In the unprecedented time of Covid-19, donating blood has never been more essential. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2020 that people may be less inclined to donate blood due to social distancing or concerns about contracting the virus, but that blood donations are imperative to save the lives of millions of people across the globe every year.
Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, illustrated the importance of donating blood during the pandemic, saying, “During this time of Covid, donating blood and plasma is an excellent, free way to give back to your community.”
Donating plasma, in particular, is a vital way that an individual who has recovered from Covid-19 may be able to help others. The part of the blood that contains antibodies, convalescent plasma from formerly positive Covid-19 patients may help save the lives of people currently battling the novel coronavirus.
Are cannabis users disqualified from giving blood?
Although some cannabis users may believe they are ineligible to give blood, Dr. Bone asserted, “According to the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor.”
According to FAQ literature published in September 2020 on the Red Cross website, “The use of cannabis does not disqualify an individual from blood donation, but potential donors cannot give if their use of cannabis impairs their memory or comprehension.”
High levels of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid present in cannabis, could temporarily affect these cognitive functions. So, if you've recently smoked a high-THC strain like The Toad or Amnesia Haze, then it's possible that you will not qualify as a blood donor.
On the other hand, if you have recently smoked a high-CBD strain such as Ringo's Gift or Cannatonic, the comparatively lower levels of THC are less likely to impair cognitive functioning.
Do blood banks test for THC?
Regardless of cannabinoid concentrations in your preferred strains, blood banks do not generally test for THC. As Dr. Bone shared, “It goes without saying that you cannot be high while you donate. Currently there is no rapid THC test done to be certain that you have nothing in your system.”
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require blood donation centers to test for THC, as reported by the Red Cross. So, as long as you are not high at the time of your blood donation appointment, the presence of THC in your system should not directly disqualify you. Rather, any observable psychoactive effects of THC could be a disqualifying factor.
What can disqualify someone from donating blood?
Not everyone is eligible to donate blood, including those who have synthetic marijuana in their system. Dr. Bone elaborated, “If you use synthetic marijuana, either as K2 or Spice, or as a prescription medication such as Marinol, you cannot donate blood.”
According to guidelines set forth by the Red Cross, other restrictions for blood donors include:
- A piercing or tattoo within the last year
- Pregnancy or recent childbirth
- Steroid use
- Weighing less than 110 pounds
- Any illness presenting with fever
- Low iron levels, which may signify anemia
- Traveling to a malaria-risk country within the past 3 years
- HIV or hepatitis infection
Other requirements for donating blood
In addition, whole blood donors must wait at least 56 days between blood donations. Whole blood donors must also be at least 16 years of age and in good overall health. Convalescent plasma donors must be at least 17 years of age and fully recovered from Covid-19 before signing up to donate.
How you can still help if you're disqualified from giving blood
If you can't give blood or plasma for any reason, that doesn't mean that you can't make an impact during Covid-19. Blood drives are more crucial than ever, so take the opportunity to host a blood drive if you have access to a large open space and the ability to recruit qualified blood donors.
As an alternative, you can organize a campaign for a virtual blood drive through the SleevesUp program of the American Red Cross. Channeling the power of social media, you can send blood donation invitations to family and friends across the country. Choose to dedicate your campaign to someone else's honor, or opt to request blood donations in lieu of birthday or wedding gifts.
Being a cannabis user does not automatically disqualify you from donating blood, but you should be aware of blood donor requirements before scheduling an appointment. For questions and specific recommendations, contact your nearest blood donation center and consult with your physician before making the decision to give blood.