Using Marijuana and Donating Blood

Woman Donating Blood
Photo by: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Woman Donating Blood
Photo by: ESB Professional/Shutterstock
The act of donating blood is a heroic feat, though it comes with a reputation. Many of us think about blood donation and our minds flock to a few classic tropes: maybe a free snack, those who pass out, and a lot of regulations.

Others might stick to the basic truth: giving blood saves lives on a daily basis. So, maybe it’s best to read up on the restrictions listed, to ensure that the process is simple, easy, and goes without incident.

Blood drives do have many rules to consider before donating. One big one for many a bong-loving smoker: can I donate blood if I use cannabis?

The answer, mostly, is yes.

The Gift of Donation

A single donation of blood can do so much: it can save up to three people’s lives, help patients suffering from harrow diseases live longer, and support complex surgical procedures. And yes, even weed-smokers can get in on the action. It is totally fine for regular users to donate, and the centers do not test blood for traces of THC. It is the consensus, however, that many blood drives will turn someone down if they show up visibly impaired; donors cannot be intoxicated with marijuana, alcohol, or prescription drugs.

When blood is tested by blood banks and centers, the purpose of doing so is to look for infectious diseases. The ailments they are looking to detect are those that are transmissible by transfusion. Some of these infectious diseases include the likes of HIV, hepatitis, West Nile virus, and the like. Blood is not tested for cannabis, though in some cases they look for syphilis, protein levels, and hematocrit.

However, in some cases, blood banks will turn away donors that use medical marijuana. This simply depends on what the patient is using cannabis to treat. Cancer, for example, is a blacklisted condition; meaning that if you have cancer, you can’t donate your blood. In this example, not being able to give is because of a disease, not because of THC in the body.

The American Red Cross states, “While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify you from giving blood. If you have EVER injected any illegal drugs, you can never give blood.”

In the Blood

Bloodcells in Stream
Photo by: Rost9/Shutterstock
Anytime a marijuana product is consumed, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high, gets absorbed into the body and then moves through the bloodstream. Next, the THC is metabolized and is later expelled from the body via fluids.

There are essentially three stages of this cannabinoid. It begins as the raw THC. It’s little more than a plant, and cannot make a person high by itself.

In order to trigger the psychoactive compound, THC must be heated and activated, turning it into THCa; this process is called decarboxylation. This happens with nearly all marijuana consumption, especially smoking or heating up the cannabis in order to make edibles.

The last stage is THC-COOH, which is when the THCa is metabolized by the liver. THC-COOH is what drug tests look for, as it can only be found in the body if cannabis is ingested. This is also the form that THC is in while its stored in the body, hanging out in the body’s fat cells until those fat cells are burned for energy.

After THC is metabolized, weed will enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the entire body. As it does so, it connects with receptors in the brain, creating your high.

It Comes and Goes

When a blood center doesn’t want you to be intoxicated, they’re waiting for the psychoactive THC to be broken down by the body. This can take several hours. The process is pretty straightforward: the liver is working to bring the body back to normal by metabolizing the THC into THC-COOH, where it can be inactively stored and later removed, through exercise and fluids.

THC-COOH can stay stored in the body for around three weeks within an infrequent cannabis user. For regular users, it can be stored in the body for quite some time, especially when marijuana is consumed on a daily basis.

A whole bunch of factors are at work for how long cannabis stays in the body. For example, individual metabolism, body mass index, how much weed is consumed and how often, and the method of consumption are all pieces of the “when will this clear out of my system?” puzzle.

Before you head out to your local transfusion center, remember: make sure that you are well-rested from a good night’s sleep, full of plenty of fluids from at least two hours before donating, and don’t have an empty stomach. And please, lay off the weed until after you donate your blood and save lives.

Article by: Savannah Nelson