Keep this in mind if you’re an otherwise healthy person.
In July 2019, the American Red Cross reported an emergency need: blood donations were going out to hospitals faster than they were coming into donation centers.
While blood donation centers are no longer in a state of emergency, there is still a critical need. Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, yet only 10% of the eligible population — which is less than 38% of Americans — donates.
The basic eligibility guidelines state that you must be at least 16 years old with parental consent in some states or 17 years old without consent in most states, weigh at least 110 pounds and have not donated in the past 56 days.
Here is what the American Red Cross said when we asked about cannabis use and donating blood: Yes, you can donate if you’ve smoked marijuana. However, you cannot donate if you’ve smoked or ingested a synthetic form of the drug.
Synthetic marijuana — also known as K2 or Spice — is a human-made chemical with a similar make-up to the marijuana plant. It is classified under the group called new psychoactive substances (NPS) and is considered to be an unregulated, mind-altering substance.
There is an FDA-approved medication called Marinol that has man-made THC in it. If you are taking Marinol for a medical condition, such as nausea from chemotherapy or loss of appetite from HIV infection, you would not be eligible for blood donation. If you have taken Marinol and do not have a pre-existing medical condition, you would not be deferred, as it is FDA-approved.
So, if you have smoked or ingested non-synthetic marijuana, are otherwise in good health and meet the basic donation guidelines, you can donate.
There is one final stipulation to note. While it is OK to have medical or recreational cannabis in your system, if you are under the influence of the drug at the time of donation, you will be deferred. That rule goes for licit and illicit drugs and alcohol.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), nearly 5 million AmericansTrusted Source receive blood transfusions each year.
There are many reasons why someone could need a blood transfusion, such as:
- a severe accident or injury
- diseases or conditions such as anemia and hemophilia
The blood that’s used for this important procedure is collected through the process of blood donation. Donating blood is a great way to help someone who’s in need of a blood transfusion.
When you donate blood, you’ll need to answer some questions about your health, lifestyle, and travel history to determine your eligibility.
Does smoking disqualify you from donating blood?
If you use cannabis
Smoking cannabis doesn’t disqualify you from giving blood. However, the clinic is likely to turn you away if you show up to your appointment visibly high.
In a statement to Healthline, the American Red Cross said: “While the Red Cross does not encourage the use of controlled substances, marijuana, cigarettes or alcohol use does not necessarily disqualify a person from giving blood. Potential donors cannot give while under the influence of licit or illicit drugs or alcohol. Legal or illegal use of marijuana is not otherwise a cause of deferral.”
If you use nicotine
Smoking cigarettes in and of itself doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood.
If you smoke and you want to donate blood, plan to refrain from smoking on the day of your appointment — both before your appointment and for three hours afterward.
Smoking before your appointment can lead to an increase in blood pressure. This may disqualify you from donating. Smoking afterward may lead to dizziness.
According to the American Red Cross, people with a history of recreational intravenous drug use are not eligible to donate blood. This requirement helps prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis.
It is important to note that this is not the case for people who have used drugs in other ways, such as by smoking them or taking them orally. The American Red Cross and other blood donation companies do not specify drug use as an excluding factor.
However, a person does need to make sure that substances such as nicotine and cannabis are not in their system when donating blood.
Regular vs. Occasional Cannabis Users and Blood Donation
But what about if you’re a regular user of cannabis? Are the rules for blood donation any different for those who use cannabis often, rather than just every once in a while? Nope! Both regular and occasional users of cannabis can donate blood, provided that they meet all the other qualifications for blood donation and that they aren’t visibly high when they go to donate (that will get you turned away).
THC does tend to take longer to exit your system if you’re a regular user of cannabis. However, there’s no danger that a donor-recipient can get a “contact high” from your marijuana-infused blood, so you’re in the clear, whether you’re a regular or occasional cannabis user.
While having some THC in your system will not disqualify you from giving blood, we can give you some general guidelines on how long it takes cannabis to leave the blood if you want to know. How long cannabis and the presence of THC stays in the blood will depend on a number of factors, such as your metabolism, your BMI, how much cannabis you consume, and how you consume cannabis (via smoking, edibles, etc.). But, generally, cannabis stays in the blood for up to two days after a single use if you don’t smoke often. Then, it stays in the blood for up to seven days after you last consumed cannabis if you’re a regular smoker.
Whether you have cannabis in your blood or not, though, you’re in the clear to donate as long as you aren’t visibly high. And, of course, so long as you also meet the other qualifications for donating blood. Wondering what the general qualifications are for donating blood? We’ll go over those in the next section!
To donate blood, the general requirement is that a person should be at least 17 years old. A person can be 16 years old, but they must have a legal guardian’s consent.
Other factors that may disqualify a person from giving blood include:
- feeling sick or having cold or flu symptoms
- using intravenous drugs not prescribed by a licensed doctor
- having an active infection
- having HIV or testing positive for hepatitis B or C
- having uncontrolled diabetes
- having a blood clotting disorder
- having ever had the Ebola virus
- having blood cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma
- having received a blood transfusion within the past 12 months
- having a heart rate below 50 beats per minute (BPM) or above 100 BPM
- having recently traveled to a foreign country
- being pregnant, or having given birth within the past 6 weeks
Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hoursTrusted Source before and after donating blood.
A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms. It is a good idea to avoid smoking until these symptoms go away.