Where There’s Smoke: Multiple Studies Examine Cannabis Use Amid COVID-19


By Melissa Hutsell


The novel coronavirus pandemic is catalyzing research into cannabis consumption trends. As a result, scientists are now more interested in the plant, it’s users, and industry operators than ever before.

Ivy League Sets Sights on the Industry

This May, the Cannabis Community Care and Research Network (C3RN) launched two studies. Both investigate COVID-19’s effects on cannabis businesses, and on individual consumption habits. 

C3RN partnered with the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth to collect anonymous information via surveys. 

The first study focuses on consumption. As such, researchers ask about preferred consumption methods, health conditions, and side effects, according to News 13

Participants are also asked whether or not they’ve experienced COVID-19 symptoms, or received testing, MassLive reports. 

The second study focuses on hemp and cannabis companies in Massachusetts, where only medical dispensaries were deemed essential, and allowed to stay open during the shutdown, reports MJBiz Daily

The study’s goal is to examine the pandemic’s effect on the industry workforce. According to MassLive, “researchers ask what resources have been difficult to obtain through the pandemic, like financial assistance, and if adult-use was permitted during the pandemic, what changes to business operations the worker may anticipate.”

Academia and Consumption Trends

Researchers at Humboldt State University’s Interdisciplinary Institute for Marijuana Research (HIIMR), located in Northern California, are also investigating cannabis consumption in the era of COVID-19. 

HIIMR—the first academic research institute dedicated to cannabis—is also conducting the study via an anonymous online survey.  In it, consumers are asked questions about their methods of use, and whether they’ve experienced symptoms of COVID-19 or were tested for it.   

Additional research at the University of Miami also focuses on consumption trends during the pandemic. 

Researchers in this study, however, are keen to learn about medical cannabis patients. Denise C. Vidot, leader of the study, told the university news source, News at the U, in April that, “global qualifying conditions for medical cannabis, though not uniform, all include individuals with compromised immune systems and other chronic health conditions.”

“Therefore, this is a population that we cannot forget about in our joint effort to ‘flatten the curve,’” she said.

Could Cannabis Fight COVID-19?

While scientists are still conducting the aforementioned studies, researchers in Canada published results of their investigation into cannabis’ effect on the virus itself

The journal, Preprints, published the results, which suggest certain strains of the plant might help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Altogether, researchers examined more than 400 strains. Thirteen—particularly those high in CBD—were found to trigger the same receptors in the mouth and lungs as the virus. 

According to a Complex UK report on the study, that may mean that, “certain strains […] interact with the same receptors in the body as COVID-19, therefore intake will reduce risk of infection in the virus’ most targeted areas.”

This study, however, has not been peer reviewed.

In the meantime, more research is needed. However, the interest in the intersection of cannabis and COVID-19 is promising. Keep an eye on the Emerald for further updates.



Emerald contributor since February 2016


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