijuana products such as marijuana-infused candy. Clinical effects include drowsiness or lethargy, ataxia [failure of muscle coordination], agitation or irritability, confusion and coma, respiratory depression, and single or multiple seizures.

In Colorado one in six infants and toddlers hospitalized for lung inflammation are testing positive for marijuana exposure. This has been a 100% increase since legalization. Non-white kids are more likely to be exposed than white kids.

Conclusion

In these times of peril from infection by the COVID-19 virus, it’s  unwise to use marijuana.  Anyone at risk of getting COVID-19 should not use it as a medicine. Marijuana use hurts the users and contributes to overloading our health care system.

See also: www.civel.org, submissions to the FDA,” The Failures of the States to Regulate Marijuana, Studies Show That Marijuana Products Have High Levels of Contaminants Including Pesticides, Fungus and Heavy Metals and Solvents”

From our website, there’s much more medical documentation on the dangers of marijuana.

For more information, go to the website, www.aalm.info  

Contact  Americans Against Legalizing Marijuana

POB 158 Carmichael, CA 95609 Phones 916-708-4111, 619-990-7480