The government designated cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses in eight of the 11 states where adult-use is legal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales have been increasing but health experts warned people should control their intake of the drug because of its unwanted effects on the heart.
Estimates show that weekly sales of marijuana products reached $134 million in California, Washington, Nevada and Colorado in early March. The number continued to grow by 47 percent in the second half of the month, CNBC reported.
However, health experts said the increase in sales of marijuana may also be putting more people at risk of its negative effects. A recent study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, shows a growing evidence of how the drug harms the heart.
Researchers found that over two million people with heart disease currently use or have used marijuana in the U.S. The drug has been linked to faster heart rate and increase in blood pressure.
The study also highlights that smoking marijuana could increase the risk of heart attack. That effect occurs just an hour after exposure to the drug.
Smoking has been the most common way of using marijuana, either through a joint, a pipe or e-cigarette. Researchers said that many people believe smoking or vaping marijuana is less dangerous than cigarettes.
“But when people smoke tobacco, they take frequent, small puffs. In contrast, smoking marijuana usually involves large puffs with longer breath holds,” Muthiah Vaduganathan, study co-author and a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in an article posted on Harvard Health.
He explained that smoking or inhaling marijuana could deliver high levels of chemical toxins into the lungs. But ingesting marijuana by other methods, such as edibles or tinctures, also has negative effects on the cardiovascular system.
The cannabinoids in the drug can affect some medications used to treat or prevent heart disease. The researchers found that marijuana can disrupt the health benefits of blood pressure drugs, cholesterol-lowering statins and the medications for heart rhythm disorders.
The team suggested that healthcare providers guide patients on using marijuana based on their current conditions. The cannabis industry in the U.S. is expected to grow to $56 billion in 2020.