Stoners are being told to ease up on the weed over the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, with scientists saying the health risks are significant.

Dr Marta Rychert, a senior research officer at Massey University’s SHORE and Whariki Research Centre, said in a statement people who use cannabis recreationally need to be careful, with usual practices  presenting a serious risk during the pandemic.

“[They] need to pay attention to the hygienic practices they normally may not think about,” she said.

“This is because sharing of cannabis joints, bongs or vapes, also creates risks for COVID-19 transmission.”

Buying drugs also presents a significant health risk, says SHORE and Whariki associate professor Chris Wilkins.

“One drug dealer may have face-to-face contact with many buyers involving exchanges of cash and drugs that have the potential to transmit the disease,” he said on Tuesday. “We are in the harvest months for cannabis and growers may seek to travel to crops and also sell cannabis to many customers, with potential for transmission.”

The NZ Drug Foundation has advised heavy drug users to use the lockdown period as a chance to take a break but has warned people to stay wary of the signs of withdrawal which can range from disorientation to trouble sleeping.

Dr Rychert also said “people who self-medicate with cannabis are the most vulnerable in the terms of COVID-19.”

“They are older than recreational users and often suffer from multiple health problems.”

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