I’d say that the push for cannabis normalization over the past few years has been successful.
The overall message being shared from Instagram to Good Morning America has been, “Look. I’m functional. I’m happy. I’m a productive soccer mom/CEO/grandma. I smoke weed. I don’t look or act like a couchlocked zombie stoner.”
In a nutshell: you can get high AND be a normal person.
That message has been very helpful in moving the conversation around cannabis forward.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. In the era of Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar, and Pineapple Express, marijuana needs a lot of good PR right now.
But what cannabis really needs right now is a lot more education.
While people are coming around to the idea that cannabis isn’t just “bad mm’kay”, many people see CBD as a snake oil marketing ploy and consider THC use for medical and wellness use just an excuse to get high.
On that note, most people still don’t know that you can use cannabis (even THC) effectively without getting “high” and even more don’t know why you would want to or how to do it.
Health without the High: Using Cannabis without getting Intoxicated
I get emails and messages from people all the time who have had a bad experience with high THC cannabis or who are just dipping a toe in and want to know how to use this plant to feel better without getting stoned, ripped, baked, blazed, or ganjafaced (which is the best new word I learned while looking up synonyms for stoned).
In all my time as a cannabis coach, not a single person worked with me because they wanted to get high. In fact, most of my clients were trying hard to avoid intoxication while experiencing the other benefits of cannabis.
Over the years I’ve worked with many moms and professionals who were interested in using cannabis consciously and effectively and wanted the relief without any of the Dude. I lost my car. kind of experiences.
So before we dive into how you can get the benefits of using this powerful plant without getting stoned, I’m going to say this even though it may seem like a plug, because I genuinely believe it.
If you’re new to cannabis or are looking to use cannabis to improve your health in some way, working with a certified cannabis coach is the easiest and most effective way to get all of this dialed in and to get the support and accountability you need when trying to get healthier.
Skilled cannabis coaches (like the ones I help train at the Cannabis Coaching Institute) know that there’s more to health than just cannabis. Our coaches are trained in the most effective holistic health practices, transformational coaching skills, and client-specific cannabis information.
Working with a skilled cannabis wellness coach can help you transform your health in a way that’s sustainable and won’t leave you overloaded with information that doesn’t directly impact you.
There is SO much information about this plant (and so much misinformation), it can take years to sort through it for insights that will help you on your health journey. A trained and certified cannabis coach can help you sift through what’s relevant to you and what’s not.
And if you’re interested in geeking out more to help yourself, your friends and family or to become a cannabis coach/educator in your community, you can check out the Cannabis Coaching Institute to get more info on our next class and live events to go deeper.
Email email@example.com if you’re looking for a coach or have questions about becoming one.
That all being said, I’d like to take today’s post to clear up some misinformation about cannabis and give you a simple guide to understanding ways to use cannabis that won’t cause intoxication, disorientation or intense psychoactivity.
Benefits of avoiding the “high”
Before we begin, I’d like you to meet THC. Who am I kidding? Everyone knows THC. ?
THC was the most popular cannabinoid until a few years back when CBD took to the scene.
It’s the fuel for the stoner stereotype and is the main reason people experience things like: the munchies, couchlock, disorientation, paranoia, anxiety, motor impairment and short term memory loss.
THC causes that feeling of being high because of how the molecule interacts with your endocannabinoid system (more on that some other time).
Some people poo-poo THC in the health, wellness, and consciousness worlds because of its power to intoxicate, but I believe that THC has its place in a healing journey for many people.
Studies (and experiences) have shown that it can offer anti-inflammatory, nausea blasting, pain-relieving, antioxidant, muscle relaxing, appetite increasing effects.
However, the increase in THC from an average of 4% in 1995 to an average of 12% in 2014 has made cannabis more psychoactive over the years.
So, your parents aren’t lightweights after all. They were absolutely right when they told you that pot was very different back in their day.
It’s not uncommon to see 20-30% THC flower and 80-90% THC concentrates on dispensary shelves today.
This increase in THC over the years reflects the desires of black market consumers, breeders, and growers.
Throughout prohibition, many people have used the plant specifically for its intoxicating, mood-lifting effects or to decrease their pain levels. Because we didn’t have much access to research people assumed that more THC was better.
I mean, if something works, use more of it right?
Like many other compounds, THC is biphasic in nature. That means that a compound that is effective when taken in smaller amounts can have the opposite effect when taken at larger amounts.
You may have experienced this before in real life. You take a bit of an edible and it helps with your chronic pain, so next time you take more and feel like the pain is amplified. You take a toke and it relieves your anxiety and next time you smoke more, get totally paranoid and wig out for a bit.
Practically, this means that the old adage “start low and go slow” isn’t just about not getting too high and avoiding a bad experience. It’s also the approach to use when trying to use cannabis in a way that can help you reach your health goals.
As an advocate of microdosing, my new adage is “start low and stay low”.
Microdosing is the practice of consuming tiny amounts of a substance that becomes psychedelic or intoxicating in larger doses. The whole point of microdosing is to access the benefits of sustainable incremental changes to your brain and body chemistry without the side effects that can occur with larger doses of THC.
In my experience, microdosing with THC has helped me see a decrease in munchies and lethargy, and reduced levels of anxiety and disorientation. I get messages from so many people who have experienced the same.
Even though I prefer to consume tiny amounts of THC, I wouldn’t swear off the compound altogether.
And here’s why…
The Entourage Effect + Balancing Cannabinoid Ratios
I heard one of my favorite cannabis herbalists Stephanie Boucher of Cannabotanicals talk about the entourage effect the other day in a way that was spot on.
“When we bring more people to the party, it becomes way more interesting and way more active and way more powerful. We can amplify whatever effect we’re actually going for.”
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The entourage effect is a way of explaining how cannabinoids and compounds in cannabis work together synergistically. THC works better with CBD and vise versa.
Terpenes and flavinoids are hugely influential in the effects you get from certain varieties of cannabis.
Adding CBD to your normal high THC routine can make short term memory loss, anxiety or paranoia a thing of the past.
A study also showed how medicines that combined both CBD and THC reduced more pain for cancer patients than THC oil alone.
While I’m always excited when new studies come out showing how these compounds all work together, I share Stephanie’s outlook.
Of course, these compounds all work together.
We can’t keep doing what we do to everything and try to strip it down to what’s “effective” and leave out the rest. Taking vitamin C isn’t as effective as eating an orange (or some red bell peppers) because of the synergistic relationship of the compounds found in food.
Balancing ratios of CBD and THC and adding some CBG into the mix has been so much more effective on my cannabis journey than just using THC alone. Now that we have widespread access to CBD and CBG, it’s easy to incorporate them into your edibles, smoke blends, tinctures, etc.
The best ratios for CBD:THC that isn’t intoxicating are 10:1 or above (that’s a ratio of 10mgs to CBD to 1 mg THC). On the shelf, always look for the terms full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or the whole plant.
Steer clear of isolates. They’re shown to be much less effective than their whole plant counterparts.
Skipping the Decarb: Raw Cannabinoids
This guide wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about the acidic cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant. When you get a bag of marijuana from the dispensary, the lab test results will typically show a tiny amount of THC and a much higher percentage of THCa.
THCa is the raw (or acidic) cannabinoid, a precursor to THC. When heated, THCa turns into THC.
THCa is not intoxicating. THC does what THC is famous for (see: microdosing).
You can do this by smoking, vaping or decarboxylating your plant materials before making infusions and tinctures. I talk about decarboxylation on Wake + Bake quite a bit. If you’d like to know more, you can read more about it here: What is decarboxylation?
In a nutshell: It’s the process of turning the acidic cannabinoids THCa and CBDa into the alkaline (sometimes called “active” or “effective”) cannabinoids THC and CBD. This process works with other cannabinoids as well and all cannabinoids have a different temperature where decarboxylation occurs.
Decarbing your cannabis plant material is a step I always considered essential when making edibles. Decarboxylating at home before making infusions can save you a lot of money when compared to dispensary edibles, so I used to go for the 97%+ decarboxylation with the Nova Decarboxylator when making my formulations.
I still do this if I’m making edibles or infused cocktails for a gathering or for adult use, but when I make my homespun formulas for everyday use, I’m currently using my Levo 2 to partially decarboxylate a blend of THC, CBD and CBG flower and then infuse my oil. I’m still in the process of experimenting with this, so sign up for the Wake + Bake newsletter or join the free Online Community and I’ll let you know how those blends turn out.
THCa and CBDa tinctures are a simple way to incorporate the acidic compounds into your routine. Simply use the long steep method, but infuse the alcohol with non-decarboxylated cannabis. Blends that include other herbs or combining with THC/CBD tinctures can dial in the effects even more.
Health without the High
If you or someone you know is just starting their journey with cannabis, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed with all of this information. It can be a lot.
If you have questions, shout out in the comments below or join the Wake + Bake online community to get support from like-minded folks on the same journey. It’s one of my favorite places on the internet and I’d love to see you there!
If you’re looking for a cannabis coach or want to become a coach, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you more info.