Let’s cut right to the chase, shall we? The short answer is a ‘yes’ – however, that’s not a definitive answer. If you’re planning to donate blood as a cannabis user, it pays to know ahead of time so as to what qualifies you as a blood donor, especially if you’re ‘under the influence’.
Understanding What Qualifies and Disqualifies You
At least 5 million people in the US receive blood transfusions every year – people who have been victims of a severe injury or accident, undergone surgery or who have been suffering from conditions like anaemia.
By donating blood, you are joining the drive to save lives and also improve the quality of living for others. However, the thought of whether to donate or not as a regular cannabis user, may have crossed your mind at least a few times.
In a nutshell, blood donation centres will accept blood from a cannabis user, although it’s best that you don’t show up while under the influence.
With that said though, we need to understand some facts, particularly those around the effects that cannabis generally has on the blood, even if you’re not planning to donate blood anytime soon.
Despite people’s noble intentions, it is unfortunate that there aren’t as many blood donations in the US, for instance, as required at any given time. Blood donations required every 2 seconds – however, despite the fact that 38% US residents are eligible for a donation, only a meek 10% actually take the trouble of donating it.
Just to give you a quick refresher, a blood donation process takes anywhere between 10-12 minutes, while the entire process can take up to an hour. It includes a quick physical to make sure you are a suitable candidate – which involves checking your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and haemoglobin levels.
Keep reading to discover how blood collection centres view cannabis users as far the criteria for donating blood goes.
Do They Check for Presence of Cannabinoids in the System?
No blood collection centre is required to perform a drug test which involves the detection of psychoactive compounds such as THC. They will only test your blood to ensure that no infectious diseases may be transferred during the transfusion. So unless you’re almost ‘completely out of it’ and had a few right before the donation, there’s little reason for collection centres to turn you away.
Let’s shed light on what the American Red Cross has to say about cannabis users donating blood. The official statement says that any legal or illegal cannabis use will not lead to a blood donation deferral. Therefore, you will not be asked to take a THC drug test, although you may be rejected if you are clearly ‘high’ or under the influence.
Keep in mind that some centres may turn you down if you are under the influence of other illicit substances or drugs, which we won’t get into for now – suffice it to say, cannabis does not fall under that category.
Some cannabis users might argue that it is okay to consume a little cannabis prior to a donation as long as you don’t get ‘high’ – while there may not be an issue as such because there’s no formal THC test – we would not advise this for a few hard-pressing reasons:
Presence of Psychoactive Chemicals and Hypotension
Cannabis consumption causes the body to metabolise THC into two different chemical pairs – without getting too technical, one chemical is psychoactive (11-OH-THC) while the other one (11-nor-9-Carboxy-THC) isn’t.
You may have observed how waves of hunger usually strike after a while and not immediately after, once cannabis has been consumed. This happens because the psychoactive chemical pair is directly responsible for the hunger pangs; it takes your system some time to metabolise THC in order to give feelings of euphoria. Once it converts to the non-psychoactive chemical, you will no longer feel high.
Why do you need to know this? Because the wording in some of the statements made official by the American Red Cross, for example, need to be paid attention to: “donors who are ‘unwell’ in any way will rejected”.
They are pretty much saying that if you are visibly ‘high’ or ‘out of it’ in their eyes, then you are ‘unwell’ because your blood still has psychoactive compounds. Now, we would not recommend that you attempt to fool people into thinking that you’re not high, because being ‘unwell’ in any way means that you’re not in the best position to donate blood.
Also something else that needs to be accounted for is hypotension – or in layman terms, low blood pressure. Many cannabis consumers experience something called a ‘white out’ – pale skin, loss of balance, dizziness and shakiness, and in some rare cases, fainting due to low blood pressure. This can be a short-term problem and dangerous when you are at risk of falling and hurting yourself as well as others.
Donating blood will indefinitely cause a drop in blood pressure – add to that the fact that you’ve just smoked cannabis a while back – the chances of a ‘white out’ are fairly high.
This is where your good citizen sense comes in – when you’re ready to donate blood, don’t get ‘high’ at least 12-24 hours prior. Also, ‘hammering’ yourself with heavy cannabis use even a few days prior to a blood donation is generally not recommended – you need to be in reasonably good health before donating blood.
So, just to quickly reiterate, you can donate blood as a cannabis user so long as you’ve been sober for a good 12 hours at least. We certainly don’t want the high or psychoactive THC passing onto the transfusion recipient.
Another noteworthy fact revolving around blood transfusions and cannabis use is that when you’re asked to give consent to donating blood, you will also be asked to answer a questionnaire in an honest and reliable way. Your ability to do so may be hampered if you’re under the influence of drugs.
You may be eager to get your ‘daily fix’ after the donation – we completely understand – but, it would be wise to wait at least a few hours after you’ve donated blood, once your blood pressure levels have normalised.
Guidelines for Donating Blood as a Cannabis User – Quick Overview
- Guidelines for majority of American and Canadian donation centres state that blood will be accepted if you’re a cannabis user.
- American Red Cross guidelines state that use of controlled substances such as cannabis is not encouraged, although that does not disqualify you as a donor as long as you are not under the influence.
- Canadian blood banks allow cannabis users to donate if they have been sober for a minimum of 12 hours.
- European guidelines vary although the same applies – that you must be completely sober and pass screening questions in order to donate blood. There are some exceptions as Norway, for example, requires cannabis users to be sober for a minimum of 12 months before donating blood.
It’s important to know as a regular cannabis consumer, that the herb can be easily detected in your blood for up to 7 days after your last dose. Luckily, the Canadian Blood Services and American Red Cross do not screen candidates for cannabis.
Common Reasons that Disqualify You as a Donor
Before you can be eligible to donate blood, you will need to fill out a questionnaire and take a mini-physical. Although cannabis use itself will not disqualify you, the condition you are using it for might, including Crohn’s disease or cancer.
In addition, the following conditions will indefinitely disqualify you:
- Under the age of 17
- Use of illegal intravenous drugs
- Using non-prescription injectable drugs like steroids
- Tattoo or body piercing with unsterile needles or in an unlicensed facility
- Tattoo or body piercing in the past 6-12 months
- Abnormal blood pressure
- Suffering from an acute infection or other blood-borne diseases
- Lymphoma, leukaemia or other forms of blood cancer
- Recently given birth (six weeks prior) or pregnant
- Feeling ‘unwell’ or suffering from an acute infection before the appointment
- Organ transplant or blood transfusion in the past 12 months
- Testing positive for HIV or hepatitis B or C
- Using blood thinners
- Suffering from a genetic blood clotting disorder
In addition, certain medication and travel history can also disqualify you – it is advisable to discuss all such conditions at the clinic to ascertain whether you meet any of the disqualification criteria.
As a model citizen, blood donation is an important aspect of your civic duty. If you hear your conscience calling you, by all means, donate away.
Being said, however, the cannabis you have smoked can find itself deep into the bloodstream – you certainly don’t want to transfer it to a child, young adult, or a nursing mother, for that matter.
When you decide to help the cause, make sure you get a good night’s rest, have a balanced meal, stay adequately hydrated – and do your level best to go sober.