Can you donate blood if you smoke weed? Here's what you need to know
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.”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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