Smoking Weed While Socially Distancing? Here’s What You Should Know

by Emma McGowan
Getty Images/Caroline Wurtzel

As an increasing number of cities and countries are asking citizens to stay at home to fight the spread of coronavirus, people are confronting new-normal etiquette questions. Is it OK to jog directly next to someone who’s taking a walk? (No.) Do you have to meet the delivery guy at the door? (Maybe, but it's probably safer not to.) Can I just watch Netflix and not do anything else? (Yes.) And if weed is legal wherever you're socially distancing, what are the rules around coronavirus and cannabis?

Janet Matula, executive strategist of Platinum, a cannabis vape and edibles company, says that the spread of COVID-19 definitely isn’t keeping people from consuming. According to consumer trend data emailed to Bustle from Weedmaps, a community that connects cannabis consumers with retailers, the second week of March had a 20% increase in orders, compared with the first week. There was also an 18% increase in orders for edibles, compared with a 21% decrease in orders for flower, suggesting that people may be trying to smoke less but still enjoy weed's psychoactive effects.

“A lot of people are very stressed out. A lot of people are having trouble sleeping. The news is 24/7 and people need a break,” Matula tells Bustle.

But if consuming cannabis calms your brain while annoying the people you live with, then you're probably losing the benefits. Here's how to deal with that, plus a couple more cannabis-during-COVID etiquette questions.

Wait — Is It Safe To Smoke Weed At All?

Dr. Neha Pathak, MD, DipABLM, Diplomat, American Board of Lifestyle Medicine, and a WebMD medical editor, tells Bustle that COVID-19 affects the respiratory tree, which are the passages that move air deep into our lungs to tiny air sacs. As your body fights the virus, inflammation further damages your airways.

"Anything that damages the lungs can increase your risk for complications from COVID-19," Dr. Pathak says. "Smoking cigarettes, vaping, living in an area with a lot of air pollution all can injure your lungs. So I would definitely recommend that people stop smoking anything, including cannabis products."

Mary Pryor, founder of the cannabis activism site Cannaclusive and CMO of Tonic Vibes, a CBD company, agrees. “Given how virus targets lungs, it makes more sense to not do anything that involves fire combustion," Pryor tells Bustle.

“In the cannabis industry, there are plenty of other ways to imbibe,” Pryor says, pointing to CBD as a non-psychoactive cannabis product with potential anxiety and stress benefits, or making edibles at home. “I love smoking weed the old-fashioned way, but I’ve completely shifted from being what you’d call being a traditional smoker right now to edibles, because I don’t want to take the risk.”

Is It Safe To Go To The A Dispensary?

In California, where recreational use is legal, dispensaries have been declared “essential businesses,” but, like restaurants, they’re only doing to-go orders. So if you’d normally head down to your neighborhood dispensary to stock up, check and see if they’re doing curbside drop off or delivery.

Matula also emphasizes staying away from the informal market. Her company recently did a study where they had people turn in their vape cartridges that they’d purchased informally in exchange for a free one. Platinum tested them, and found that “80% were not fit for human consumption,” Matula says. The results showed high levels of pesticides, metal, and mold in the oil, which is also used for other products. The CDC also notes that most products linked to vaping-related lung injury are bought informally.

"I urge people to be very, very cautious of where they buy,” Matula says. (And, of course, make sure to follow local laws around pot.)

How Do You Talk To Roommates About Smoking Inside?

Roommate relationships are often fraught, but when everyone is stuck inside together, things might get even rougher. Maybe your roommate's habit of letting the dishes "soak" is just too much now that everyone is inside. Or maybe they keep hotboxing your bathroom and you're like, hi, I really just want to take a shower and not get blazed.

Roxanne Dennant, owner of the vegan edibles company Fruit Slabs, suggests starting with a conversation with your roommates about what’s acceptable when it comes to consuming cannabis while you're at home. For example, if they or you want to smoke, maybe suggest opening a window or taking a walk for “exercise.”

She also suggests switching from anything that produces smoke to edibles, both for the health reasons mentioned above and because they're less intrusive on your roommates' space.

How Do You Handle Cannabis Consumption If You're Living With With Boomer Parents?

Some of you are out there practicing social distancing with your parents, and you might be missing the independence of your vape pen. But if your parents aren’t so down, how do you consume without disrespecting them? Or, you know, getting grounded as an adult?

Pryon, Dennant, and Matula suggest taking up less conspicuous ways to consume, like sub-lingual tinctures and edibles. Dennant also points out that older people are at a higher risk of severe complications or death from COVID-19, so it’s worth it to ask a friend to go pick up the products for you and do a contactless drop off. That way, there’s a limited amount of interaction between you and other people who might be infected.

In this situation, Pryor also suggests considering CBD, since it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects that THC strains have. Your parents might even be game to try it.

Ultimately, if you legally use cannabis for any reason, there's no need to give it up during this pandemic. Be considerate, be careful, and no one will think you're rude if you bogart that joint. You can share again when the crisis passes.

Readers should note that laws governing cannabis, hemp and CBD are evolving, as is information about the efficacy and safety of those substances. As such, the information contained in this post should not be construed as legal or medical advice. Always consult your physician prior to trying any substance or supplement.