An online campaign launched this year called Bud For Blood is partnering with the cannabis industry to raise awareness around a national blood shortage.
A blood shortage was created by the COVID-19 pandemic, per the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, in part because people were delaying medical care during the pandemic “and are now presenting with more advanced disease.”
Cannabis industry member Kristen Yoder started Bud for Blood in May and is continuing its summer campaign through Aug. 15—her birthday—when she will host a LinkedIn Live here at 2 p.m. PT. Yoder has also set up a GoFundMe page to fund administrative, legal and event costs and is extending Bud For Blood beyond the summer.
Yoder noted that cannabis use does not disqualify people from donating blood. “I think stoners would make great donors because I don't have faith in anything, but I do have faith in cannabis consumers showing up when there's a need,” she said.
After working in plant-touching segments of the cannabis industry and in an advisory capacity for 12 years, Yoder has more recently been calling herself the “Cynical Stoner,” which she’s made into an apparel company, and the “CannaBS Detector,” which is the name of her podcast. (She is still an adviser in the space, 17 years in.)
The website for Yoder’s The CannaBS Detector podcast states, “The best decisions are informed decisions, and in an industry as new and hyped up in the media as the Cannabis industry is, there are many opportunities for BS to occur, and it is occurring on a major scale.”
But Yoder said this new campaign has helped curb some of her cynicism. She’s up to 54 sponsors, including 12 media partners, on the Bud for Blood project. Forty-three people have donated blood and submitted donation information to Bud for Blood.
“Just being able to call upon people and people seeing what I see and being totally down with it and down to support me wanting to do this has been really good, super touching,” Yoder said.
In addition to feeling good about donating blood, Yoder said anyone who donates blood and is interested can take a donation selfie, fill out a donor form to receive a free, hemp-made T-shirt. People who donate, take the selfie and fill out the form for the tee should send a screenshot of their appointment information (covering everything but the location, donor name and date of appointment) and a picture of their ID or driver’s license (covering everything except their name and face). She is inviting donors participating in the Aug. 15 LinkedIn Live to wear their shirts.
Three Pillars of Bud for Blood
Yoder states that the three pillars of Bud for Blood are to support three groups: veterans, sickle cell disease patients and cancer patients.
Veterans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers announced a “blood crisis” in early
2022. The VA is encouraging people to donate blood, stating that one donation can save up to three lives.
Bud for Blood is reaching out to veterans’ organizations to get more blood donations to the VA, Yoder said. “I see it as a way of bridging the gap between the VA and medical cannabis patients that are veterans, to show that medical cannabis enables veterans to show up for their communities, not the opposite, and maybe that would help them be cooler with medical cannabis.”
Sickle Cell Disease patients. Another of the pillars is sickle cell disease, which disproportionately affects black people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Sickle cell disease … is particularly common among those whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa; Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America); Saudi Arabia; India; and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy,” according to the CDC.
The American Red Cross’ website states of Black people with sickle cell disease, in particular, that “It is essential that the blood they receive be the most compatible match possible, which generally comes from someone of the same race or similar ethnicity.
Addressing cannabis consumer demographics, Yoder said there are opportunities for Black cannabis consumers to donate blood to address sickle cell disease. “We are literally the ideal donor pool, being younger, more health-conscious, more diverse.”
Cancer patients. According to the American Cancer Society’s website, “Whole blood is usually separated into red blood cells, platelets, and plasma.”
"Plasma is commonly given to patients who are bleeding because their blood is not clotting the way it should, according to cancer.org. “Cancer patients might also be given fresh frozen plasma if they have a problem called DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation)."
Addressing platelets, the site states, “Cancer patients may need platelet transfusions if their bone marrow is not making enough. This happens when platelet-producing bone marrow cells are damaged by chemo or radiation therapy or when they are crowded out of the bone marrow by cancer cells.”
Yoder points out that platelets have a five-day shelf life.
“I think a lot of people that get cancer diagnoses, if they’re not using cannabis before, that’s usually when they get introduced to cannabis,” Yoder said. “But how cool would it be if cannabis consumers started donating platelets and plasma to also help cancer patients …?”
Notes From a Friend and Sponsor
Eric Nomura is a friend of Yoder’s and a partner at West Los Angeles-based cannabis delivery service Push, which serves West L.A. neighborhoods as well as the nearby cities of Beverly Hills and Malibu. The company is a T-shirt sponsor of the Bud for Blood campaign.
Nomura said he met Yoder in 2015 when she ordered cannabis from the former iteration of Push that began operations in 2012.
“She’s just an incredible … person and has amazing experience and history in the [cannabis] business, so it’s just fun to talk to her,” Nomura said. “So, we became pretty quick friends.”
This is the latest philanthropic effort by Push. The company, which Nomura said rebranded in late 2019 and carries about 30 to 40 cannabis brands, donated to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Heal the Bay in late 2021 and early 2022. The food bank estimated that Push fed 10,000 homeless people through its donations.
Regarding sponsoring Yoder’s Bud for Blood campaign, Nomura said, “I'm happy that she's brought this opportunity to my table and enabled me to do the things that we want to do. I wish there were more people out there … talking about more positive, philanthropic kind of ideas.”