While blood donation centers are no longer in a state of emergency, there is still a critical need. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, yet only 10% of the eligible population — which is less than 38% of Americans — donates.
There is an FDA-approved medication called Marinol that has man-made THC in it. If you are taking Marinol for a medical condition, such as nausea from chemotherapy or loss of appetite from HIV infection, you would not be eligible for blood donation. If you have taken Marinol and do not have a pre-existing medical condition, you would not be deferred, as it is FDA-approved.
In July 2019, the American Red Cross reported an emergency need: blood donations were going out to hospitals faster than they were coming into donation centers.
There is one final stipulation to note. While it is OK to have medical or recreational cannabis in your system, if you are under the influence of the drug at the time of donation, you will be deferred. That rule goes for licit and illicit drugs and alcohol.
So, if you have smoked or ingested non-synthetic marijuana, are otherwise in good health and meet the basic donation guidelines, you can donate.
Synthetic marijuana — also known as K2 or Spice — is a human-made chemical with a similar make-up to the marijuana plant. It is classified under the group called new psychoactive substances (NPS) and is considered to be an unregulated, mind-altering substance.
Here is what the American Red Cross said when we asked about cannabis use and donating blood: Yes, you can donate if you’ve smoked marijuana. However, you cannot donate if you’ve smoked or ingested a synthetic form of the drug.
The basic eligibility guidelines state that you must be at least 16 years old with parental consent in some states or 17 years old without consent in most states, weigh at least 110 pounds and have not donated in the past 56 days.
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Less than 50% of Americans are eligible to donate blood at any given time, so it’s helpful to know your reasons for ineligibility.
“Many people believe that they are deferred because of past marijuana use, but that’s not the case,” says Ross FitzGerald, a strategic communications specialist with the Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa.
Of course, there are a number of factors that will make a person ineligible to donate blood. Age is one of those factors. Donors must be at least 17 years old and meet minimum height and weight requirements. First-time donors up to 23 years of age must also meet specific height and weight restrictions, with anyone older than over 23 needing to weigh at least 50 kg. Residence or travel outside of Canada may also impose a temporary restriction on a would-be donor’s ability to donate blood when back in the country.
It’s well-known that blood is a lifeline—literally—for many Canadians. What is likely less well-known is whether or not people who use cannabis can donate blood to support that lifeline. Well, the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
In its most recent annual report, Canadian Blood Services noted that in 2017-2018, 410,000 people visited donor centres, up about 1 percent from the previous year. Of these, 101,000 were new donors. In that same year, 730,841 red blood cell units and 30,374 litres of plasma for transfusion were transported to hospitals across the country.
Canadian Blood Services—which provides a complete list of criteria affecting eligibility for blood donation on its website—introduced these criteria in 2016 to identify donors at risk for acquiring illnesses spread by mosquitos, such as the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects. CBC News, reported two years ago that only about 3.4 percent of eligible donors give blood.
Those who have traveled to other countries, including the continental U.S. and Europe, have a waiting period of 21 days after returning home before they can donate blood.
Canadian Blood Services, which has overseen blood collection in the country (except Quebec) since 1998, reports that plasma is used to treat trauma and severe bleeding as well as to make products such as immune globulin, used to treat a range of disorders, including autoimmune, neurological and blood disorders.
Three conditions, however, must be met, FtizGerald makes clear. “If a person is sober, shows no evidence of intoxication and can give consent, they are eligible to donate.” These rules are relatively recent. In April 2018, Canadian Blood Services removed a requirement that donors had to wait 12 hours after cannabis use before they could donate blood.
In addition to donating red blood cells, cannabis users are also eligible to donate plasma, the protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout the body.
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