Can you donate blood if you smoke weed?
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- Are cannabis users disqualified from giving blood?
- Do blood banks test for THC?
- What can disqualify someone from donating blood?
- Other requirements for donating blood
- How you can still help if you’re disqualified from giving blood
- Bottom line
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 the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
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.
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. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
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.
Making a financial donation and volunteering at a blood drive are other valuable ways to contribute if you are unable to give blood.
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.
According to the Red Cross, using marijuana does not immediately disqualify a person as a blood donor. That's the short answer. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
Donating blood and smoking weed
OK, so you’re at the local blood bank or Red Cross and you want to give blood, but then you remember you were ripping bongs with your friends the previous weekend. Can you still donate? Or is it an issue that there’s still traces of THC swimming around in your body? Will your bud-tainted blood harm whatever patient inevitably receives your plasma?
The short answer? Yes, you can still donate if you smoke.
The long answer? Yes, you can still donate, but it’s a little complicated.
There are two questions here, really: “Can I donate blood if I smoke weed, in general,” and “Can I donate blood if I smoke weed that day.”
For the first question, it’s unequivocally: Yes.
When you smoke, most of the cannabis (80-90%) is excreted within 5 days as hydroxylated and carboxylated metabolites. So if you’re a light smoker and wait a few days, there’s a good chance your blood will have very low-to-negligible cannabis levels. Even if you’re a heavy smoker, marijuana is absorbed mostly through your tissues, and excreted mainly through urine. While blood is the delivery method for all those tissues, what you’re imbibing is spending most of its time elsewhere in the blood or metabolizing in your blood.
According to the internet (and this writer’s doctor sister), there’s plenty of personal anecdotes (including from yours truly) about smoking and donating blood without running into any problems. Most people advise waiting a day after you’ve last smoked to donate, though there’s no real reason to wait unless you’re stoned at the time you’re intending to donate.
This is because no blood bank will accept a donation from someone under the influence of anything if intoxication is detected during the donor screening process. Whether it’s alcohol, marijuana, or another drug, the banks need you to be sober when consenting to have them draw blood. Therefore, if you’re toasted out of your mind while donating — and thus not really able to consent safely — most blood banks will not accept your red.
In 2016, Leafly went the extra mile and reached out to several blood donation companies to ask about cannabis use and donating. Everyone the publication contacted, including the American Red Cross, echoed the same: Being a general cannabis user will not prohibit you from donating, but you must be sober while physically making the donation.
Furthermore, one company noted that “the FDA does not require testing for THC either at registration or during testing for blood borne pathogens which all donated/collected blood receives.” And the American Red Cross told them that “legal or illegal use of marijuana is not otherwise a cause for blood donation deferral.”
Technically, injectable drugs are what blood drives are really on the lookout for, since those increase patients’ chances of contracting a serious bloodborne illness. But all blood is tested before its given to patients, so donating doesn’t automatically mean your blood will be used.
For now, the answer overall seems like a “yes.” But if you’re squeamish or anxious at the thought of getting lit before surrounding yourself with volunteer nurses, maybe chill on the J till after they’ve sucked you dry.
Then drink some orange juice! You deserve it, you hero you.
So you want to donate blood, but you’re a heavy smoker. Can you still be a generous human without giving up the sweet leaf?