The Beautiful Molecular Relationship Between Cannabis and Caffeine

Few mind-altering substances pair together as harmoniously as coffee and weed.

Whether you’re brewing one of the few THC-infused coffee brands actually available on the market or lighting up a joint with your afternoon espresso, nothing hits quite like a coffee buzz punctuated with a cannabis high. It’s known colloquially as a “Seattle Speedball” in some parts of the country (I’ll let you guess where).

There’s science here: Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that blocks the neurotransmitters in your brain from making you feel sleepy. That caffeine high is the work of chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that elevate your blood pressure and boost your energy supplies, causing feelings of power and euphoria. Weed, as it turns out, works similarly.

“Cannabis, like caffeine, enters your system through the blood/brain barrier,” explains Michelle Mendoza, Head Buyer at the Los Angeles dispensary Sweet Flower. “It binds to receptors in the endocannabinoid system where it produces responses based on the characteristics of the cultivar (strain) of cannabis consumed. For those cultivars that contain more ‘sativa-like’ properties – terpenes and minor cannabinoids – the effect would fall more inline with a stimulant and produce the same racing heart and heightened euphoric, alertness of coffee while a more ‘indica-like’ cultivar would produce a heavier body high and sedation.”

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Mendoza is a huge advocate of weed, coffee, and pairing weed with coffee, pointing to the cultural and ritual similarities imbued in both cultures.

“I love the idea of coffee and cannabis together as a ritual practice,” she says. “I think for many the act of making coffee or rolling a joint can deeply meditative moments that give way to a larger practice of self care and wellness.”

Wellness is an interesting word to use when referring to cannabis – or coffee, for that matter. For my particular brain, ritual is my wellness. My favorite method of making coffee is pour over. I relish taking out my kitchen scale, scooping out 29 grams – give or take – of rich medium-coarse coffee, pouring in the water, and letting the smell wash over me as the coffee blooms. Similarly, prepping a joint involves a similar process: grinding, measuring, smelling – on come mornings you can watch the smoke and steam dance together in the air.

This interesting combination of caffeine and cannabinoids isn’t necessarily limited to THC. Meet Jim Higdon, a former journalist who ditched writing to start a CBD company with his brother. Despite his strong distaste for the initial CBD-infused-everything phase from a few years back, Higdon’s come to appreciate the combination of caffeine and CBD.

“I take my coffee with half and half, no sugar, and one of my full-spectrum gummies,” he says. “The effects I have on me personally are amazing – I feel stimulated and energized by the coffee and the CBD stops me from feeling jittery.”

This is all a work in progress. Finding the right strain, sourcing the right coffee, experimenting on how to best combine the two, etc. Mendoza told me her favorite combo is an Americano with a hint of cream and an evenly balanced strain of weed for an even head and body buzz.

For me, I’ll continue on with my afternoon ritual of sipping an iced Cafe Bustelo oat milk latte followed by a puff of terpene-rich Papaya Punch. It is *chef’s kiss* divine. But no matter how you enjoy weed and coffee, I urge you to indulge in the process and enjoy the one of the nicest (now somewhat legal) buzzes you can get.

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