• A study found that two acids in cannabis bond with the protein that the COVID-19 virus uses to infect people
  • Smoking marijuana would not work against the virus because the process would destroy the acids
  • While not recommended for the seriously ill, cannabis-based dietary supplements may "help keep people healthy"

Smoking marijuana will not provide protection against COVID-19 even though the plant contains acids that behave similarly to the vaccines developed to fight the virus, experts said.

Researchers with the Global Hemp Innovation Center at Oregon State University said that a pair of acids found in cannabis — cannabigerolic acid, or CBG-A, and cannabidiolic acid, CBD-A — bond with the "spike protein" that the coronavirus uses to infect people, newspaper the Asbury Park Press reported.

The protein is the same one targeted by COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies used to prevent serious illness from the virus, noted the outlet.

"The acids from hemp, could be used to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection and also to shorten infections by preventing virus particles from infecting human cells," Dr. Richard van Breemen, the lead researcher of the study published in January, explained.

However, smoking weed will not provide protection against COVID-19 as it would result in the CBG-A and CBD-A acids being destroyed, according to Dr. David Nathan, a psychiatrist with Princeton University.

"[I]f you smoke it, if you vape it, if you bake it into something, those compounds are actually gone," Nathan, who is also the founder of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, an advocacy group of medical professionals calling for the end of cannabis prohibition, said.

Additionally, the study led by Breemen only tested on human cells in a laboratory and not real humans, unlike the COVID-19 vaccines.

Many pharmaceutical treatments are reportedly proven ineffective when they transitioned from laboratory testing to human testing.

"Seeing something work in vitro is not the same as seeing it work in the human body," Breemen said.

The research also used hemp, not marijuana. The former is legally required to contain less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive ingredient in both cannabis plants, while the latter can have any amount exceeding that.

Breeman has suggested that dietary supplements based on cannabis "can help keep people healthy," but he noted that he would not advocate these particular products as a treatment or cure for someone who's hospitalized and severely ill.

"I think we need combinations of therapies that might include drugs that stop the virus at other points in its lifecycle for that," the doctor said.

Around 37 American states and four territories have legalized the use of medical cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The United States has reported 77,950,910 COVID-19 cases and 923,067 virus-related deaths, data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed.

Hemp looks and smells like marijuana but contains very low amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM