New study reveals group at higher risk of severe COVID

cannabis and covid

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. While life has settled into a new normal, people are still contracting COVID with varying degrees of severity. Much has been learned about the virus, but there is still plenty of mystery. In fact, a new study is pushing back on a widely accepted theory about cannabis and COVID.

Previous research suggested that cannabis may help prevent COVID infection and even treat symptoms. However, a paper published this week shows that weed may actually lead to an increased risk of severe illness from COVID.

RELATED: Case study reveals long COVID cured by psychedelics

Researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed the electronic health records (EHR) of more than 72,000 patients at BJC HealthCare hospitals and clinics in Missouri and Illinois between Feb. 1, 2020, and Jan. 31, 2022. The team specifically sought out people who had been admitted for at least one COVID infection “to examine whether cannabis and tobacco use are associated with adverse health outcomes from COVID-19 in the context of other known risk factors.”

The team specifically sought out patients who self-reported a history of tobacco and/or cannabis use. Roughly 13 percent of the cohort were current tobacco smokers, while over 24 percent were former smokers. Nearly ten percent were current cannabis consumers. The health outcomes of hospitalization, including intensive care unit (ICU) admittance and mortality, were measured against the self-reported data.

According to the analysis, “cannabis use was significantly associated with an increased risk of hospitalization following COVID-19,” even after adjusting for covariates, including tobacco use. Cannabis was also linked to an increased risk of ICU admittance, although tobacco users were far likelier to die from COVID-related complications.

RELATED: Millions of women suffer from this mysterious ailment – weed may be the answer

The paper did note a couple of limitations. The first related to the point in time when data was collected, acknowledging that COVID variants, new masking policies, and vaccinations could lead to different outcomes. The authors also noted that self-reported EHR data on current cannabis use “is a very crude measure without specific details on cannabis type, frequency, or recency.”

Despite the limitations, the research team concluded that both tobacco and cannabis are correlated with more severe COVID infection. They also called for more specific inquiries regarding substance use of all types (including nicotine and alcohol) and COVID in order to understand health outcomes and guide education. 

With conflicting reports on cannabis and COVID, further studies are indeed warranted. Evidence previously showed the anti-inflammatory benefits of cannabinoids as potential treatments for the virus, but the new data suggests that the theory needs more definitive research.

rachelle gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist, Emerald Cup judge, Budist critic, and editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter