With the coronavirus scare hitting nearby cannabis-friendly states California and Washington, Arizona medical marijuana patients may wonder how they, in particular, can stay healthy.
Cannabis is traditionally a communal plant — every pothead in history has sat in a That '70s Show-style circle with their buddies, puffing the magic dragon. Friends roll giant celebratory blunts or pass bongs around the coffee table, giggling uncontrollably and taking glorious hits as their pals look on. But with the coronavirus making its way around, marijuana users might want to think twice about how they share.
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, seemingly has taken the country by storm, with at least 18 states currently affected. Cases in Washington state have ballooned, pushing the U.S. total to at least 230, while a cruise ship with 3,500 passengers and crew is being held off the coast of San Francisco amid concerns of exposure. California declared a state of emergency after the first death was confirmed there on Wednesday.
The death toll in the United States rose to 14 on Friday morning, as states like Maryland and Massachusetts confirmed their first cases, while the Senate voted to approve $8.3 billion in emergency spending.
There have been three cases in Arizona, and the Arizona Department of Health Services has a designated COVID-19 hotline at 800-222-1222.
Phoenix New Times spoke with Dr. Kathryn Cameron at The Marijuana Doctor in Tempe about how to stay safe.
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"As with any flu that comes up, you definitely want to make sure that you are regularly washing hands and using hand sanitizer, sanitizing surfaces, and just taking it easy if you're not feeling well,” Cameron said. "It's pretty similar for cannabis users and non-cannabis users alike."
Marie Saloum, the owner of the GreenPharms Arizona dispensary in Mesa, said her store sells accessories for people who do share, like silicone mouth pieces or glass filters (Moose Labs sells their Mouth Peace and filter rolls through their website for $15.99).
"It's an easy, cheap, effective way to not put your mouth where another patient's has been,” she said, adding that the staff has had meetings to talk about how to keep everyone safe before and during 4/20 events next month. "Someone on social media brought it up as a concern, since we have so many people in the dispensary on 4/20. We also have a festival planned for May, which I may have to cancel due to coronavirus health concerns."
The supply of some favored products could be interrupted, she warned: “It could be difficult for us to get the product we need, as wait times increase or manufacturers shut down completely."
"We use alcohol wipes to clean the rigs people smoke off of," says Tangie Rodriguez, director of operations at DOMMLife, a "cafe and lifestyle lounge" for registered patients in Phoenix. "I personally like to smoke my own joints, but I have noticed a lot of patients wearing mouthpiece covers around their necks when they attend events, enabling them to share safely."
Rodriguez adds, "A lot of our patients are avoiding leaving their houses to come to the dispensary, and using delivery instead. We actually think delivery is going to gain more popularity as the virus spreads."
Here are GreenPharms' recommended methods for enjoying Mary Jane coronavirus-free, in our own words:
• While puff, puff, pass is always a good time, cannabis users should stop sharing joints, blunts, and bongs. Stick to your own supply or roll separate joints for each of your friends. Your immune system may just thank you later.
• More frequent hand washing is a simple precaution anyone can take, and it is wise for cannabis users to do so prior to any munchie sesh. Count 20 seconds as you lather, then enjoy your Chex Mix and gummy bears with peace of mind.
• Be wary of unproven coronavirus remedies like CBD — there has been no solid research on CBD or cannabis and coronavirus. Sensational social media posts claiming otherwise should be ignored.
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• Clean your glassware — especially if the aforementioned puff, puff, pass is one of your favorite pastimes. You never know what kind of grisly germs could be lurking inside your glass-blown pipe.
• Get a bong condom. No, you didn't misread that — it's a thing. The device fits over the mouth of a bong or dab rig to ensure hygienic inhaling. It might be embarrassingly shaped, but it might protect you.
• Purchase your flower and edibles from trusted sources. That seedy drug dealer from high school definitely shouldn't be your go-to right now. To be safe, only buy cannabis at licensed dispensaries, where testing and precise dosing are the norm.
* Leave the masks to the sick folk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies have made it clear that masks are meant to prevent already infected patients from spreading the virus and to protect health care professionals working in high-risk environments.