So, You Wanna Grow Weed at Home?

When I started growing weed five or six years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. My first plant was a shrub, about a foot tall with a washy high. Before my second attempt, I picked up some tips, acquiring better seeds and adding compost to the soil. Soon, I learned you can’t grow good weed without developing a deep connection to all things green.

By the time I planted a third season of weed, my small patio was a jungle of plants, a lively mix of jasmine, roses, cacti, mini-palm trees, ferns, tomatoes and many more. I loved taking care of them, spending time with them, learning plant rhythms and what made them happy or sad. Soon I noticed when they were happy and healthy, so was I. The same is true of growing weed.

By which I mean, it’s possible to develop a relationship with a plant. I have an ex, also a grower, who used to talk to his plants, sit with them for hours, have long conversations. I thought he was nuts still I started copying him, sneaking out to my patio late at night to sit alone with my four tall plants. Up close and personal, you realise each plant has its own personality and preferences, and how you care for it absolutely affects the high.

That third year, a new neighbour compromised the life of my glorious plants by threatening to call the police. Rather than deal with unnecessary grief, I moved the plants, two to a friend’s garden, and my ex took the other two. His two did not survive. My friend cut the buds off the two I left in her garden before they reached full bloom. All in all, it was a fucking disaster. Such are the joys of growing weed at home.

CAN YOU GROW WEED AT HOME?

Different countries have different rules for homegrow. I have a friend in Ireland and local police raid his house a few times a year because they found plants in his home in the past. Sadly, most countries follow Ireland’s zero-tolerance model but that’s changing. Here’s a list of countries that allow homegrow:

SPAIN

In Spain, homegrow is allowed as long as the plants are hidden from public view and there’s no more than four to six, depending on the size. There are lots of grow shops dotted around the country where you can get the necessary materials, including clay and fertilisers.

HOLLAND

Technically, it’s illegal to homegrow in Holland but growing five plants or less in a private space is decriminalised. Much like Spain, as long as the homegrow is for personal use and hidden from public view, local police will turn a blind eye. However, grow more than five plants and risk confiscation of plants or criminal charges.

SOUTH AFRICA

In September 2018, the law changed in South Africa, permitting the possession, consumption and cultivation of cannabis for personal use. Again, there’s a limit on how many plants you can grow, err on the side of caution, grow six or less.

URUGUAY

Uruguay was the first country in the world to federally legalise cannabis, under the leadership of President Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica, a man who is basically a legend in the world of cannabis. Remember his 2014 interview on VICE, The Cannabis Republic of Uruguay, a classic! Uruguayans who want to grow have to register with local authorities.

UNITED STATES

As we all know, federal law does not permit homegrow in America but a number of States do allow limited grow for medical and personal use. Those States include Alaska, California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon, Maine, Michigan and South Dakota. For a full list of which States allow what, click here.

LUXEMBOURG

Luxembourg is one of the first countries in Europe to allow homegrow of cannabis, but again, there are limits. No more than four plants and can only be grown on private property, out of public view.

MALTA

Ah, Malta, I love you. Thanks to the country’s forward-thinking Equality Minister, Owen Bonnici, it’s now legal to grow and consume cannabis for personal use in Malta. Bonnici’s aim is to keep users out of the criminal system. It’s allowed to carry up to 7grams and grow up to four plants at home. Other EU countries, including Germany, France, Italy and the UK, are now looking to follow Malta’s lead.

THAILAND

Thailand, a nation with a decades-long history of growing covert cannabis, is the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise cannabis. They legalised cannabis for medical use in 2018, and for personal use in 2022. Under the new rules, you can grow at home as long you notify local authorities first. If you plan to grow for commercial purposes, a license is required.

CANADA

In October 2018, Canada was the second country in the world to legalise cannabis with the passing of The Cannabis Act. The Act permits households to grow up to four plants, however some provinces, namely Quebec and Manitoba, dipped out, causing ongoing grief for users. It’s like the restrictions put in place by these provinces will be overturned in the future.

MEXICO

In 2021, Mexico legalised cannabis for personal use. Anyone who wants to grow at home has to apply for a permit from local authorities. An individual is allowed to grow up to six plants, with eight allowed per household.

HOW TO GROW WEED AT HOME

No matter where you are in the world, the most important thing for growing weed at home is a private space, ideally a secluded garden with lots of sunshine. To get that connection to nature, outdoors is best, imo, but not always possible.

On top, the quality of seeds matters. Personally, I’m a fan of Dutch company Sensi Seeds, but there are lots of seed companies out there, and is likely best to pick one near to you. Feminized seeds need more care and take longer to grow, about six months. An auto will grow to full size in three months.

Every part of the grow process demands attention to detail. This pays off in the end because it’s how you learn the rhythm of your plants and get the best high. Growing your plant includes four stages: Germination of seeds (3 – 10 days), Seedling (2 – 3 weeks), Vegetative (3 – 16 weeks), Flowering (8 – 11 weeks).

When it comes to harvesting your plants, expert grower Russ Hudson advises harvesting in the morning before the sun comes up or lights come on in order to preserve the plant’s terpenes. When curing your plants, hang them in a dark room with zero humidity and lots of air.

HOW TO GROW WEED INDOORS AT HOME

For expert tips on growing indoors at home, here’s some advice from Sandy Serna of High Roller Horticultural Services. Over to you, Sandy: “Becoming a home grower is a learning process. Don’t worry about the mistakes, these details you will improve upon on the next run. Just the freedom of growing allows you to be able to cultivate a strain that works for you.

You will spend the most money with the initial set up. Though it might be pricey, some people really need to be honest on how much they are spending on their medicine.  A home grow when done correctly should be paying for itself within a year.

Building a contained area can save you money if you are handy. One can be pieced together with items on hand, a trip to the hardware store and an amazon order. If you are looking for a complete grow tent a small 2X2X4 kit it will cost you $150. A larger version 4×4 tent will set you back around $550+.

Inside the tent, it’s all about keeping the environment contained and stable. It all comes down to temperature and humidity. Keeping the environment in balance will keep mould, diseases and insects at bay. One of the most important investments for your grow will be your lighting.

Lights that come with grow tent kits might not be the best quality and might go out on you when you most need it. Look for quality lights with more than 1-year warranty. Save your lesser quality lights for back up. Grow lights generate heat and can crisp the top of the plants, which stresses the plant. Always keep plants at least 12 inches away from the light.

A fan helps with stagnant air and allows for natural drying out of the pots. This light air movement supports the plant in gaining vigour. Remember temperatures fluctuate when lights are on or off.  A fan helps with cooling the air when the light is on. “Mom’s” & “Vegetative Stage” plants can have the same light schedule, therefore be in the same tent.

Many new growers overlook introducing CO2 into their grow tent or many just don’t want to deal with tanks. CO2 is shown to create greener stronger plants, higher yielding in less amount of time.  A “mushroom bag” is a natural way of increasing CO2 levels to your tent.

This “mushroom bag” hangs in your tent naturally releasing CO2. Note, some bags needing replacing once a year. Media-Soil is great media for home growers to start with. Soil acts as a buffer so if your ratio of nutrients is off by a bit, the plant won’t be affected as much.

If you feed once a day or more than once a day, you do want to look out for run-off coming out underneath the pot. Not having run-off could cause the nutrient salts to accumulate allowing for the electrical conductivity to rise. That could lead to a nutrient lock out in the plant. Which could be remedied by flushing it with pH 5.8 water. Though it might take some time for the plant to recover. The goal is keeping your plants happy and stress free.

Some growers seasonally place their grow tent in the basement in the summer, and in the attic in the winter. Also make sure you have a carbon filter to keep the odours down. Not to deter security it’s more to repel people, you don’t want to bring any unnecessary attention to your new hobby.”

HAPPY GROWING!!

If you’ve a grower with tips that you’d like to share or are interested in setting up a small grow at home and need tips, get in touch today, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

How Can We Battle the Stigma of Cannabis?

Poetry and Music and Cannabis, Oh My!

How can we battle the stigma of cannabis? This is a question I think about often. I remember being a teenager and reading a book called H by Christiane F. about her life as a heroin user. In my 30 years of cannabis use, I’ve never once tried H, never even been tempted, mostly because Christiane’s story was so powerful it put the fear of God in me.

In the 1936 film Reefer Madness, the story told about cannabis (or marijuana as it was called then) was so terrifying it put the fear of God into the masses. That was the goal of the film’s creators and they were successful. So successful, the belief that marijuana turns users into crazed freaks hell-bent on violence persists to this day. How can we overturn this misinformation?

I believe the only way to tackle the stigma of cannabis is with another narrative, one that contemporary users of cannabis can relate to and identify with. Since I started writing for the cannabis industry six years ago, I’ve been exploring ways I can tell a new story about cannabis use, one that ties into my experience and the experiences of millions of stoners.

That’s why today I’m working on a collection of poetry, called Infinite Jade that charts the experience of a cannabis user from isolation and addiction to conscious consumption and community. The poems are in part inspired by the 1857 book by Fitz Hugh Ludlow called The Hasheesh-Eater. Ludlow called his experiment with hasheesh the “infinite journey.”

Ludlow painted such a vivid picture of the way cannabis affected his sensory perceptions he ignited an interest in hasheesh in literary circles, making hash the drug of choice for artists and boho types in the nineteenth century.

By the end of that century, hash oil was widely used for both recreational and medicinal purposes, and most homes had a bottle of Tilden’s Extract in their bathroom cabinets. As we know, all that changed in the 1930s and 40s. Now, it’s on us to roll back the misinformation of 100 years of prohibition.

My project Infinite Jade contributes to the goal. These poems are written and performed by me, and put to music by a friend of mine, a super-talented music producer, DJ Julia Tamzyn. The goal is to create a hour-long audio that can be shared online and performed a cannabis-friendly venues all over Europe. I’m also in talks to turn this story into an animated psychedelic film.

To give you a flavour of this project, two of the poems are now available to hear. Before listening, do two things, put on headphones and spark up. Then close your eyes and prepare to be transported. This is an aural cannabis experience like no other. Enjoy!

DEEP DIVER – Poetry and Music
The Stoner’s Ball – Poetry and Music

This is a completely unique cannabis project, offering the chance for the right brands to connect with a cannabis audience. If you’re interested in hearing more about the project or getting involved, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

Is Cannabis an Issue or an Identity?

I think back to my drinking days and what I remember most is the anxiety of an impending social event. Back then I didn’t have the gumption to say, no I won’t have another shot, instead agreeing to every suggestion and always being the last to leave a party.

And in the days leading up to the event, I’d think about all the things I wouldn’t get done that week, fretting over how many days I’d lose to my recovery. To cope with this anxiety, invariably I drank more. Your typical vicious circle, and at the time, two underlying problems compounded the situation.

One, my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) meant alcohol was poisoning my body, making my hangovers demonic. Two, I was using alcohol to pretend to be someone social. I also drank to forget about the projects I hadn’t finished. And I could add the guilt of that to my hangovers to ensure maximum misery. What a hot mess.

Quitting alcohol is one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done. If I known how drastically my life would change, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t have done it. But I didn’t do it alone, I had help. I used cannabis to ease me into sobriety. Let me rephrase that: I wouldn’t have achieved sobriety without cannabis. It helped me move from a chaotic to a controlled environment.

CANNABIS AS ISSUE

Before quitting alcohol, I was not a daily user of cannabis, and the idea would have been alarming. For many years, I was a recreational user. Friday was usually the day I went in search of a hook-up, an event I’d look forward to all week. And yes, there were times I’d score on a Wednesday or a Monday, but it wasn’t a regular thing. Not till I started working in the industry.

Suddenly I was exposed to the benefits of the plant and the millions of people who consumed on a daily basis. I could say my old people pleaser habit kicked in, or I caved to peer pressure and started consuming daily as a way to join in. I could say that but it wouldn’t be true. Yes, I was literally high on the chance to come clean on the habit I’d hidden for years, and cherished the endorsement that it was okay to use cannabis more. But it’s still not quite the truth.

For me, being vulnerable is a struggle. I will lie through my teeth before letting anyone know something is wrong. Not that I can’t play a good victim role. I’ll latch onto some minor issue and pretend it’s the problem, blowing it out of proportion to any sod unfortunate enough to listen. In many ways this habit is linked to my cannabis use.

First of all, I grew up in a house where being vulnerable courted punishment so it’s not in my nature “to share.” Second, I sort out most of my problems in my head while smoking a jay. I prefer it that way. It means I don’t have to expose myself, don’t have to trust someone enough to confide in them. However, cannabis doesn’t resolve problems it highlights them. And in the wrong mindset, this can quickly become an issue. The line is fragile.

CANNABIS AS IDENTITY

In learning to hide my cannabis use, I learnt to hide myself. Actually, I was prepared for the role thanks to early life experiences, and wonder how many other stoners would say that’s true for them too? For how many of us did some experience trigger our attraction to cannabis? Is there a particular quirk in that attraction that’s unique to us?

It’s said authors can trace their creative urges to a bad relationship with their mother. Is the same true of cannabis users? These are the kind of studies I’d like to see carried out on cannabis users. Let’s get under the hood of our psychology? There are some interesting studies beginning to emerge, such as this one, reported on by Iris Dorbian in Forbes, which shows the majority of users are parents with young kids.

Studies such as this one show that the old tropes are irrelevant, and the idea that the average stoner is a young dude in a black hoodie is flying out the window. Not that those dudes don’t exist, they do, I’ve seen them at my dealer’s house, but the audience is much more varied, and skews older. The real audience for cannabis has yet to be recognized. But it’s beginning to break through.

For years I’ve been frustrated by the emerging cannabis industry, and annoyed that the community I felt most drawn to had zero understanding of my reality. That lack of connection is the hollow bone that haunts all my dealings in the industry. There are days I want to post rants in all caps exposing the latest insanity. But I don’t, I’m a professional, I keep it cool. Quiet. Hidden. It’s my way.

CANNABIS UNLEASHED

Cannabis is so new, so volatile, there’s so much to say. But how best to say it? Is anyone listening? Will it make a difference? Why am I doing this? I pour this conflict into my writing projects, and am grateful for having a story. Because without conflict, there is no story, another reason that makes the world of cannabis so fascinating. It’s all conflict! On every level. No escaping it.

This is what birth looks like, a struggle. The building and shaping of a new industry is human nature at its finest. This is how we’ve survived millennia. And yet, I grow wary and weary. I’ve never had so many prospects string me along for so long only to ghost me. Never seen the work of so many colleagues stolen, only to be replicated in haphazard ways. Never had so many people ask me to work free. Never seen so many companies so hell-bent on pushing their agenda before understanding market demand.

Besides the obvious legal hurdles, a big problem is the persistence of the Reefer Madness narrative. Researchers are so hung up on proving cannabis causes psychosis or damages teen brains, they’re blind to other questions and trends amongst users. As a result, nuanced perspectives of cannabis use are drowned out, cutting the real stories from the conversation. The result is we no longer know what cannabis is.

What we have in the cannabis space is a budding industry attempting to capitalise on issues surrounding mental health. Nobody says it like that of course. Can’t. Law and stigma won’t allow it. Not that it matters. The stories around cannabis and mental health have to come from personal experience, have to come from users. When we learn how to tell those stories and the places to share them grow bigger, that’s when the conversation begins.

If you’re a stoner with a story to tell, or an interest in writing and an urge to hone your craft, check out my new creative writing workshop for stoners! Get high and find your writing voice. Click here for more details or shoot me a mail to thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

Get High and Find Your Writing Voice

Creative Writing Classes for Stoners

Are you a stoner who loves to read and write and is eager to improve their craft with a class that teaches the tenets of storytelling? If so, this workshop is for you!

There’s nothing like cannabis to spark the creative muse, meaning us stoners have vivid imaginations and big stories to tell. And they need telling.

We’re living in a moment of seismic shifts in the world of cannabis, heck, we only started calling it cannabis a few years ago! Up until then it was weed, skunk, smoke, puff, solid, squidge, pollen, chocolate, or a million other words we used to communicate inside our sub-cultures.

These sub-cultures are unexplored territory in the current cannabis narrative. Instead what we have is misinformation from bygone prohibition days and publicity driven by profit.

If you’ve got a cannabis story you’re itching to unpick and transform into a publishable format, be it a short story, memoir, essay, or opinion piece, this workshop will take you through the mechanics of storytelling in a way that brings your writing to life on the page.

Writing is a craft, and there are tricks and tools that sharpen both your ideas and your sentences, enabling you to communicate on a level that reveals who you are and why your story matters.

If you want your story to matter, this workshop is for you.

If you want honest feedback on your work, this workshop is for you.

If you want to take your writing to the next level, this workshop is for you.

If you want more info, email now: thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

WORKSHOP BENEFITS

Explore cannabis as your muse

Understand the tenets of storytelling

Get a list of recommended reading

Find your writing voice

Find topics to write about

Find time to practice your craft

Get lots of tips that hone your craft

WORKSHOP FORMAT

8-Week Course

2 Hour class each week in private room on Hi-Curious platform

Daily prompts and weekly homework

Collaboration and revision

Small class size

Personal attention

Bonus one-on-one time to take your work to the next level

WORKSHOP CONTENT

Each week will include set reading material and homework. The more you participate in these tasks, the more you’ll get out of the workshop.

Interwoven into all classes is the ways we can use cannabis to spur the creative process and get words on the page. I’ll be giving you editorial tips too.

Once you sign up for the class you’ll receive a more detailed workshop outline. Once payment is received, you’ll get class materials and introductory tasks. To sign up, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

The 8 weeks break down as follows:

WEEK 1: VOICE

What is voice? Explore examples of narrative voice and learn how to harness your emotions to find your voice.

WEEK 2: HOOOK

What is a hook? Starting a story can be the most challenging part. Learn the hook formula to understand how best to start a story.

WEEK 3: PLOT

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order. Learn the function of plot and how to break the rules.

WEEK 4: POV

Who tells your story? That’s the function of POV or point of view. Different POV’s tell different stories. Learn which one works for you.

WEEK 5: CHARACTER

Put two people in a room together and something will happen. What that thing is depends on their character. Learn how character shapes and expands your story.

WEEK 6: DIALOGUE

Most people think the function of dialogue is speech. It’s not. Learn the real function of dialogue and how to use it to sharpen your prose.

WEEK 7: FORM

What is the best form for your story and style of writing? Explore different forms and change your perception of your writing.

WEEK 8: PITCH

How to pitch literary and mainstream titles, learn the difference in pitching styles and which markets are right for your work.

WEEK 9: BONUS HOUR

During this one-on-one time, I’ll go through your work clarifying the markets right for your work, revising your pitch and encouraging you to pitch your work.

WHAT YOU GET

Reading material and weekly lessons that you can do on your own time

Personal feedback and discussion via email and online class

Weekly opportunity to submit your work and get tips on how it can be improved

An understanding of the market and how your work fits into it

To get more info on workshop format and course content, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

WHO AM I?

I have been a freelance writer for almost 20 years. I started my freelance career working for an art website where I wrote the backstory to the artist’s work. When I later moved to Spain, I wrote cultural content for local property magazines in the south of Spain and Portugal.

Though I attended a bunch of creative writing classes in my 20s, I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-30s. Then I got obsessed. I worked on a novel for four years, finally using it to secure a place at the University of Manchester where I received my Masters in Creative Writing in 2013.

Since then I’ve been holed up working on another novel, a project I worked on for six years before shelving. I tell you this because this is the hard work of writing, knowing when it’s time to shelve something and move on. I’ve discovered it’s the hardest and most important thing to do.

Most people think writing is filling a page with words. Actually, writing isn’t about what you put down but what you take away. By now I’ve spent more than 10 years honing my craft. I’m currently working on another book pitch and a collection of poetry.

And I’ve reached a point where I’d love nothing more than to share my insights. In recent years, I’ve been thinking about how best to tell the stories of stoners, drawing on my own experience. What I see now is the best way to do this is to empower other stoners to tell their own stories.

Not only am I going to show you how to write your story, I’ll give you insider tips on pitching and publishing, and the attention you need to take your story to the next level.

To read samples of my published work, click on the following

Short Story on The Manchester Review: Waiting for Liz’s Honda

Report in Cannabis Business Times on using hemp to restore Ireland’s most inhospitable land

Blog post on The Healthy Hashhead: The Lies I Tell Myself about Cannabis

Feature in Merry Jane on Spain’s cannabis social club model

Personal Essay on Catapult: Not Everything Legal is Clean

WORKSHOP DATES

FRIDAY 3rd JUNE till FRIDAY July 22nd

Note: Individual classes will be recorded and made available to you to watch in your own time

WORKSHOP PRICE

8-Week Online Workshop $425

This fee is payable in 2 instalments

On top, I’m offering an exclusive early bird 30% discount to anyone who pays in full by May 22nd – this is the only time it will be possible to get access to the tenets of creative writing for such a competitive price.

30% discount = $297.50

For more info on price and payment terms, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com

The Lies I Tell Myself About Cannabis

This week I reached a new low. I lied to a client and didn’t feel bad about it. I wanted him to feel the pressure I was under and the lie made that possible. At first, I couldn’t believe I’d done it. And then, I wondered if I’d get away with it. Several more thoughts passed by before thinking: Jesus, what have I just done? Is this who I am now? A few days later, I paid the price.

The lie was a white lie about the cost of a project. I upped the quote by $1,000 to compensate for a ton of creative work I’d just done for free. I wanted the client to grasp the value of that work. I wanted the client to appreciate the value of my effort. I wanted to feel valued. Really, I wanted to be paid. Resentment had set in.

It was not the client’s fault for my non-payment. I agreed to do the work, more than that, I was happy to do it. But as the project progressed, eating into my time, compounding my financial concerns, I wriggled to break free. At first I tried a nice approach, blaming my imminent departure on my inability to fit the role. But my client smelled a rat.

He dismissed my message as misguided. He showered me with compliments. He insisted I was essential. He painted a picture of a glorious future in which I had access to a wide cannabis network and got to travel to cool destinations. However, when he criticised me I listened carefully. His negative feedback was the only thing I heard.

LIE 1: CANNABIS IS MY CULTURE

As negative feedback goes, his wasn’t particularly damning. He pointed out my perfectionist tendencies and asked me to tone them down. At the time, I laughed because I knew he was right. But I also cringed because I knew I had no idea how to do what he was asking. It was a message I’d heard countless times before. He’d hit a nerve.

Let me give some context: I am first and foremost a writer. To date, a failed writer. Yes, I’m published. Yes, I have a Masters. Yes, I got as close as I’ve gotten to a book deal in 2020, and I can write circles around the average Joe. But Joe is not my benchmark. Atwood, Mansfield, Rhys, Capote, Ginsberg, Rilke, Winterson, Moshfegh, Daum, O’Neill, these are just some of the names that inspire my writing goals.

The writers who came before me, as well as those who write today alongside me, they are my culture. They’re also the bane of my life. I wake every morning wondering how the hell I’m going to achieve anything close to what those people have achieved. Then I spend my day thinking about sentences. That’s all that matters to me.

Cannabis is my way to shut out the world, enabling me to spend as much time as possible thinking about words and how to arrange them. I live in service of the perfect sentence, and painfully aware that my sentences are far from perfect. Cannabis helps me overlook my imperfections, drown out self-pity and keep going. But that doesn’t mean I don’t regularly ask if I’m going in the wrong direction. When I need guidance, it’s not cannabis but other writers I turn to.

LIE 2: CANNABIS IS EASY MONEY

So when my client highlighted my leanings towards perfectionism, my mind countered with all the things I’ve failed to achieve. The list is long. It all relates to writing. And the feeling that my determination is at best aspirational haunts my days. It’s an odd conundrum: the longer I write the better I get the more irrelevant I feel.

Little surprise then that I’d be eager to shelve my personal ambition in favour of what appeared to be easier goals i.e. writing for cannabis. Certainly, that was the spirit into which I entered the cannabis space. Here’s something I can do, a wrong I can right/write, I thought, as I watched misinformation flood the emerging cannabis market.

I thought writing for cannabis could be a handy pit stop on the way to my real race. I thought my cannabis use qualified me for cannabis. But habit is not the same as passion. If I was stuck on a dessert island and could only have access to one past-time, it wouldn’t be cannabis. I’d ask for pen and paper and I’d write. I’d do it for free.

As it happens, I’ve ended up doing a lot of writing for free in the cannabis space. And yes, the irony is killing me. In short, no matter how much cannabis I consume or how committed I am to the industry it does not quench either my self-pity or my personal ambition. Furthermore, cannabis is too important to be treated as a pit stop. There’s nothing easy about it. If anyone knows this, it’s a lifelong stoner like me.

LIE 3: DAILY CANNABIS USE IS OK FOR EVERYONE

When I was 21, I spent a summer on Fire Island where I was part of a local hippie crew of stoners. One guy, Z, was in his 50s, had a big personality, short grey dreads and a large belly. He was a lover of books and introduced me to various authors including Bukowski and Celine. We’d spend hours talking about writing, which I thought was awesome until he admitted he had feelings for me.

My 21-year-old self was horrified at the idea and I duly kept my distance. He passed away a few years later due to heart problems, complications from smoking. I still miss our conversations and have the books he gave me safely stored in my mother’s attic. If I met him today, the attraction might be mutual based on a shared love of literature.

When I write I often think of him. I’ve even created fictional characters inspired by him. I hate that I can’t remember the details of our many chats but I’ll never forget his small wooden shack, cluttered with dusty books, and the chest that served as a rolling table, covered in smoking paraphernalia and flakes of bud. I was too young then to understand how life had passed him by.

Meeting that crew was my first experience of daily cannabis use. They’d start smoking when they woke at dawn. They were middle-aged, hard working and hopeful. But they also resented the way life seemed to overlook them. It’s a trend I see often amongst long-term cannabis users and can’t help wondering if less cannabis and more work would solve the problem? Either way, I see a need for long conversations on the dark side of cannabis use, if for no other reason than to understand it better.

LIE 4: CANNABIS DEFINES ME

People like Z are part of the reason I hold cannabis so dear. It has introduced me to so many interesting fringe-livers, people who changed my thinking. Cannabis may have introduced us, but it wasn’t what connected us. That was something else, something deeper, a love of craft, coupled with a firm commitment to outsider living.

This is a personality trait, one that Gabor Mate highlights in his book, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, calling addicts the most “tenacious” people he’s ever met. Which came first, the habit or the tenacity, is one of those age-old questions with no clear answer. But either way, it’s in me. No matter the setback, no matter the flaws, I keep going. I get knocked down. I get up. I live my story.

It’s a trait I share with many stoners. I see evidence of it all over today’s emerging cannabis industry. But what we have now is a cacophony of cannabis, by which I mean, everyone has their experience, history and facts. Ego is in charge, and why wouldn’t it be when we’re coming from a dark place where for years we hid one of the most sacred things in our lives. Today, we want to live our stories and we’re willing to do whatever it takes.

I lied to my client because I thought I’d be giving him a nice surprise when he found out the price was much lower. Instead he cut me from the project, surprising me. Also, giving me what I wanted. After all, if you’re not living your own story you’re living someone else’s. I’d rather live my own. This is what defines me. Yet, can’t help feeling that the only way this industry is going be what we want it to be, we have to seek out mutually beneficial ways to work together.

If you’re a cannabis user with a unique story you’d like to share, email today, thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com. Discretion assured 🙂

WHY USE CANNABIS?

Despite the growing move towards legalization, cannabis use is still mired in stigma. Almost 100 years later, the hold of reefer madness misinformation remains strong, meaning the majority of people have no idea what cannabis is or why the people who use it are drawn to it.

In mainstream circles, misconceptions abound about cannabis users. Many are classed as drug addicts only interested in getting wasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. As anyone with experience knows, if you want to get wasted, cannabis is not the drug of choice – it doesn’t block out thoughts, it highlights them.

The job of changing the narrative around cannabis comes down to individuals willing to share their stories, each one nuanced by its particular human experience and circumstance. Not only do those stories bust notions of stoner stereotypes, they illustrate the varied reasons why people use cannabis. In today’s post, in honour of 4/20, I’m sharing some of those stories.

CANNABIS IS FREEDOM: Michael Avery

Michael Avery has three different types of epilepsy and would die without his medication. He spent decades on conventional medication. Five years ago, he made the switch to cannabis flower and the difference was instant. His seizures stopped completely. He dropped all of his other medication.

Before cannabis, he lived in a prison. From a small town outside Atlanta, the closest shops are seven miles away. He rarely left the house, and was constantly told all the things he couldn’t do, couldn’t drive, couldn’t afford a taxi, couldn’t have a partner, couldn’t have a life. Cannabis changed all that.

“Cannabis gave me a chance to experience life the way other people do,” Michael says, explaining that because his seizures have stopped, he’s hoping to learn how to drive this year. Thanks to cannabis, he’s on the move, and a few years ago, he flew to Oregon to check out the cannabis scene there.

He was blown away by what he found, so different from his home state of Georgia where cannabis is still illegal. He loved the customer-focus at the dispensaries and the variety of flower, and was inspired to set up his own cannabis brand, a range of CBD-infused soaps and skincare.

Michael likes a puff in the morning to set him up for the day, and another late at night. This routine has changed his life. He calls his switch to cannabis, “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” To Michael, cannabis means freedom.

CANNABIS IS PASSION: Lauren Mundell

Lauren Mundell is the mastermind behind the canna-social media platform, Hi-Curious. She started using cannabis flower in 2017 because of her husband. He started to puff again after he retired from the Navy SEALs, excited to return to his SoCal roots. Her previous experience with cannabis was a panic attack in college, so she wasn’t a big fan.

But she couldn’t help but notice the many positive benefits it had on him. Intrigued, she took a hit and quickly realized her understanding of the plant was all wrong. Today, she doesn’t see it as a drug but a wellness tool. She uses cannabis to help her “feel better in this crazy world.”

However, she now understands that intention matters when it comes to cannabis, and that’s why the biggest benefit it brings to her life is passion. “Cannabis has brought out a passion in me to stand up for what I believe in and not to worry about the opinions of others.” Cannabis has given Lauren a business, a platform and a voice.

CANNABIS IS AUTONOMY: Kelly Wiltshire McQue

To Kelly cannabis is both life-changing and life-saving. When you hear her story, you’ll understand why. Kelly is an author with Random House, and a superb writer, so here’s her mind-blowing story in her own words:

“My first real experience with cannabis was in my second year at university when I began smoking it with friends. I had resisted it because of the negative (and false) government propaganda I’d grown up hearing. But after trying it myself I changed my mind. I liked how it made me feel and unlike alcohol, I didn’t feel out of control or embarrassed the next morning!

I adore smoking or eating cannabis out in nature. It heightens our senses so everything is fresh, bright and poignant when in a beautiful natural setting. I especially love smoking cannabis while I watch the sunrise over the ocean. It’s a truly exquisite way to start my day, it puts me in a great state of mind and allows me to organise my thoughts before my day begins. I usually smoke a local sativa in the morning, which I personally find to be uplifting, stimulating and motivating.

Cannabis has had a profoundly beneficial impact on my life. In 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I chose to forgo conventional treatments in favour of more natural and holistic methods. I made myself FECO from a locally grown sativa and healed myself within 8 months without surgery, radiation or chemo.

In those 8 months the cannabis also helped me manage symptoms of chronic depression, I lost 20kgs of toxic fat, started yoga and my whole attitude towards myself, my health and my life completely changed – for the better! I continue to take FECO every night before bed for a deep sleep and to manage the symptoms of the depression.

In the past I was plagued with anxiety, feeling scattered, overwhelmed, suicidal, unmotivated and despondent; whereas on cannabis I am positive, productive, organised, motivated and I feel powerful within myself.” How many of us can relate to that last sentence? I certainly can.

CANNABIS IS AUTHENTICITY: Dustin Hoxworth

For Dustin Hoxworth, cannabis is more than a part of his day, it’s a part of him, and no day feels complete without it. He grew up around it, and remembers how back in the 70s everyone smoked, especially in his family. He comes from a military family, his dad and uncles fought in the Vietnam War, and many come home with PTSD.

Even back then, they were aware weed helped with the symptoms though they wouldn’t have thought of their use as medical. They simple knew smoking a few joints made them more tolerant of people around them and life in general. “Life is hard when you’re poor,” says Dustin, “Cannabis makes things suck a bit less.”

He didn’t start consuming on a regular basis till he was twenty-years-old but it quickly became part of his routine. “First thing in the morning is probably my favorite [time to smoke] but I consume all day everyday, multiple times per day, multiple ways. I enjoy a good joint or blunt, bong rips, and always have a bowl around.”

Today, Dustin runs a cannabis-inspired skincare line in partnership with his partner, Cecily, their brand’s namesake. More recently, he’s following the call of his artistic leanings by launching a magazine called Fat Nugs that will be a celebration of cannabis culture, both old-school and new. Dustin thanks cannabis for the inspiration to pursue his creative dreams, saying, “It allows me to be myself. I smoke to be myself.”

If you’re a cannabis user and want to share your cannabis story with like-minded souls, get in touch today, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com. Discretion assured! 🙂

Why Content is King in Cannabis

Cannabis companies are hungry for content. They’re crying out for it. On one hand, they’re mercilessly limited in what they can say by ever-evolving regulations, not to mention the ever-watchful bots on social media platforms. On the other, their own limited connections to the legacy market means the branding is built on a house of cards, designed to target an emerging market that may or may not emerge.

To say there is no good content in cannabis is not true.  There are brands, platforms, writers, content creators and researchers exploring interesting questions. And the field of research is set to explode in coming years. But as we all know, creating content can be expensive, and media companies often don’t have the budget for investigative pieces or specialist writers, which is why so many in cannabis have switched to paid content models.

Meanwhile, brands are looking outside the culture, hiring branding experts based on experience in other markets. And why shouldn’t they hire professionals with a proven track record? But do those professionals have experience in cannabis? Does it matter? Is there a happy medium? A way brands can establish links with the legacy market that feel organic? Does it start with product? Or message?

WHY CONTENT MATTERS

Content is the medium that delivers a brand’s message in a way that connects to its audience. It reveals the brand’s value and creates a sense of shared value between the brand and its customer-base. But make no mistake, the battle for customer attention is one the biggest challenges each brand faces.

In the U.S. pharmaceutical companies made up 75% of the total TV ad spend in 2020, adding up to billions of dollars. The US is the only country in the world that allows Big Pharma ads on TV, which illustrates a key trait of the content environment i.e. the rules change and evolve, as do the mediums.

For example, when Canada legalised cannabis in 2018, any advertising with a modicum of personality was banned. On top, evolving technology, specifically the Internet, has upended the way we produce, consume and pay for content in the last twenty years. Each evolution impacts the ways brands connect with audiences.

At the end of this year, Apple will be launching software to block Meta advertising on its devices, ending the glory days of Facebook advertising. And in 2023, the cookie, that annoying web bot that follows your activity online, will also be binned.

But the biggest shift in content in recent years is the rise in the popularity of podcast and video content. 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This wouldn’t happen if people didn’t want, nay expect, nay demand content. For anyone who doubts the power of content, consider for a moment the hold of Reefer Madness messaging and how hard it is to combat that narrative.

WHAT IS KING CONTENT?

In short, the content environment is a moving target, and in cannabis, even more so. First, Instagram started banning canna-accounts, and other social media platforms quickly followed suit. Despite the obstacles, cannabis companies are finding a work-around. Cannabis social media platforms have emerged such as Leafwire and Hi-Curious, sites that are tailored for the space.

On a recent MediaJel webinar, the panel pointed out that cannabis ads online reached more than 40bn impressions last year. And canna-advertising is slowly slipping into the mainstream, starting with sponsorship of sporting events such as baseball. But not all companies can afford the mega-bucks it costs to sponsor a major sporting event.

And most cannabis companies don’t have the budget to get behind a local dog show. But most of them also do not have any form of content strategy. It’s always the same generic messages about how cannabis aids sleep or the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Nothing new. Nothing niche.

Which is a problem because the latest buzzword in cannabis advertising is context. Another word for context is culture. Culture is what binds people within a community. Contextual advertising means reaching the customer inside their culture. Getting there means knowing the customer’s lifestyle like a best friend.

Building a content strategy specific to the context of your brand and audience is much more cost effective in the long run though it does take more effort to get there. It means going back to basics and asking the right questions.

The first important question is what’s your campaign, or rather, what’s your story? What are the values that drive your brand and how do they relate to your product or service? How did your past experiences lead to the creation of this brand? What problem did it solve?

CONTEXUTAL CONTENT IN ACTION

In many ways, a brand story is always a hero story. The story begins with a fall that leads to struggle and the product or service evolved as a solution to that struggle. When a brand story reveals an element of human grit, it can connect on a deeper level because people love a good hero story.

The next important stage is research. The best way to carry out research is through surveys. But even if that’s not available to you, a small sample of 5 to 10 customers is enough to glean a wealth of information. This information will not only influence the cadence of the brand’s hero story, it identifies the relevant media channels.

One of the most effective ways to implement contextual content in cannabis is by partnering with brands that have shared values. Lauren over at Hi-Curious is a great example of this strategy in action, not only is she creating a unique space for cannabis, she’s bringing brands with shared values together, a win-win for everyone.

Another important tool is CTA or call to action. But it can’t be a call to action in service of what the brand wants (to sell, natch), it has to offer value to the customer in order to stir a response. Again, this approach demands a better understanding of the customer and their values.

Moving forward smart cannabis brands will invest in content and media that embraces cannabis culture in ways that demonstrates shared values, as defined by message and context. Does this mean that canna-companies needs to start hiring people who know something about that culture? Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

If you’re a cannabis brand that wants to connect with users inside their culture, get in touch and let’s talk about a campaign that works for you, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com today.

Is Daily Use of Cannabis a Disorder?

A recent study, published on the JAMA Open Network, assessed the risks and benefits of providing a medical marijuana card to patients with anxiety, depression, pain and insomnia, finding that patients with faster access are more likely to develop cannabis use disorder (CUD).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM 5) details the conditions for CUD, dividing them into cannabis abuse and cannabis dependence. It’s estimated that of the almost 200m cannabis users worldwide, 10% qualify for CUD with the caveat that a user can be negatively impacted by cannabis use without being addicted.

The DSM 5 recognises that people with anxiety or depression are more likely to develop CUD. Which begs the question: Why are researchers giving a drug to patients to treat a condition when it’s been shown that same drug has the potential to aggravate those conditions? And how can regular use be classed as dependency when patients need their medicine daily?

WHY THIS STUDY

With the move towards legalisation, it’s only natural that the medical community would want to formally assess the implications of prescribing cannabis to patients. The study authors point out that, “cannabis has been reported to improve pain, sleep, and anxiety and depressive symptoms and is commonly sought for these concerns.”

But the problem is that, “according to national data, 3 in 10 US adults who use cannabis develop CUD, with 23% developing severe CUD and often with a tolerance to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and withdrawal symptoms.”

On top, “data are lacking on whether the rates of addiction in adults with a medical marijuana card are similar to the rates in those who use cannabis for recreational purposes.” Not to mention that, “cannabis use has been associated with psychotic and depressive disorders, mania, suicide, and cognitive impairment.”

To get answers, this study recruited 186 participants and divided them into two groups. One group was given a medical marijuana card immediately and the second group had to wait 12 weeks before getting their card. The study found that the group with immediate access was more likely to develop CUD.

HOW THE STUDY WORKED

The study was set up as follows: “All participants in the immediate card acquisition group reported obtaining a card before the baseline visit, and all participants in the delayed card acquisition group agreed to wait 12 weeks to procure a card. Quantity and frequency of cannabis use; sleep quality; and depression, anxiety, and pain symptoms were reported and assessed at every visit via interviews and daily via smartphone diaries. Participants could continue their ongoing medical or psychiatric care during the trial.”

The study found that, “the immediate card acquisition group reported significantly greater cannabis use throughout the intervention period than the delayed card acquisition group.” However, most cases of CUD were “mild,” with patients reporting “2 to 4 symptoms” such as “higher tolerance and continued use despite physical or psychological problems caused or exacerbated by cannabis.”

But they also observed a positive effect on overall “wellbeing and perceived stress” as a result of having easier access to cannabis. Plus, there were no cases that resulted in psychosis, mania, hypomania or suicidal ideation. This mixed bag of results demonstrates two things: 1. The researchers don’t understand cannabis. 2. The definition is CUD is meaningless.  

USING CANNABIS

As someone who has used cannabis for years, and has definitely abused it in the past, my observation is that cannabis will spotlight and intensify what I’m already feeling. If I’m anxious or depressed, it will magnify those feelings, causing me to over-use. If I’m calm, I’m likely to melt into oblivion. The bottom line: my use is directly related to how I’m already feeling and has little to do with cannabis.

This aspect of cannabis use is not news. This 2014 study confirmed that cannabis causes paranoia in some people, though it’s fair to say the majority of cannabis users have experienced it at some point. Joe Rogan often talks about this side of cannabis use on his podcast, saying he likes the “self-critical” aspect of marijuana because it reveals what needs fixing or changing in his life.

But we can go back further, all the way back to 1845, to the publication of the first study on the effects of cannabis on the mind, Hashish and Mental Alienation, written by Jacque-Joseph Moreau (1804 – 1884). He went to the Middle East to study the effects of cannabis and was surprised by the low incidence of mental illness there compared to Europe.

He made key observations that are often overlooked today, in particular, he noted how the specific situation of the subject, in particular personal background and problems, as well as the atmosphere at the time of using, deeply affected the effects of hashish, and as a result affected everyone differently.

On top, Moreau noted that individual physiology plays a role in the effects of cannabis, writing: “It does not have the same effect on everyone. The same dosage can produce extremely different results, at least in intensity, according to individual reports.” This means that not only is there a big difference between taking a few hits on a jay throughout the day and popping one 300mg edible after lunch, two different individuals will have different reactions to these doses.

CANNABIS USE DISORDER

Here’s one thing I know: Give a sad person a bag of weed and they’re going to rip through that shit. This is also not news. But there are some oversights in this study that add to the confusion of its results. There was no control group, no placebo, no tracking of dosage or strength or range of THC products used and no assessment of environmental circumstances.

The importance of environment cannot be over-stressed. It’s been shown that those at highest risk to CUD include out of work, young men. But I’m willing to bet that if these young men had decent jobs and support networks, it would affect their cannabis use either by reducing it or by making them more conscious of how they integrate it into their lives.

It’s my experience that the longer I use cannabis, the less I need, and this is an experience I’ve found to be common amongst regular users. Yes, it’s true that chronic use can dull the high but a short break, two to four days, fixes that. Oh dear, do I sound like I have a disorder? Whatevs. This is my medicine. I need it daily. Which brings me to the criteria for CUD.

They make no sense and border on the ridiculous. Can someone please tell me what it means to take cannabis in a high-risk situation? Like if your mom might catch you? I’m not saying there are no risks involved with cannabis use, but why does the psychology literature read like a bad crime novel? And what a surprise, this study found no cases of psychosis, mania, hypomania or suicidal ideation. Huh. Fancy that.

As cannabis legalisation spreads, there’s no question we need more studies to understand the plant and the implications of regular use. But as Ruth Fisher PhD points out in this article, historically it is people’s use of drugs that drives scientific discoveries for medical use, not the other way around. It’s simply not true that we know nothing about cannabis use. What is true is that the current protocols are flawed and are contributing to misinformation.

If you’re someone who uses cannabis and wants to have a no-holds-barred chat about real cannabis use, feel free to hit me up, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com. Discretion assured 🙂

Does Cannabis Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

If I get sick because I don’t take my medicine, which happens to be cannabis, can that sickness be equated to withdrawal symptoms? Does that make me an addict? And what if it does? Is that a bad thing? If it is, what’s the problem? A lack of understanding of cannabis? Or the word “addict”? And if so, can we, daily users of cannabis, reclaim it?

Though no one knows how to talk about it openly, this is a question that dogs the cannabis community and is a lingering source of stigma. Despite all the positive progress, few people, outside Snoop, Joe Rogan, Seth Rogen and a handful of brave industry folk (shout out to Max Simon, Greg Welch and Dustin Hoxworth), are in a position to proudly tout their regular use of weed.

Which leaves space for people who know nothing about using cannabis to talk like they do. Right now, the general public knows little to nothing about cannabis, and is being guided by an industry that doesn’t see any value in the experience of seasoned users. Why would it when it views them as little more than addicts? When the users view themselves as addicts.

Why Use Cannabis?

When I took my 30-day break from cannabis, the biggest effect I experienced was the return of my IBS symptoms. That’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and it’s literally a pain in the ass, as anyone who has it knows well. The symptoms vary from stomachache, fatigue, belly bloat, constipation and diarrhea. I experienced most of these about eight days after I stopped using cannabis.

For years, my routine is simple: client work during the day, a joint after dinner and an evening of writing. This is my happy place, joint in the ashtray and me tapping away on my keyboard. I write for hours. The world disappears. My nervous system switches to parasympathetic mode (rest and relax), the food I’ve eaten digests, and I avoid any IBS symptoms.

Without cannabis, my evenings are very different. My appetite shifts, making it difficult for me to eat large meals or dense food. My IBS is linked to my stress levels, so if I have a stressful day, I tend to eat less, picking during the day until hunger forces me to make something more substantial. My symptoms kick in around six or seven in the evening (usually, the hour I have my first joint of the day).

Which may cause a stomachache, followed by fatigue. Then I spend an hour clutching my stomach and regretting eating. With little energy for anything else, I’ll spend the rest of the evening on the couch, half-watching TV, distracted by the discomfort in my gut. Like this, I rarely write.

Without cannabis, I can’t work on anything that demands hours of concentration, such as a piece of fiction or an essay. Forget it. My brain won’t make the connections. My fingers are stiff. My mind flits about like a drunken mosquito. I’m restless and have to move. Like this, I bake, clean house, do my accounts, or maybe for fun, redesign a website. My focus is on the future.

With cannabis, it’s a very different story. I can sit still. I can create the space that’s necessary for sentences to form. I can hold a critical dialogue with myself that enables me to form, select and edit words. I get lost in the process. To use the term popularized by the Hungarian American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I’m in “flow.”

However, when I resumed consuming cannabis, for the first three to four weeks, I felt deeply uncomfortable. I missed the charge of life without cannabis. I felt as if I’d somehow let myself down. As if I wasn’t trying hard enough to rein myself in. In other words, I was racked with guilt.

Define Withdrawal Symptoms

It was the discomfort of the challenge that got me through those 30 days without cannabis. I lift weights and am accustomed to discomfort, see it as a marker of how much I can achieve physically in the gym. But that level of discomfort should be confined to sets in the gym. It can’t be your whole day. That’s not flow. And that’s not all.

Between food restrictions and being so restless during my cannabis break, I lost six kilos that month. I couldn’t go to the gym because I couldn’t eat enough to fuel my workouts, meaning my usual stress-buster was unavailable to me. I couldn’t write in the evenings, my other stress-buster also out the window. Just me, left to confront me, straight – “Oh, the horror.”

Isn’t this the quintessential idea of what it means to go through withdrawal? Restlessness, longing, craving, uneasy in your skin, worried what the next bump in the road will be, if you’ll make it through, if you’re strong enough, worried, worried, worried. Is this withdrawal, or just life? How many people do you know are a sea of calm, content, unburdened?

A 2021 New Frontier Data report on consumer behaviour showed the number one reason people use cannabis across all demographics is “to relax.” Considering that rates of anxiety are spiking across the globe right now, this is no surprise. But what do they mean by “relax”? Do they mean they’re tying daisies in their hair and hugging the postman? No! They stop worrying. The stress dissipates. They can take a breath, take a moment to reflect and reconnect.

Much work needs to be done to fully understand the role of the endocannabinoid system, but we do know it maintains homeostasis throughout the body and is likely a modulator of the nervous and endocrine systems – the systems that control everything from muscle growth, fat storage, blood pressure, bone density, sugar, energy and stress levels to hunger signals, pain signals, inflammation, memory and mood.

Define Addict

I had this idea that when I stopped consuming cannabis all the wrongs in my life would be put to right, I’d be full of energy and look amazing. None of this happened. I did sort out some money issues but I didn’t enjoy the work, had zero energy and looked awful, tired, pasty, stressed. My eyes were more bloodshot than usual. As soon as I started smoking again, my energy bounced back, as did my skin and eyes.

It took a few weeks for me to make peace with the guilt, digging deep to understand its source. I realized it was tied to my ambition. But that wasn’t all. I seemed to take a perverse pride in the suffering, in being able to wake every morning and say, yes, I did it, another day without cannabis, using the old AA model of abstinence – one day at a time. Matias De Stefano, the consciousness educator, talks about how hard it is for modern people to experience pleasure.

I’m much more conscious of my use now, which was one of the reasons for taking a break. I wait till as a late in the day as possible to smoke. Unless I’m working on something that demands it, and then I spark up before I start. However, I also notice I’m not turning to cannabis simply because I have a quiet moment in the day, which is something I would have done in the past. Now, I’m waiting to make sure my use has a function. Again, this is stigma at play.

I want to justify my use as constructive. Like you, I operate under the notion that the “addict” is a marginalized person hell-bent on self-destruction. Are all addicts the same? Well, yes. In fact, this is how the dopamine system works. Once it finds a rewarding activity, it wants more of it. We all have the same system, it’s just some of us point it towards constructive activities, and some destructive.

In his book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts, the addiction specialist, Dr. Gabor Mate, explains how childhood trauma hi-jacks the dopamine system, resulting in unhealthy behaviours. He writes that rather than being a threat, addicts are amongst the most vulnerable people in society, and need to be treated accordingly, with compassion. When I allowed myself a touch of compassion, the guilt faded.

I realized I was so used to seeing my cannabis use as a negative I had no way to quantify it as positive. Even three weeks into better health after resuming cannabis, I was still beating myself up for doing “something bad.” But towards the end of week 4, as evidence of my improved health mounted, I accepted the reality my body simply functions better with THC in it.

If you’re someone who uses cannabis and wants to have a no-holes-barred chat about real cannabis use, feel free to hit me up, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com. Discretion assured 🙂

The Truth about My Tolerance Break

The best thing about setting myself the goal of not using cannabis for 30 days was the intensity of achieving it. The worst thing was not having any cannabis for 30 days. Was it worth it? Did it make me a better person? A more productive person? Did it make my life better or worse? Like most things, the answer isn’t so simple.

BACK STORY

Here’s the strange thing, I’m not sure when I became a daily user of cannabis, and it’s only recently become my norm. In the early days of my use, three decades ago, access was a big issue, making daily use impossible. When I moved to Spain 20 years ago, access became less of a problem. I live next door to Morocco.

But I drew a line, reserving my cannabis use for weekends or special occasions. Even back then, I was under no illusions, cannabis was a drug and I ran in drug circles to “feed my habit.” A big shift came in 2014 when I quit alcohol, and used cannabis to soften the punch of sober life. But that wasn’t my real motivation for using it.

I’ve never been much of a social smoker, and don’t like getting stoned with friends. I smoke when I write and don’t want to be disturbed. With alcohol out of my life, my old circle of friends trickled away till there was no on left but my laptop and a spliff. Between them, cannabis and writing kept loneliness at bay.

The next shift came when I started writing for the cannabis industry in 2017. Daily use seemed a prerequisite of the job when really it was just an excuse to indulge. But I was following the lead of American tokers who had a different attitude to cannabis than me, seeing its use as medical.

I started learning about the many benefits of the marijuana plant and was shocked by how little I knew of the substance that had shaped so much of my life. I stopped seeing cannabis as a drug, stopped seeing my use as a “habit,” and started looking for ways to buy “legal.” Cannabis was more than a job it became my identity.

STRONG START

The first week was the easiest of the four. Rather than pick a fixed date to start my experiment, I let myself run out of cannabis, forcing myself to smoke my hidden reserves, removing all temptations. I ran out on a Thursday, meaning Friday was my first day without cannabis, my first weekend without cannabis in I can’t remember how long.

When I say “easy,” I mean physically, not psychologically. Friday is my go-to smoke day. My favourite way to spend a Friday evening is at my laptop, smoking a jay, writing. But daily use made every evening Friday night to me, a private party for one, a party that was losing its sheen.

However, to make it easier to abstain, I removed certain triggers, cancelling my Netflix subscription and allowing myself not to write. This was the scariest part for me – what would I do with myself instead? My lack of work/life balance has been a bugbear for years, as usually I write in the evenings.

Those first nights I kept busy with house chores, cleaning, baking, and I smoked some hemp flower given to me by a friend weeks previous, thinking it might help calm me. It did not calm me. It made my body tingle with nerves. I slept badly for the first three nights, tossing, turning, flinging blankets and sweating into the sheets.

Sweating is normal for me. As a woman in my forties, my hormones are a circus, hot flashes the main act. I was curious to see how a lack of cannabis would impact my hormones, as well as my kettlebell training, eating habits and digestion, in particular my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). None of the outcomes were what I expected.

UPHILL AND DOWN

By the end of the second weekend without cannabis, I was feeling mighty proud of myself and psychologically strong. I can do this, I thought. To celebrate I made a video of me working out at home and posted it. Me? Who hides behind her screen? Something was happening. But I wasn’t as strong as I thought.

In Week 2, an extreme tiredness hit me. I didn’t have to worry about how to spend evenings, as all I had the energy to do was watch YouTube videos. Tired as I was, I found it hard to go to bed before midnight because my mind was taut, waiting for something familiar to happen, refusing to switch off till it did. My eyes burned with fatigue.

But my sleep improved, and when I went to bed, I fell asleep quickly, and had vivid dreams, full of weird sea creatures, floating cars and epic drama. By week 3, my health nosedived. My appetite was gone. My IBS symptoms were back. I couldn’t eat anything after six or seven in the evening without getting stomachache.

Each morning, I’d look in the mirror for signs of improvements, clearer skin or eyes. I looked tired, like a woman fighting a battle. And I was. But now the fight was of my own making. I felt my activity served no other purpose than to distract me from doing the thing I wanted to do: get stoned. Despite the fatigue, I was getting work done, and work was oddly on the up.

An old client asked for extra work. A new client had a brand with vision. I was picking up on the time-wasters quicker during the day. At night while I slept, my dreams spoke to me. After a nasty phone call with a potential new client, I dreamt a new factory opened near my house, seeping toxic waste into the surrounding land. I said goodbye to the client, didn’t want his business.

HOME STRETCH

The last week demanded Herculean stamina. A million reasons to smoke a jay bubbled at the back of my mind, egged on by comments on social media, “don’t forget your quality of life,” and “cannabis is medicine.” I missed my medicine but I also couldn’t deny that some aspects of my life had improved without cannabis.

For starters, money was flowing into my bank account and I was planning a holiday for my birthday. The lure of that holiday was the thing that got me through this last week, enabling me to ignore the constant headache, depressed appetite and fatigue. Every time I felt low, I could count the days till I was in my van and driving towards the beach to have a toke at sunset.

In the meantime, I was using breathing techniques to stave off my anxiety, which was on the rise. Part of the source of this anxiety was mostly my inability to write. The other was my heightened sense of vulnerability in the world. And even though my hot flashes had pretty much disappeared, I was going to the gym less because I wasn’t able to eat the food I needed to fuel my workouts.

In short, a major shift occurred in my day-to-day activity. Whereas my week usually included many hours given to working out and creative writing, without cannabis, most of my time was spent on paid work and running errands, and my downtime was mostly spent dealing with the symptoms of IBS, meaning I was too tired to do anything but chill and/or watch TV.

Here’s a summary of physical and psychological differences cannabis brings to my life:

WITHOUT CANNABISWITH CANNABIS  
Psychological
Eye on the future
Apprehensive about the future
Hungry for connection and knowledge
Focused on solutions
Better work/life balance
More patience, more anxiety
Nicer to people, smile more
Less motivation to go to the gym  
Psychological
Unafraid of the unknown
Lost in the present
Connected to self
Space for creativity
Absorbed by creative projects
Have a way to switch off
Feel at one with self
Less anxiety  
Physical
No hot flashes
Clearer eyes (finally, in week 4)
Weight loss
Less strength in the gym
A riot in my stomach
Bad gas
Headaches
Tired  
Physical
Can eat a lot more
More motivated to go to the gym
Sleep more, feel rested
Dreams are rare
Daily hot flashes
No headaches
Rare stomachache
More energy

COMING HOME

To say that cannabis makes my life better is not entirely true. It makes it different. Mostly, it means that I spend more time on creative projects, getting lost in them and forgetting about paid work, which brings money worries. But the quest to get paid is the bane of every creative life so this situation makes me far from an outlier – actually, it makes me the norm.

I’ll be looking into the connection between cannabis and my hot flashes, suspect a thyroid problem that I put down to symptoms of menopause, which happens to a lot of women my age. However, there’s no question cannabis alleviates the symptoms of my IBS, making it possible for me to live without constant stomachache.

What’s clear is that cannabis facilitates two things that are important to me: writing and exercise. It’s also clear that time without cannabis means I give space to priorities that benefit my future and the importance of that cannot be overlooked.

Yes, I had that toke at sunset and it was heavenly. It felt like coming home. I went on that holiday but it wasn’t as bliss-filled as I imagined. I gave myself a few days to over-indulge and then I was eager to get back to work, noticing I missed the charge of life without cannabis. Like anything, it’s about finding a balance that works.

If you’re a cannabis brand that wants to connect with users in a real way using language they can relate to, get in touch and let’s talk about a campaign that works for you, email thehealthyhashhead@gmail.com