Was cannabis designed to get you high? Maybe not

what is medical cannabis

There’s a famous quote from cannabis activist and icon Dennis Peron stating that “all marijuana is medical.” The implication is that even cannabis at a party or park session serves a therapeutic purpose. The quote provides food for thought but may not be an objective truth. Getting lit and watching the Cheech & Chong catalog may not be the same as applying topicals for arthritis, after all.

I’m a long-time budtender turned cannabis journalist who has spent more than a decade engaging in conversations with the best and brightest in weed. Based on an amalgamation of those convos and my own research, the quote makes me ponder on what a medical dose of cannabis actually looks like.

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This makes me consider something a doctor at a cannabis science conference told me (I am so sorry that I don’t remember who you are): getting high is an overdose of the plant.

Overdose means a toxic amount of a drug or medicine. A toxic amount of magic mushrooms can make you hallucinate, so why wouldn’t too much cannabis make someone feel high?

In my opinion, there’s merit to the claim, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Much like consuming poisonous mushrooms for a trip, consuming cannabis to get stoned can have benefits.

How does cannabis interact with the body?

The endocannabinoid system is neuromodulating and has an influence on our physiological systems. It’s also how the body processes cannabis. Cannabinoid receptors are found all over, with a lot located throughout the central nervous system. They can affect anything from nausea and vomiting to fear and pleasure.

Anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine) was discovered and named by Dr. Raphael Michoulam in 1992. It is an endogenous endocannabinoid, meaning it comes from within the body. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), on the other hand, comes from outside the body, usually by way of joints, vape carts, and edibles, to name a few.

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THC and its cannabinoid entourage can bind to endocannabinoid receptors, encouraging equilibrium and balance in physiological function through the central nervous system. In other words, given a precise formula, cannabis may bring balance.

The endocannabinoid system can impact motor function and movement, things that may become impaired after getting nice and lifted. I’ve enjoyed my fair share of indulgent consumption, but I’ve also attempted to dial in my dose for social gatherings like weddings.

What is medical cannabis?

I am much more comfortable puffing too tough than eating too much weed. The consequences are much less dire. When it comes to ingesting weed, I’ve found my balance. A full-spectrum edible with 5 mg of CBD and 5 mg of THC is ideal for social situations where I don’t want to be impaired.

When I eat a 1:1 five mg edible, I don’t feel high, but I also don’t feel anxious to make small talk with people. This amount doesn’t get me lifted, but it is doing something, and isn’t that the goal with a prescription dose? On the flip side, after a long week a bigger hit will help relieve stress, which could also be considered medicinal.

Each person has a unique endocannabinoid system with personalized deficiencies or oversaturation depending on their circumstances. This, along with a lack of standardized cannabis products and reliable cannabis research, may mean there are years ahead before we understand what a medical dose of cannabis actually looks like. With the level of individualized care required to do so, maybe it isn’t possible at all.

Though many long-time activists find pharmaceutical hands in cannabis jars off-putting, a pharmaceutical approach could be instrumental in identifying cannabinoid ratios that provide balance.

I’d never tell someone not to get responsibly stoney baloney if their heart desires, just like I’m not going to be harsh about someone taking a macro dose of psilocybin and seeing their God. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in discovering the power of a microdose while you’re at it.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of GreenState.com and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.