Cannabis and Covid:
What role can cannabis play in the Post-Covid world?
Originally published in Weed World Magazine issue 153 (July 2021)
Over the past year, the entire world has faced unprecedented times as a global pandemic has spread to infect every nation on Earth. The speed at which it traversed the globe hitting country after country has detrimentally affected every one of us on this little rock of ours.
The relative banality of our day-to-day lives gave way to seemingly perpetual national lockdowns, ever-changing social distancing guidelines, and a total economic shutdown of the global economy. The global cannabis culture wasn’t spared by this global catastrophe, with the coffeeshops of Amsterdam and the clubs of Barcelona closing their doors.
Patricia Amiguet, The President of the Catalan Federation of Cannabis Associations stated in June that 300,000 club members were forced back into the illicit market in 2020. This sent the price of hash in Spain skyrocketing, with some estimates suggesting it was selling for double the price pre-Covid.
The price of cannabis in France, Ireland, and here in the UK also increased sharply as imports dried up and growers couldn’t get out to tend to their clandestine crops. This saw a vast increase in domestic sales of hydroponic equipment as consumers sought to capitalise on the national lockdown and being stuck at home by learning to grow their own.
Early on in the pandemic across the pond in North America several US states declared cannabis an ‘essential business’ and rushed through legislation to allow for home delivery and drive-through sales. Over the northern border in Canada, sales continued to grow through their pre-existing home delivery system.
While to the south, the Mexican Supreme court took the opportunity created by the pandemic to pressure the government to pen a bill that would ‘legalise’ the adult cannabis consumption market. The formation of this new legislation has stalled several times forcing the Supreme court to make another ruling last month that effectively ‘decriminalises’ low-level possession of cannabis in Mexico.
The general consensus is that we have passed the worst of it now. Social distancing is finally beginning to end and the wearing of a mask becoming a question of personal preference rather than government mandate. The focus now shifts from pandemic reaction to recovery. The medical-industrial complex should hopefully now begin to concentrate its collective efforts into researching and discovering new novel ways to prevent and treat Covid-19 and other future viral pathogens.
Since the outbreak of the global Covid-19 pandemic, there have been several studies that have shown how cannabis can help in the treatment and prevention of Covid-19 and its worst symptoms. A recent study published in January 2021 found that some cannabis cultivars high in CBD may help prevent a kind of extreme inflammation response called ‘Cytokine storm’ This ‘storm’ can follow serious cases of acute respiratory distress caused by severe cases of Covid-19.
Cytokines are small proteins that are released by different types of cells within the body. They are predominantly produced within the immune system where they are responsible for coordinating the body’s reaction to infection and triggering defensive inflammatory responses. The storm occurs when the system goes into hyper-drive creating too many of these proteins that they then begin attacking the immune system itself.
During their research, the team found 13 high CBD cultivar extracts that appear to reduce the severity of Covid-19 by helping to downgrade the expression of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines and pathways involved in inflammation and fibrosis. The team found that Cannabidiol (CBD) modulates ACE2 gene expression and ACE2 protein levels in the body.
It also seems to down-regulate serine protease TMPRSS2, another vital protein necessary for Covid-19 to enter host cells. This seems to suggest that cannabis could be used prophylactically to help prevent people from catching infections like Covid-19 in the first place and help treat it if they do contract it.
The last year of fear, isolation, and uncertainty has certainly left a lot of us feeling at least a little bit anxious and depressed. The impact of twelve plus months of no physical contact, never-ending lockdowns, and loneliness has negatively affected the mental health of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people around the world.
We already know from a multitude of studies conducted over the past several decades that cannabis can play a positive role in the treatment and management of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. So another important thing to consider in the post-Covid world would be further integration of cannabis into the fields of psychiatry and psychotherapy. This would greatly reduce the number of dangerous drugs like Benzodiazepines and SSRI’s being prescribed for such conditions.
The plethora of therapeutic benefits that cannabis can provide is now rather undisputable as more and more countries ‘legalise’ so form of access to ‘medical cannabis’. There is an ever-growing general consensus about the Endocannabinoid System, the Entourage Effect, and the role both phyto- and Endo-cannabinoids play in regulating an individual’s health.
So now that we know it can help to treat serious cases of Covid-19 and even potentially prevent others from contracting it. It is time to start thinking about how we can prevent future pandemics from having such devastating and sweeping effects on the most vulnerable in society.
In order to restart, repair, and rebuild our fragile nation-state economies, we’re going to need to stop looking at cannabis as just a drug and start looking at it as the unique highly versatile multifaceted commercial and industrial resource that it is.
Cannabis could help prevent future pandemics by being re-introduced into the human diet. Cannabis seeds are a complete protein packing in all 13 essential and non-essential proteins needed by the human body for healthy functionality.
CBD and low-THC cannabis (‘Hemp’) are currently having their spotlight moment with all kinds of wellness and health products being launched on the market every day. From supplements to oils, ‘hemp’ milk to well, CBD infused everything. If we were to fortify cereals and grains with none or low-psychoactive cannabinoids, as we do with various vitamins we would drastically improve the health of the general population and help prevent future pandemics being so devastating to those already suffering from poor health.
A global-scale rewilding of natural cannabis cultivation could not only help offset atmospheric carbon to the tune of 325kg per ton, but it could also help one of the main causes of this pandemic, deforestation. Ending deforestation would greatly help to offset habitat destruction that forces wild animals to migrate closer to human populations in order to find food. It’s this proximity that causes an increase in ‘Zoonosis’, the transmitting of infectious diseases from animal to human hosts. As we destroy more and more wild habitats we invite these new novel pathogens into increasingly overcrowded human populations.
In a post-Covid world, we need to seriously consider utilising cannabis to replace all paper, especially toilet paper. It is estimated that replacing all toilet rolls with cannabis fibre paper would save several billion trees a year – further helping to prevent deforestation. It also has the added benefit of being antibacterial, softer and longer than wood pulp fibres, and doesn’t contain any horrible endocrine-disrupting chemicals like dioxin or chlorine.
This humble plant provides us with a complete protein from its seed, the potential to replace petroleum in plastics, cotton in textiles, concrete in construction, lithium in batteries, fossil fuels in energy production, tackle deforestation, end desertification, and give future generations the hope, technology, and will to thrive long into this century and beyond.
Just as the anti-prohibitionists of alcohol in 1930s America argued that legalising and taxing it would generate income for the great depression era economy. The same argument is being made today by pro-cannabis voices across the world.
Various economists are now predicting that the Global CBD market will be worth a whopping $89 billion by 2026, and the US adult market is estimated to be worth $43 billion by 2025. These eye-watering figures are just a small taste of the seemingly perpetual profits that could be generated by a multitude of industries through the creation of an unrestrained and intelligently regulated cannabis industry.
We are at a crossroads in our history, the decisions we make today will either empower or haunt the generations that follow. Right now, we have the knowledge, the technology, and the impetus but not the will to prevent our own extinction.
It is my sincere hope that the greed, villainy, and selfishness that was so pervasive in global politics pre-pandemic will slowly be replaced with compassion, empathy, and an understanding that it was governmental policy that killed more people during the pandemic than the virus. If these governments really want to help their citizens then they need to take another serious look at cannabis.
Written for Weed World Magazine by Simpa from TheSimpaLife.com