One of the most selfless things an adult can do is donate blood. Blood supplies during the pandemic have hit 10-year lows , and the Red Cross urgently needs donors.
There are several “types” of donations you can make: whole blood, platelets, red cells, and blood plasma. The blood drives held in your community or at your workplace typically collect whole blood.
Some people prefer to donate plasma, though, because many commercial centers pay cash for blood plasma.
Some potential donors aren’t accepted. Transplant patients, those with blood cancers, AIDS, or some other serious medical issues aren’t allowed to donate. People with supposedly “risky” lifestyles will be screened before they are allowed to give blood.
But can you donate blood or plasma if you smoke weed?
We have good news to report.
What Is Blood Plasma, And Why Do They Pay For It?
Not all blood donations are the same.
Types of Donations
When a nurse or medical professional puts a needle into your arm to collect blood, they’re taking “whole blood.” It’s the blood that flows through your body, and it’s the same stuff that seeps out when you accidentally cut your finger or scrape your knee.
Whole blood contains white cells, red cells, and blood platelets, all suspended in blood plasma. It’s the blood that most surgical and trauma patients receive during transfusions.
Slightly longer collection procedures are used to harvest red cells or blood platelets. Red cells are crucial for some types of transfusion patients. Platelets are used to stop bleeding in patients with life-threatening conditions. In both cases, the desired components are separated from donors’ whole blood, and the rest of the blood is pumped back into their bodies.
Then there’s blood plasma, the “liquid” part of blood. It contains various antibodies, immunoglobulins, and other compounds that are extremely effective in treating medical emergencies like burns and some types of trauma, plus liver disease, clotting difficulties, and hemophilia. Plasma is also given to some cancer patients.
Commercial blood operations that pay for plasma often sell it to manufacturers who use it to produce “derivatives” sold to medical facilities around the world.
Unpaid vs. Paid Blood Donations
The Red Cross and most commercial donor centers don’t pay for whole blood, red cell, or platelet donations, despite the nationwide blood shortage. There’s a practical reason for that.
Pre-donation medical screenings are done by interview, so the collecting agency has to rely on potential donors to be truthful. The Red Cross and other blood centers fear that donors would lie about their health status or lifestyle just to collect money for their donation. That could make the nation’s blood supply less safe.
The Red Cross doesn’t pay for plasma, either — but many commercial centers do.
What makes blood plasma different? There are three reasons:
- It takes longer to donate plasma than it does to donate whole blood.
- Centers prefer to collect plasma from people with AB+ and AB- blood  because it’s “universal plasma” that can be given to patients with any blood type. And only 5% of the population has AB+ or AB- blood, making universal plasma extremely difficult to obtain.
- Blood derivative manufacturers are willing to pay high prices for AB+ and AB- plasma.
Plasma donation is a way for people to make quick money. The Red Cross allows you to donate 13 times per year, but many commercial blood collection centers will allow you to donate plasma several times per week — and they will pay you $30-$75 each time. Some centers pay even more.
However, the screening process for prospective plasma donors can be more rigorous than it is for whole blood donations.
Who Can Donate Blood Plasma?
The criteria for plasma donations can vary between collection centers, but most follow the same general rule:
- You must be at least 18 (16 in some states) and in good health.
- You must weigh at least 110 pounds.
- You cannot have (or have ever had) blood cancer, HIV, Ebola, or hepatitis.
- You can’t be sick, taking antibiotics, or under care for tuberculosis at the time of donation.
- You cannot have recently traveled to areas where Zika or malaria are prevalent.
- Male donors cannot have had sex with other males during the previous three months.
- Females cannot donate while pregnant or within six months of giving birth.
- You can’t have received an organ transplant, and you have to wait for three months after receiving a blood transfusion or having had an STD.
- Taking certain medications makes you ineligible to donate blood plasma.
OK, but what about drug use?
Believe it or not, the Red Cross doesn’t automatically disqualify potential donors who use drugs, even IV drug users. Their guidelines simply say that those who have injected a non-prescribed drug must wait at least three months before donating. Some commercial companies reject street drug users, but most don’t.
That would sound like good news for weed users — and it is.
Directly from the Red Cross:
“The use of cannabis does not disqualify an individual from blood donation, but potential donors cannot give if their use of cannabis impairs their memory or comprehension.”
Here’s what that means in plain language: they don’t care if you smoke. Just don’t show up when you’re stoned, or you’ll be turned away.
The organization goes on to say that they don’t test blood for THC, don’t disqualify heavy smokers, and don’t have separate rules for those who dab concentrated THC products. The rules also don’t distinguish between donors who want to give whole blood and those who want to donate plasma.
There’s a caveat, though. The Red Cross says most decisions on whether someone will be allowed to donate are made at the local level. In other words, the person who screens you will decide whether you’re impaired or not.
Commercial blood centers have their own rules. There’s no guarantee that they’ll accept donations from IV or street drug users, for example. However, the truth is that most private blood centers are less concerned than the Red Cross about donors’ drug use, and they’re extremely unlikely to care whether you enjoy the green.
So if you want to donate plasma, don’t worry if you smoke weed. We don’t take a position on whether selling your blood plasma for cash is the right thing to do — but it certainly can help pay for your next eighth or quarter.
Can You Donate Plasma If You Smoke Weed: FAQ
Q: Does it make a difference if you smoke synthetic weed instead of the natural stuff?
A: It might. The Red Cross says it has no official policy on donations from people who use K2 or Spice, and that it’s up to local collection centers to decide whether to accept users’ blood. In reality, there’s a good chance you’ll be turned away from Red Cross centers. Commercial centers may be more lenient.
Q: Can you donate plasma if you’ve had Covid?
A: Absolutely; that’s where the “convalescent” plasma used to treat other Covid patients comes from. Some commercial centers even pay a premium for blood plasma from those who have recovered from Covid.
Q: If I sell blood plasma to a commercial blood center, do I have to pay taxes on the money I earn?
A: Sorry, those payments for blood are considered income and are taxable as “gig work.”