Can You Donate Blood if You’re a Medical Marijuana Patient?
Summertime is approaching, and for many people this means spending more time outside doing various activities. Accidents and other situations encountered during this time of year means there will be an increased need for donors to meet the demand for blood and blood products. Is it possible to use medical marijuana and still donate blood? As a Florida MMJ patient, you can speak to a Florida Medical Marijuana Doctor about this issue as well as any other questions you may have. Take our short eligibility survey to find out if you pre-qualify.
There are a couple of reasons why the demand for blood is greater in the warmer months. First of all, people who are traveling rarely take the time to wait in line to donate blood. Secondly, since secondary schools and colleges often have blood drives during the year but not in the summer, donations can dramatically decrease. Some areas get up to 21% of their blood donations for the year from school blood drives, so when school isn’t in session the blood supply can be quickly depleted. Typically, blood shortages are most severe between July and August as well as during December and January. Donating blood during these times can assist blood banks in maintaining their supply and may even help save a life.
Some MMJ patients have been donating blood for many years while others are considering doing so for the first time. They may wonder, however, if they will be allowed to donate blood or if screening tests will make them ineligible because of marijuana use. Because medical marijuana is still a federally illegal substance, this is a valid concern.
According to the American Red Cross, using marijuana does not automatically disqualify a person as a blood donor. This information comes from their blood donation flyer:
“While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify you from giving blood as long as you are feeling well. If you have EVER injected any illegal drugs, you can never give blood.” (1)
When you smoke cannabis, 85%-90% of it is eliminated from your body within 5 days. The remainder is stored mostly in your tissues and processed through the kidneys, so levels in your blood should be low to almost non-existent if you’re a light to moderate smoker. The breakdown of THC into non-psychoactive components happens pretty quickly in your body, so by the time you no longer feel high, there is for all intents and purposes very little to no THC in your blood. This may take several hours, so medicate accordingly if you plan on donating blood. If possible, don’t use medical marijuana on the day you plan to donate until after you’ve been to the blood bank. This will help insure the least possible amount of THC is present in your blood.
There is currently no test performed in the US at blood banks to screen for the presence of THC. Even if you use a lot of medical marijuana, if you wait about 24 hours between the last time you smoked and the time you go to the blood bank, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you live in another country, it is important to familiarize yourself with their laws since some of them do test for THC and you will not be allowed to donate blood if it shows up during testing. As an example, you must have been cannabis-free for a year or more in order to be a blood donor if you live in Norway.
There is one exception to this policy. If you show up to donate and you are stoned, obviously drunk or otherwise mentally impaired, your donation will be declined. The reason for this is simple: if you are not sober, you cannot legally consent to a medical procedure.
What concerns blood banks most is twofold:
1) the possibility of blood-borne illnesses like Hepatitis A and B, HIV, or other diseases; and
2) injectable drug use (think heroin, cocaine, crack, and the like) since people who use these drugs have an increased risk of contracting diseases transmitted by contact with contaminated blood.
Other situations that might contribute to a person being unable to donate blood include recent surgery or childbirth, pregnancy, getting a tattoo within the previous 6 months (or ever getting one from an unlicensed facility), having low iron (hemoglobin) levels in the blood, IV steroid use, current antibiotic therapy, recent international travel to high-risk countries, engaging in behavior putting you at risk for contracting blood-borne illness, or having another serious health condition.
Before going to donate blood, you should do the following:
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Eat a healthy meal.
- Make sure you are well-hydrated.
- Be in good health and feeling well.
After donating, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids and eat foods high in iron and other essential vitamins such as leafy green vegetables, meat or fish, eggs or dairy, fresh fruit, and items containing complex carbohydrates such as multi-grain bread, beans or legumes, sweet potatoes or squash, and brown rice. These items will help rebuild your blood supply in a healthy manner.
If you are wondering how often you can donate blood, the following excerpt from the Red Cross blood donor pamphlet should help.
“You may donate whole blood every 56 days, up to 6 times per year; platelets up to 24 times per year; plasma every 28 days, up to 13 times per year; and double red cells every 112 days, up to three times per year.” (1)
Most marijuana users already have a sharing and generous nature as evidenced by their willingness to share their flower with others. Donating blood is an awesome way to extend that generosity and maybe even save a life in the process. Check with your Florida Medical Marijuana Doctor before donating blood; they can help you determine if your medical conditions may affect your ability to be a donor.