Like the 44 percent of Americans who admitted in a 2015 Gallup poll to having tried marijuana at some point in their lives, I too have enjoyed recreational cannabis on many occasions — and though I've never donated blood myself, I have often wondered if smoking pot and donating blood are mutually exclusive activities.
A number of issues, including the fact that today is World Blood Donor Day, and the tragic mass shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando early last Sunday morning, which resulted in the deaths of 49 people and the wounding of at least 53, have left more people than ever interested in giving blood. So, I decided to finally find out the answer to my question: Can you donate blood if you smoke weed? The answer? Yes, yes you can.
In fact, while the American Red Cross doesn't condone the recreational use of marijuana, it seems that the only way marijuana use would ever preclude anyone from donating blood is if they showed up to their local blood drive high AF. As the Red Cross told High Times back in 2014, "While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify you from giving blood as long as you are feeling well."
So, there you have it. If you smoke weed on the regular, that doesn't mean you can't also help save lives by donating blood on World Blood Donor Day, or any day, for that matter. Actually, according to the American Red Cross' website, if you're in good health, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds, and are at least 17 years old, then you pass all the basic blood donor eligibility requirements. That said, the Red Cross does have a whole list of donor eligibility requirements that pertain to lifestyle choices, like when and where you got your last tattoo and whether or not you've ever used intravenous recreational drugs. So before you hit up your local blood drive, read on to learn about the things that can prevent you from being an eligible blood donor.
1. In The Past Year, You've Traveled To A Country Where Malaria Is Found
If you've traveled to a region where malaria is relatively common, such as Papua New Guinea or sub-Saharan Africa, then it's possible you will be deterred from giving blood until you've been home from that country for 12 months. If you contracted malaria while you were away, and had to undergo treatment for the disease, then you should know that the American Red Cross may require you to wait up to three years before your donor eligibility will be reinstated. Ultimately, though, different organizations have different requirements; so your best bet is to go to your nearest blood donation center with all your travel details (like dates, transportation details, and travel destinations) so you can discuss your options with the staff members there.
2. You've Gotten Tattooed In An Unregulated Facility Within The Past Year
Thankfully, having a tattoo doesn't automatically prevent you from being an eligible blood donor. (Whew!) Moreover, if you've gotten a tattoo in the past 12 months from a regulated tattoo studio that uses only sterile needles and never reuses ink, then you should be good to go. However, if you've gotten tattooed in the past year from a facility in D.C., Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah or Wyoming — states that don't regulate tattooing facilities — then you won't be considered eligible for blood donation by the American Red Cross until a full year has passed.
3. You've Used Intravenous Drugs That Weren't Prescribed By A Physician
Though the American Red Cross doesn't seem to have a problem with accepting donors who smoke weed or booze it up from time to time, they clearly and reasonably state on their website that any prospective donor who has used intravenous drugs recreationally will be considered ineligible blood donors for life. This strict policy is a direct result of the HIV and Hepatitis risks that are increased by IV drug usage.
4. You're A Man Who Has Had Sex With Men In The Past Year
Until very recently, men who have had sex with men (MSM) were banned for life from donating blood. Fortunately, this policy was changed last winter. Sadly, though, men who have had sex with men are still considered ineligible donors if they've had sexual contact with another man in the past year. As the Red Cross explains on their website, as of December 21, 2015, the FDA decided to "change the MSM blood donation policy from a lifetime deferral to a one-year deferral and additionally for the purposes of blood donation gender is self-identified and self-reported, which is relevant to the transgender community."
Unfortunately, it could be awhile before the Red Cross has finished going through all the steps it will take to update their MSM donor policy and reinstate previously deferred donors, but it's still exciting to see that gay men will no longer be immediately turned away from blood drives, for life, just because they've had sex with other men.
5. You're Pregnant Or Just Gave Birth
First of all, if you're currently pregnant, or have given birth within the last six weeks, then congratulations are definitely in order! Unfortunately, though, this also means you won't be an eligible blood donor for a while, because pregnancy and recent childbirth will preclude you from donating blood. So unless it's been at least six weeks since you had your baby, take it easy for now and just plan on being an active part of World Blood Donor Day 2017. Or, if you don't want to wait that long to give blood, then maybe you can try to find the time to donate blood after a couple of months have passed. No rush, though, because you literally just created life, so don't sweat it if it takes you a little while to get to the blood bank.