Cannabis, Covid-19, and CBD
Blog

Cannabis, Covid-19, and CBD

5 min read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Is science projecting CBD as a powerful anti-viral agent? Has prohibition on CBD transformed a bad situation into worse? Today we shall discuss the detailed answers to these questions.

The death toll on a global scale due to coronavirus is rising at an alarming rate. The Lancet has drawn attention to a serious problem which indicates how patients suffering from severe Covid-19 can acquire cytokine storm syndrome. It is characterized by acute immune overreaction caused in the lungs. Doctors and researchers aren’t fully aware of the impact of the syndrome yet. However, it is a known fact that it can sicken as well as kill individuals who are infected by it. The respiratory distress caused by Covid-19 is the primary cause of mortality. Those who get through the intensive care offered during Covid-19 might suffer from lung damage in the long term which will directly impact the quality of life and cause functional impairment.

According to Science Daily,  a hyper-inflammatory cytokine storm caused problems in the immune cells which proved to be the reason behind several deaths during viral outbreaks. This included the Spanish-flu pandemic in 1918. It was the cause of 50 million deaths.

The cases revolving around viral-induced, acute pulmonary distress can benefit from cytokine-storm targeted therapy. However, the use of corticosteroids isn’t a suitable option for it will excaberate the lung injury caused by Covid-19. The Lancet also emphasizes how immunosuppression and hyper-inflammation is beneficial.

Can The Impact Of Cytokine Storm Be Calmed By Cannabis?

Several laboratory studies prove the benefits of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol(CBD) as an immunosuppressant. Medical cannabis has always been beneficial for those who suffer from chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. This urges us to ask the most important question – Can cannabis calm the cytokine storm?

The answer to this is we are completely unaware of it. There is still a lot to be known about cannabis and its effect on the immune system. The prohibition on cannabis in the United States of America has stopped the crucial scientific inquiry of the matter. The federal government is to date against the research of cannabis which can prove its therapeutic benefits. The primary reason behind the unawareness of CBD’s clinical potential and how it can serve as a powerful anti-viral remedy is the stranglehold that the federal government has on this matter. Cannabis prohibition is worsening the current crisis that we are facing.

Cytokines: What Is It?

Cytokines are secreted by the immune cells which regulate the inflammatory responses to infections and diseases. This group of proteins has both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory properties. The excessive secretion or overproduction of pro-inflammatory messenger molecules can accelerate a cytokine storm as well as other kinds of aberrant conditions.  Tumor necrosis factor-alpha( TNFa) is a kind of cytokine that is produced in excess during rheumatoid arthritis. It is a painful autoimmune disease that disrupts the lives of millions. The interaction between the endogenous cannabinoid system, immune cells, and cytokines plays a major role in neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation. 

It has been documented that the stimulation of the cannabinoid CB2 receptor by THC along with its endogenous counterparts can suppress inflammation. Though there is a small direct binding affinity between the CB2 receptor and Cannabidiol, CBD acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent reducing the cytokine production as well as inhibiting immune cell function.

Can CBD Prove Beneficial For Infections?

Can CBD reduce mortality for those critically ill patients suffering from Covid-19? Several websites are announcing the antiviral properties of CBD as if it were a known medical fact. To date, there has been only circumstantial evidence proving the benefits of CBD for viral infections. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, an online journal by Italian and British scientists focused on this issue. The scientists made a reference for an in vitro study which suggests the direct antiviral effect that CBD has against the virus – Hepatitis C. However, there has been only one preclinical study involving CBD and Hep C, this means the scientific evidence to support the alleged anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties of cannabinoid is scant.

Another study came to light, which focused on the impact of CBD and how it reduced neuroinflammation in multiple sclerosis. This has been tested in an animal model that was virus-induced. The scientists could, therefore, concur that this had more to do with the efficacy of CBD as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent rather than an anti-viral activity. It is plausible to treat viral infections like Herpes and shingles using cannabidiol on the basis of their analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. The scientists have acknowledged this fact without mentioning the intrinsic antiviral effect of CBD.

Several clinical trials are being performed on CBD in Israel to understand its impact on GVHD (Graft Versus Host Disease). This is a fatal condition which is caused by the systematic immune rejection of bone marrow or organ transplant. The results of these trials have proved to be satisfactory. Both Covid-19 and GVHD fatalities have extreme immune overreactions in common. However, there is a crucial difference – Covid-19 is triggered by a virus and GVHD isn’t. To date, CBD hasn’t been tested as a form of remedy for viral-induced cytokine storm.

The Need For Solidarity:

What does it imply for those who are using cannabis to fight the pandemic? Will it prove beneficial if small amounts of cannabis are consumed as a form of preventive measure? Does it really strengthen the immune system or will it end up making us susceptible to the virus? Is there any impact made by CBD?

The IACM or International Association For Cannabinoid Medicine based in Germany speaks about the use of cannabinoids during the pandemic. They issued a statement suggesting that cannabinoids might have some antiviral effects. The IACM also mentioned that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest CBG, THC, or CBD – or different cannabis preparation can fight against the infection or prove beneficial to cure Covid-19.

However, the IACM also mentioned the lack of evidence to support the increase of viral infection caused by the use of cannabinoids. IACM’s U.S ambassador urges for solidarity during the pandemic, particularly for those at high-risk. False information regarding Covid-19 shouldn’t be shared on any online platform. IACM also implores to contain the virus by following the necessary government rules and other health authority guidelines.

It has come to attention that people are stockpiling cannabis products from different licensed delivery services and dispensaries in the U.S. Following the lead of California, several state governments have declared that cannabis businesses must stay open and are indeed essential services.

However, cannabis is still illegal in the United States under federal law and cannabis prohibition is transforming a bad situation into worse.

Cannabis Prohibition and Covid-19:

The prohibition on cannabis has caused other public health issues in different areas of the United States. The plant holds a troublesome status with the federal government this prohibits banks from issuing credit cards and opening accounts for cannabis businesses. Even the state-licensed, legitimate companies operate on a cash-only basis. This places the state tax collectors, industry staff, and frontline dispensary staff at high risk. Handling cash can prove to be dangerous during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The New England Journal of Medicine states that the coronavirus can stay stable for endless hours as well as days in aerosols and other surfaces. This includes coins and paper money.  Cash handling is extremely dangerous during the pandemic. 

Drug War Prisoners:

The United States prisons are soon going to transform into hotbeds for Covid-19. From toxic stress to poor nutrition, aging jail population, and overcrowding places prisoners at high risk. BBC emphasizes on the fact that handcuffed people won’t be able to cover their mouths as they sneeze or cough. The sinks present in jails lacks soap. As for sanitizers, they are considered to be contraband for it contains alcohol. Drugs are the major cause of U.S. prisons being overcrowded. This has been condemned by the International Human Rights Organizations. According to a report, around 40% of the prisoners in the United States are not a threat to public safety.

There are 40,000 nonviolent cannabis convicts who are currently in federal and state penal institutions, who are serving time for something that is no longer deemed to be illegal in several states. The Last Prisoner Project aims at releasing all cannabis prisoners who are over 65 years of age and are suffering from an chronic health condition. Reducing the population of prisons should be of immediate priority. This will slow down the spread of coronavirus. The Lancet points out how public health is related to prison health for we can contain prisoners behind a wall but not a highly infectious disease.