To avoid spreading the novel coronavirus, marijuana smokers should avoid sharing joints and should favor edible products, US cannabis industry figures said Wednesday.

"As long as cultures have consumed cannabis, the practice of sharing a joint amongst friends has been a common social practice," said Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, a major US pro-cannabis lobby.

"But given what we know about COVID-19 and its transmission, it would be mindful during this time to halt this behavior," he said in a statement.

He also called on users to not share the various tools they might use to smoke marijuana -- including bongs, water pipes or vaping pens -- and to clean them with disinfectant gel.

People smoke marijuana in West Hollywood, California in 2009
People smoke marijuana in West Hollywood, California in 2009 AFP / Frederic J. BROWN

"Further, because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, some may wish to limit or avoid their exposure to combustive smoke -- as this can put undue stress and strain on the lungs," the statement said.

"The use of edibles or tinctures can eliminate smoke exposure entirely," Altieri said in the statement.

COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has killed at least 116 people in the US, out of more than 7,700 cases.

According to NORML, about 25 million Americans have smoked marijuana in the last year.

The drug is legal at varying levels -- both for recreational and medicinal purposes -- in 47 of 50 states, though it is still classified as a highly restricted substance at the federal level, similarly to LSD, cocaine or heroin.