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Can cannabis help treat COVID-19?

Early science shows powerful anti-inflammatory effects in some of the cannabinoids in cannabis but more research is needed.

YORK, Pa. — With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic far from view, scientists are looking for new ways to treat the virus. More researchers seem to be looking into a somewhat unlikely place: the cannabis plant.  

FOX43 spoke with one woman who says her use of it helped her beat COVID-19.

"It was right before Christmas that my husband got exposed," said Amanda Dixon.  Not long after that, she also tested positive for COVID-19.  "We thankfully, all things considered, had an overall okay time with the illness," Dixon said.   They were pretty sick for about 10 days, however, she says her husband got it worse than her.  "He was coughing a lot more than I was and he actually had a fever and I never developed a fever," she said.  And Dixon believes she knows why:  cannabis.

"I'll be honest with you, as much as both of us didn't have a good time with it, I think that I had an easier time than my husband because of the medical marijuana,"  Dixon explained.  She received her medical marijuana license less than a year ago, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last summer.    "You know, COVID is so inflammatory and it makes everything just feel awful, and I was taking the medical marijuana that I had been prescribed on a fairly regular basis and I think the properties it has at making everything calm down really helped a lot," Dixon said.

While no peer-reviewed studies show that cannabis or it's compounds can help with COVID-19 specifically, one local expert say she could be right.  

"One of the most difficult challenges is it creates a very bad inflammatory response on the lungs, which is often the fatal aspect, and so compounds that can reduce the cytokine storm, would be very helpful in saving lives with COVID," said Dr. Steven Groff.  He owns Groff North America, a physician-owned hemp and cannabis company in York County. 

"Science and data are very important- and I think there is some early science that would show there are powerful anti-inflammatory effects in some of the cannabinoids- the molecules that are in cannabis," said Dr. Groff.  CBD is one of them, which does not give you the disorienting effects associated with THC and has minimal negative side effects. "When you talk about CBD or the cannabis plant, extremely safe, when you talk about cannabis and marijuana, there's no lethal dose of that plant, which is pretty remarkable," he touted. Still, as a physician, Dr. Groff knows more research is critical. 

The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that products that emit radiation.

 The Food and Drug Administration takes the subject very seriously and has even issued warnings to several CBD producers and vendors who claim their products can be used to treat COVID-19, saying the unsubstantiated claims are seen as a threat to public health.  

"I think there are reasons to believe that cannabis can be very affectual in this, but again, we don't have the data," said Dr. Groff.  

Groff North America is gearing up to take their research to the next level.  It is prepared to receive federal approval through the Drug Enforcement Administration to legally cultivate and process medical cannabis. Final Action from the DEA is expected this week. The company's goal is to transform the uses of medical cannabis through the process of rigorous science, data collection and scholarly debate.

For more information on Groff North America, click here.

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