Does cannabis interact with a COVID shot?
After more than a year of isolation, the COVID-19 vaccines are ushering in normal life, and a reason to celebrate.
And while many are wondering if it’s OK to have a celebratory drink after the vaccine, what about those of us that commemorate major milestones with cannabis?
- The vaccine trials didn’t exclude or track cannabinoid use status, but multiple experts say that there is no evidence the vaccine interacts badly with either alcohol or marijuana.
- Anecdotal evidence also points towards cannabis use pre or post-vaccination being OK. Almost 301 million Americans have received a dose and the number of new COVID cases continues to decline, demonstrating the vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of Americans who regularly enjoy marijuana have vaccine immunity to this deadly new pathogen.
- Vaccines’ rare side effects stand in contrast to a global pandemic killing about 600 Americans per day; with variants on the rise.
It’s crucial folks protect themselves and their communities, yet anti-vax sentiment lurks in the cannabis community, just like broader society. Weed lover Joe Rogan back-peddled on comments that younger people should forgo the vaccine. In reality, heavy lifetime cannabis consumers report being less likely to get vaccinated, 2021 survey research indicates.
Sticking to the routine
Health experts say they aren’t seeing evidence showing a detriment to using cannabis pre- or post-vaccination.
Dr. Frank Lucido, a medical cannabis specialist based in Berkeley, California, worries about lung illness from severe COVID, not vaccine/weed interactions, he told Leafly.
If people are sticking to their regular cannabis consumption habits, Lucido said he does not see a reason to be ultra-cautious around using cannabis as the body generates protective levels of antibodies against the novel coronavirus.
Certified California Nurse Practitioner Eloise Theisen, president of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and chief nursing officer for Leaf 411, said the Leaf 411 hotline has had an uptick in questions surrounding the COVID vaccine and safety uses associated with CBD and cannabis use.
“As far as cannabis goes, we know that cannabinoids can stay in the system for 5-13 days depending on the frequency of use,” the organization said through a written response. “If you are using cannabis daily and it is necessary, please continue using it… If you are new to cannabis and have just received your vaccine, please wait 24 hours before starting a new cannabinoid treatment plan and be sure to talk with your healthcare professional to review your treatment plan.”
I was pretty nervous about the experience of getting my first vaccine at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, so I took a CBD tincture beforehand to relax.
Megan Dooley Fisher, who works as a brand ambassador for the Garden Society, also didn’t go into getting her COVID vaccines with a conscious plan to change her cannabis consumption habits. She smoked and vaped cannabis after her vaccine doses.
“That would have just been my normal,” she says.
Leafly Senior Editor David Downs reported typical THC use amid vaccination in April-May. Side effects? Mild soreness for a day at the injection site.
Tolerance breaks also welcome
Medical writer, author, and speaker Uwe Blesching also said he has not seen studies associated with cannabis use making the body’s immune response less effective after a vaccine. But if you want to, slow it down a bit.
Mara Gordon, who has created therapeutic cannabis dosing regimens for thousands of patients worldwide through her company Aunt Zelda’s, said high-dose patients might want to reduce use during vaccination.
“There is an immune response, obviously, with cannabinoid-based medicine, but I think using it at normal doses should be just fine,” she says. “People that are on extremely high doses, like over 100 milligrams of CBD and stuff like that, I think they should probably wait a while if they can, but none of our doctors have told us that we need to cut back on any of the medicine we’re recommending or that we’re giving patients.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines for people who’ve been newly vaccinated that recommend talking to your doctor about using over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen for vaccine side effects. This is because these medications, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may dampen the production of protective antibodies.
But Gordon says while cannabis, like NSAIDs, does have anti-inflammatory properties, the impact of cannabis isn’t something to worry about compared to that of over-the-counter drugs. She dabbed high doses of THC in the evening after receiving her shot and applied a topical to deal with the pain in her arm.
“You want to have the body have a bit of an immune response that’s how the vaccines work by having some sort of inflammatory event, so you don’t want to use too much anti-inflammatory,” Gordon says.
A short partying pause
Leland Radovanovic, who heads the cannabis and psychedelic PR firm Conscious Communications Collective, says he didn’t put a lot of thought into his cannabis consumption around the time of his vaccine. The Berkshires, MA daily cannabis user also regularly vapes nicotine, and said his cannabis consumption went down after his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The first vaccine I got hit me really, really hard,” he says. “I was super lethargic for a week, really foggy-brained. I was having a really hard time putting a string of thoughts together and I could only work for maybe 15, 20 minutes at a time. My [cannabis] consumption was pretty low that week just because I didn’t even have the energy to consume.”
This all checks out as vaccine side effects include symptoms like tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea.
“You are not going to feel like going out and partying anyway,” Gordon says of the experience of getting the vaccine.
After getting his second dose, Radovanovic said he felt pretty good and planned to return to his normal cannabis consumption routine that includes vaping and edibles.
While there are still many unknowns ahead in terms of defeating COVID-19, with no reports of adverse health effects from the millions of vaccinated Americans who also use cannabis, those who love the leaf can feel safe in staying high and hydrated after getting the jab.