So, there’s a blood drive in your area. And as a good citizen, you decide to stop by and donate some of your blood. After all, donating blood is giving the gift of life to a fellow member of your community. Donating just one pint of blood can save up to three lives! But wait— if you’re a cannabis user, can you even donate blood? There might be THC in your system, so will they turn you away?
It may surprise you to learn that the answer to the question “can cannabis users donate blood” is a resounding “yes!” Using cannabis does not automatically exclude you from being able to donate blood. However, there are some qualifications that everyone needs to meet in order to donate blood, including marijuana users. Below, we’ll fill you in on what you everything you need to know about donating blood if you use cannabis.
Donating Blood If You Use Cannabis
First, let’s go over what cannabis users, specifically, need to know about donating blood. As we said above, using cannabis does not exclude you from donating blood. And, no, you don’t even need to be sneaky or lie about using cannabis if you want to donate blood. The American Red Cross itself says that using cannabis is not a contraindication for blood donation. Here’s what The Red Cross recently said about cannabis users donating blood:
“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.”
So, essentially, the official position of the American Red Cross is that smoking weed, using medical marijuana, taking CBD, or using cannabis in other ways doesn’t disqualify you from donating blood. And other blood donation organizations have a similar policy. However, you can’t give blood while you’re acting under the influence of marijuana (or any other substance). So if you know you want to donate blood on any given day, it’s best to wait until after you donate to get high.
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!
Requirements for Donating Blood
Being a cannabis user doesn’t disqualify you from giving blood. But, just like everyone else, you do still need to meet the general qualifications for giving blood.
General Blood Donation Qualifications
According to the American Red Cross, the general qualifications for donating blood are:
- You must be in good health and feeling well at the time of donation
- Must be at least 16 years old in most states
- Your weigh must be at least 110 pounds
- You can’t have donated blood in the last 56 days
The “you must be in good health and feeling well” qualification means that you shouldn’t donate blood if you’re feeling sick, like when you have a cold, the flu, or another illness. It also means that if you have certain chronic health conditions you may not be eligible for blood collection. We’ll cover those health conditions (and other disqualifiers) in the next section.
General Disqualifiers for Donating Blood
According to Healthline and the NCBI, here are some of the things that disqualify you from donating blood (as determined by the US FDA):
- Using injectable illegal drugs
- Using injectable drugs that are not prescribed by your doctor
- Feeling sick or having an illness on the day of or the day before your appointment
- Being pregnant
- Having given birth within the past 6 weeks
- Receiving a tattoo or piercing within the last year
- Getting a blood transfusion within the past year
- Getting an organ transplant with in the past year
- Having HIV
- Testing Positive for hepatitis B or hepatitis C
- The blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma
- Ebola virus
- Inherited blood clotting disorder
- Being a man who has been sexually active with other men within the past year
- Using certain medications, including:
- Blood thinners, such as warfarin and heparin
- Having traveled to certain countries within a certain period of time (see travel deferral waiting period rules for blood donation here)
- Ever received a blood transfusion in France or the United Kingdom
- Low iron
What is Giving Blood Like?
So, if you meet all the standard qualifications for donating blood and you’re a cannabis user, you totally can! But if you’ve never given blood before (maybe because you thought you couldn’t, as a cannabis user), you may be wondering what the process is like.
Donating blood is a simple process that usually only takes around an hour in total. When you go to give blood, you’ll start with the registration process, during which you’ll sign in, provide your ID, and read some information on blood donation. Then, you’ll move to the health history and mini-physical step, during which a health professional will privately ask you some questions and check some vitals, such as your blood pressure. (This is part of the donor screening process that helps ensure you’re eligible to donate. You can learn what they check for here on the FDA’s website.) Next, you’ll move on to the actual donation process! During the donation, you’ll be seated in a comfortable chair while a pint of blood is drawn. This takes only around 8 to 10 minutes. After you donate, you’ll rest and enjoy a snack and a drink before resuming your day! Then you give blood, your blood is tested to double-check that it’s safe for a donor. Lately, your blood passes the test, it’s ready to join the healthy blood supply at the local blood bank and help save lives.
If you want to get prepared before you give blood, the Red Cross recommends that you eat iron-rich foods (like red meat, fish, and spinach) before you come in, since you’ll be temporarily losing a bit of iron when your blood is drawn. Then, they also recommend that you get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of fluids before you donate blood.
After you give blood, you’re free to go back to your daily routine, content with the knowledge that your donation has helped save lives! Most blood donation organizations do generally recommend that you refrain from exercise for a couple of hours after donating, however, since your body needs a bit of time to recover from the donation process.
Final Thoughts and a Note on the Importance of Giving Blood
There you have it: everything you need to know if you’re a cannabis user who wants to donate blood! We hope this has been helpful in clearing up the common misconception that cannabis users can’t be blood donors. Giving blood is such a great way to give back to your community and help others. So if you’re a cannabis user who wants to donate and meets all the normal qualifications, by all means, do!
Wondering why giving blood is so important and helpful for others? According to the CDC, “each day life-saving blood transfusions are needed in hospitals and emergency treatment facilities across the U.S.” And blood is something that simply can’t be made synthetically. Doctors need citizens like you to give blood in order to help save lives every day.
According to the CDC, there are more than 13.2 million blood donors in the United States. However, the National Institutes of Health recently released a report that found that blood donations have been steadily declining. By donating your blood, you can help stop this decline and help ensure that hospitals around the US have the necessary supplies they need to save the lives of your neighbors, friends, family members, and fellow citizens.
So if you’re a regular cannabis user, don’t let that dissuade you from donating blood. The American Red Cross and other organizations are absolutely fine with it, and you should be too! Your blood can help save lives— so get out there and donate!