A new agent of protection against COVID-19 might be marijuana, a new study suggests, though its effectiveness is rooted in how you use it. This could be good news for the estimated 37.6 percent of the adult LGBTQ population that uses cannabis.
In a peer-reviewed study from the Journal of Natural Products, researchers from Oregon State University and Oregon Health and Science University found that two different cannabinoids, active chemical compounds found in the raw marijuana plant, proved effective in blocking COVID infection in human cells.
The scientists conducted their research using a process called affinity-selection mass spectrometry. The process fragments these substances, breaking them down into smaller ions and atoms. With this, scientists are able to identify unknown factors in their cells’ molecular make-up and discover new factors about how they interact together.
In this case, scientists recognized that two cannabinoids, known as CBD-A and CBG-A, could help stop COVID. While people may not have heard of CBD-A and CBG-A, after the marijuana plant is processed for use, the two compounds commonly transform into CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical that can relax the body. Many marijuana edible or smokable forms contain CBD.
Researchers concluded that CBD-A and CBG-A — in concentrated doses and used in conjunction with vaccines — could be an effective aid in blocking the spread of the COVID alpha and delta variants. The cannabinoids bind onto COVID’s spike proteins, the parts of the virus that allow it to latch onto and infect human cells, neutralizing COVID before it can spread.
The findings suggest that the compounds could stop COVID infections and transmissibility in their tracks. But that doesn’t mean marijuana users should start re-stocking their nug jars and edible tins just yet. The findings will have to be replicated in animal and human trials before scientists can be sure about the compounds’ disease-fighting ability.
If the findings prove consistent, cannabis manufacturers could gather the components from live plants and put a proper dosage into a liquid or pill form, researchers said.
Unfortunately, marijuana is not legal in all states — 36 states allow medical marijuana and only 18 allow its recreational use. As such, these findings will only help people whose state governments have legalized its use.
The pandemic has especially hurt economic disadvantaged LGBTQ folks, particularly queer people of color. An estimated 22 percent of LGBTQ adults and 24 percent of LGBTQ adults of color are currently unemployed due to the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign reports. As such, new approaches to preventing COVID could make additional protection more accessible to an already burdened population.