Throughout the last two years of the coronavirus pandemic, scientists around the world have been working to develop different ways to treat or prevent COVID-19.
In the last few weeks, multiple headlines have popped up suggesting researchers have found evidence that cannabis can help prevent coronavirus infection. Since then, several people on social media have claimed that smoking marijuana may help prevent a person from becoming infected with COVID-19. VERIFY viewer Terry Caine wants to know if this research is true.
Does a scientific study say you can smoke marijuana to prevent COVID-19?
- A study conducted by Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University
- National Cancer Institute
- Dr. Jenny Wilkerson, a scientist who specializes in cannabis and the immune system
- Erik Altieri, executive director of the NORML
No, a scientific study doesn't say you can smoke marijuana to prevent COVID-19.
WHAT WE FOUND
A team of researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University collaborated on a study that suggests a pair of compounds found in the marijuana plant can bind to the coronavirus spike protein in a way that can prevent the virus from binding to human cells. The compounds, known as cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), are produced by the marijuana plant and are basically parent chemicals that eventually break down into the ingredients found in cannabis products, according to lead researcher Richard van Breemen.
"The benefit for preventing viral infection of cells must come from cannabinoid acids, which are heat sensitive," van Breemen told VERIFY sister station KGW on Jan. 12.
The scientists also isolated delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical known to relieve pain, lower inflammation and decrease anxiety without causing the "high" of THC, in their research. However, the researchers found those compounds were not as good at blocking COVID-19. This means that smoking marijuana is unlikely to prevent COVID-19 infection, Dr. Jenny Wilkerson, a scientist who specializes in cannabis and the immune system, told VERIFY.
“Unfortunately, for the average person, the study doesn't really, really mean a whole lot,” said Wilkerson. “You're not going to protect yourself from COVID by using any cannabis products. By smoking some marijuana, you’re not going to really protect yourself at all.”
Wilkerson explained that the study was conducted in a lab, and at this point, there have been no clinical trials on human subjects to confirm whether the research will actually work against COVID-19 infection in the real world.
“This paper is really for the science community. It's giving us a starting point on possibly how we can bioengineer these naturally producing small molecules into new therapeutics, but that's going to be a very long time coming,” Wilkerson said.
Erik Altieri, the executive director of NORML, a non-profit organization that advocates for the reform of marijuana laws in the United States, agrees with Wilkerson.
“The compounds which demonstrated positive results in this study are not the same as the ones you would be consuming when smoking a joint or eating an edible, and your average cannabis user would see no prophylactic benefit,” Altieri told VERIFY in an email statement. “To best avoid the virus all individuals are smart to stick with what is known to be effective: get vaccinated, wear a mask indoors and social distance when possible."