Society’s view of marijuana has shifted from being a primarily “dangerous drug” to one that’s versatile and with high potential. Puns aside, the growing industry and research has dramatically altered marijuana’s reputation. While this post does not condone the use of marijuana, it emphasizes making informed choices and provides some tips for safe use.
Cannabis, another word often used interchangeably with marijuana, contains compounds you may be familiar with, CBD and THC. There are many others that go unacknowledged and undiscussed, although close variations of CBD may gain relevance. CBD is short for cannabinol and has no psychoactive properties. THC is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and is responsible for the “high” effects of cannabis consumption.
Like other plant medicines, cannabis has been used from early human history (Vickery & Finch, 2020). Prohibition forced its access and use to be reduced to the streets and stunted research progress. In recent years, cannabis has been shown to reduce seizers, and alleviate symptoms of cancer, alzheimer’s, parkinson’s, PTSD, schizophrenia, anxiety, and pain (Chou, 2022). Check that the claims of a product are backed with evidence. Unregulated material breeds claims of “cures” for ailments that may not be accurate.
CBD products sold in dispensaries are supposed to have less than .3% of THC, therefore using them should not result in a high. Unfortunately, any product that is not FDA-approved, as most CBD products are not, is difficult to determine whether it adheres to this proportion (White, 2019). Depending on what you are looking for, you may like to purposefully choose a product that has higher THC content.
I worked in a cannabis testing lab, and part of lab’s work was to test products so retailers could properly label their products and to ensure their consistency. From this experience and examining various products, here are some things to consider.
Read ingredients, ask questions, and understand what you are putting into your body. This is pretty applicable to any product, medicine, or food. While workers in dispensaries can be helpful, it’s important to me that my information about what kind of product suits my needs does not come solely from them. I’ve had friends who asked for something to help them relax without a high come home with products that have high percentages of THC. Be careful, be informed!
There are all kinds of methods for using CBD—a topical (rub), tinctures (liquid in a bottle with a squeeze plunger), edibles, etc. People attempt to make CBD drinks like infused water, soda/juice, and beer. Based on the repetitive testing of drinks at the lab I worked at, CBD in drink form is so diluted it’s barely detectable. Different companies make very different products and consistency is difficult to maintain. This is why lab-tested products (which may be indicated on the label) are slightly more comforting.
The most common mistake with edibles is consuming too much too fast. Have patience people! For edibles with THC content, it can take anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to feel the psychoactive effects. So many people get to 45 minutes (if that!) and decide it “isn’t working” so eat more. As the story goes, not long after eating more the effects kick in, and now there’s even more in your system. No need to panic, but you may be in for a more wild ride than you intended.
The onset of feeling effects of drugs depends on the method of intake. Food and drink take longer to settle in the system, while smoking or snorting is faster. Injection directly into the blood stream is instant. Certainly I’m not advising you attempt to snort or inject marijuana, but smoking it is of course a common option with its own pros and cons.
Edible dosage varies. Some products advise 1-2 gummy candies, but without knowing for sure just how much content is in a gummy, start small. It’s hard to bite a brownie and not finish it or resist more than one square of chocolate! I’ll have other chocolates or snacks around to help keep me from eating more than I need. Be prepared that not only companies vary in dosage, but even batches vary.
THC today is much more potent than it used to be. Aside from reports from people who smoked in the 1970s feeling completely blown away by recent use, global studies have shown THC contents have increased between .29% and .57% from 1970 to 2017. Know that even low contents of THC is more intense than it once was.
You may have heard of strains of cannabis, Sativa and Indica. Sativa is associated with the “energetic” highs usually better for parties/socializing. With it you’re more likely to experience increased chattiness and giggles. Indica is the “body high” that is usually sleepier and associated with relaxation. It’s more grounding and suitable for couch-dwelling. Many products mix these strains for customized experience. Again, it’s important to proceed slowly and determine how you react to each strain.
Since Indica tends to slow you down, people tend to recommend it for those looking to relax or reduce anxiety. For me, Indica has increased my anxiety during use, while Sativa doesn’t always energize me. Figure out what works for you gradually.
Creating your own experience
We acquire all sorts of expectations of what Cannabis is like because of how it’s portrayed in the media. Stay open to the way it interacts in your own body. You may not have the munchies or have something profoundly philosophical to say! For THC products especially, set and setting apply. If you experience any panic, have a plan to change your experience (soothing music, a nonviolent TV show/movie, a trusty friend to talk to, or time for a nap). In time, the effects will fade. Some of us have more difficulty transitioning to a state that is different from our day-to-day. Other people find the effects balance their state of being and are high functioning (literally!).
Informed decisions can make once “bad” decisions better decisions. If you like this page, please share it!