The 20th of April has become a big part of cannabis culture and in recent years has been cemented as a day for international cannabis events and protests calling for changes in the legal status of the plant.
4/20 events usually pop up across the UK with the biggest event taking place in London’s Hyde Park. With lockdown and social distancing in full effect, these events won’t be happening in large green spaces but many events have moved online.
We’ve posted about general harm reduction during the outbreak of COVID-19 and about reducing harm if you chose to take drugs alone during this time. We thought we’d highlight some specific 4/20 harm reduction tips for anyone planning on taking cannabis today or during the rest of lockdown.
COVID-19 and cannabis
COVID-19 is a new disease and our understanding of the symptoms is constantly developing. We are going to continue to find out more over the coming weeks and months.
While many people may feel that cannabis keeps them well and is something that boosts their immune system – you should be very careful about anything that advertises cannabis or cannabis products (like CBD) as a cure or prevention method. There is no evidence to suggest the effectiveness of cannabis in preventing or curing COVID-19.
Smoking increases the risk of COVID-19 complications. There have been observable differences between smokers and non-smokers in the severity of symptoms – smokers are at greater risk of hospitalisation, and are more likely to develop severe symptoms than non-smokers.
Inhaling any substance into your lungs is going to cause some level of irritation to the delicate tissue. This includes tobacco, cannabis and vape products.
Now is a good time to think about your general health – eat well, stay hydrated, add multi-vitamins into your day if possible and if you are thinking about quitting smoking visit NHS Inform for more information.
This is a good opportunity to go back to basics with harm reduction. Think about removing tobacco if possible and avoid holding the smoke in your lungs. Holding the smoke in doesn’t get you more high but it can cause more damage to your lungs.
Wash your hands with soap and water before and after preparing or handling any drugs, papers, filters or tobacco.
Now isn’t the time for puff-puff-pass. Avoid sharing joints, vapes, pipes and bongs.
Make sure any pipes, bongs and grinders are cleaned on a more regular basis and wipe down any baggies or other packaging. Avoid sharing packages of drugs with other people to help reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
Vapourisers have become more common in recent years. Using a vapouriser heats the cannabis, rather than burning it. The heating of the plant releases the same flavour and cannabinoids (the compounds found in the cannabis plant) but without smoke. Since fewer chemicals are released, vaping is a less harmful way to consume cannabis than smoking.
If you are using a vape, ensure that all parts of vaporisers are cleaned out regularly, paying attention to the mouth piece. The vapour will feel different to smoke if if you aren’t used to vapourising. Be careful to limit the number of draws as the effects may be felt more strongly from each hit. It can be easy to take too much at once.
If smoking e-liquid cartridges, ensure they are from a reputable supplier and are being sold within the legal framework of the country they are manufactured in. Unregulated and counterfeit e-liquids can be harmful.
People may decide that now is a good time to eat their cannabis in baked goods or other foods, instead of smoking it to avoid damage to their lungs. If you do, it’s important to think carefully about dose – you will need less to feel the effects, than if the cannabis was smoked, and it will take longer for them to come on. Avoid the classic mistake of eating more before the effects of the first dose have kicked in.
Bear in mind that when cannabis is eaten, the effects lean more towards the psychedelic side so be prepared for that and know yourself. The experience may be stronger and last longer than smoking or vaping.
Thinking about set and setting is also important, especially if you plan to eat cannabis. This means thinking about the comfort of your environment and how you are feeling before taking a drug. Lockdown is a new environment for us all and if you aren’t used to feeling the effects of cannabis alone it could make the experience different for you. Read our Solo Sesh guide for some key harm reduction tips if you plan on taking drugs alone.
Avoid mixing with other drugs. We’ve had reports of increased drug use during lockdown and in particular people drinking more alcohol. Think carefully about the drugs you are taking and take the time to research any interactions with any medicines or health conditions you might have. Mixing drugs can lead to unpredictable and unexpected effects.
The outbreak of the virus is impacting drug markets. Expect shortages, changes in quality and price hikes – we’ve had reports of these already. There may also be changes to the way products are being sold, with dealers less likely to offer in-house sales or face to face delivery.
During lockdown many people have also reported experiencing increased interactions with the police. With fewer people on the streets you are more likely to be stopped by the police – cannabis purchases are not included on the essential goods list.
It also remains a Class B drug, although in Scotland the police may instead issue a Recorded Police Warning to deal with ‘low level offences’ such as the possession of a small amount of herbal cannabis.
In Scotland, it is a crime to drive with a specified controlled drug in the body, in excess of a specified limit. This includes cannabis. Police can make a requirement for a roadside drug test if they suspect drug use (e.g. smell cannabis), you commit a moving traffic offence (e.g. speeding or driving with a faulty light) or after any accident, regardless of fault. The length of time a substance can be detected varies and can depend on the dose, type and personal factors. Only drive if you are sober, feel well and aren’t sleep deprived (and it’s an essential journey!).
For more information, advice and support about drug laws in the UK contact Release.
Blazing too much?
If you are practicing social distancing it’s likely that you aren’t making many trips outside. If you are planning on stockpiling cannabis its important to avoid spending more than you can afford. Try not to blaze through everything you have bought too quickly and keep an eye on your tolerance.
The more cannabis you take the more likely you are to develop a tolerance – meaning you need more cannabis to feel the same effects. This means you might be consuming it more often and spending more money than planned. Keep an eye on your use and take regular tolerance breaks – many people will take at least a week off smoking while others might have a break for an entire month. Remember that you will feel the effects more strongly from a smaller amount of cannabis after a tolerance break.
If you have noticed changes to the way drugs are bought, sold or taken the please take the time to fill in our short survey found here.
We’ve also partnered with some other harm reduction organisations including the Loop and Eurotox to launch a bigger survey across Europe. The EMCDDA have a mini-survey; Release have a survey specifically asking about drug purchases and Drugs and Me also have launched a survey to find out more about drugs, lockdown and you.
Taking part in these surveys helps us to improve our harm reduction responses so please take the time to fill them in.