Note: The IC uses pseudonyms when discussing individual’s experiences with smoking weed to protect their identities.
When most people grab a cup of coffee, Joe reaches for his leaves. The grinded herbs folded into a joint serve as his morning fix.
The effects start subtly with a slight sensation of numbness, later shifting to a feeling of weightlessness, where all distractions slowly fade into the background. In a few minutes, feelings of anxiety vacate his body, leaving him stress-free and ready to take on the world.
“Just like everyone else has a balance, I don’t see why my balance has to be considered something so negative or such an addiction,” the second-year pre-medicine major said.
His first smoke of the day comes around 11 a.m., right before his organic chemistry class when he needs to put his thoughts in order.
“Sometimes I get so flustered that I have so much to do that when I try to sit down and try to do a single thing, it’s so hard like I can’t just focus my mind on one thing,” he said. “Weed just brings me to that level.”
For someone whose “mind moves a mile a minute,” cannabis does more than just allow him to experience euphoria, he said. Without it, Joe can only sleep for four hours every night.
Weed is his alternative for medicine when dealing with irritable bowel syndrome, a common disorder that induces abdominal pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation.
“Eventually, at some point in life, I’ll be able to pay for some type of medical attention,” but for now, “weed helps settle my stomach,” he said.
“Once I started smoking and realized how it started affecting my body personally, I realized that people just followed that bad stigma behind it because of the law,” he added.
His experience with cannabis started at the age of 15 when he was first introduced to it by his uncle. Since then, Joe started researching the effects of the drug and the laws prohibiting it from being legalized.
“Our laws are just something that somebody felt were important that they needed to make. I don’t feel like all laws that are set in place are right.”
“I’m responsible the same way someone would be responsible with drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes,” Joe said. “I know a lot of people who do fit that stigma, that are lazy and don’t do anything. If you let it do that to you, it will.”
However, he doesn’t fit that stigma. With his 3.5 GPA from last semester, smoking weed twice every other day has changed his performance in class, he said.
“Last semester, I didn’t get high before any exams. My exam average was a 72. This semester, I got high before every exam. My exam average is an 86.”
While other factors may have contributed to his overall performance in class, Joe believes weed played a role in improving his test averages.
“I’m realistic with myself, like I know what I want to do with my life. Weed is not going to stay in my life forever,” he said.
For him, weed is a coping mechanism for stress, but for others, the leafy green plant is used as a substance to socialize.
“It’s like going to the bar, drinking with your friends,” another user, Sam said. “You can’t be drunk all day. You just go get high and it wears off. You’re not hungover at all; you’re just hungry.”
Unlike drinking alcohol, when a person reaches a point of no longer feeling capable of socializing, weed rids a user of anxiety, the third-year marketing major and fraternity member said.
He uses it every day to relax and for socialization on the weekends, spending an average of $160 on weed every month.
“When I get high, I can still focus on a conversation, still talk to people. When I’m on an edible, I feel like I have tunnel vision, like I don’t notice anything around me. I’m lost in my thoughts. It’s an intense high.”
The plant can be consumed in several different ways, including inhaling methods like hand and water pipes, hookahs, vaporizers and even orally with edibles, ingestible oils and tinctures (liquid cannabis extract).
With its flexibility for consumption, the plant is absorbed differently through the body depending on the form it’s consumed in, therefore, producing a different result.
Consuming cannabis through an edible, metabolizes the THC in the liver, converting the chemical to a 11-hydroxy-THC, which results in a more intense high, specifically affecting the body. The ingestible form, although it requires a longer time to reach, remains in the body for an extended period.
When cannabis is inhaled, the THC undergoes a different metabolic process, traveling directly to the brain, inducing a faster result often short lived.
“What I do smoke is THC oil through wax and dabs,” Sam said.
The dab rigs serve as the perfect instrument for consuming concentrates and oils. After dropping oil into it, the user heats it up with a torch and waits for it to reach a certain temperature.
“There’s a science to smoking it, to get the right temperature, to get the right flavor extraction and all that,” the four-year user said. “That’s my favorite consumption because it’s the highest concentrated amount of THC you can get in a small quantity.”
Another user’s preferred method includes smoking blunts, which can be rough on his throat, he said. It mellows him out and something he favors over drinking.
This first-year pharmacy major started smoking around the age of 16 as a result of being exposed to it by his friends. Now, he smokes socially three to four times a week.
“I don’t think it’s the drug that makes people bums,” he said. “I think people who are already bums decide to smoke weed because it’s just a good way to not do stuff.”
Referring to his cumulative 3.0 GPA, he said he will continue to smoke until he gets drug tested for a job.
He compared his experience with marijuana to trying Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD — a hallucinogen which alters users’ thoughts, feelings and awareness of their surroundings.
Unlike the “deep trip” he had with himself when trying LSD, weed mellowed him down, he explained.
“Everything just like calms down and then it’ll eventually creep down to your body and you’ll either, depending on whether you smoked an Indica or Sativa, it’ll either make you really lazy or go out and do something,” he said.
The two strains of cannabis have varying effects. Indica, which includes higher CBD and lower THC counts, increases relaxation whereas Sativa has lower CBD and higher THC counts, increasing a person’s focus and activity.
Both, however, typically produce feelings of euphoria, the third user said.
“As long as you’re in the right state of mind, you’re really calm and content with everything going on around you."