I love THC, but THC doesn't seem to love me back these days. Maybe other low-dose cannabis connoisseurs can relate. My stress has been at an all-time high, but my go-to combos for mellowing out have been backfiring spectacularly.
While teetering on the edge of a cable-news-induced spiral a few months ago, I reached for my trusty old stress remedy — a 1:1, THC:CBD gummy and some mindless TV — only to rocket right off the edge and into paranoid oblivion. Negative thoughts multiplied faster than I could dissolve them, turning my night of rest and relaxation into a game of emotional whack-a-mole.
Humanity may be polarizing itself to the brink of extinction (kidding, kind of) but at least there's one thing we can all agree on: 2020 has been a crap year.
And in the same way crappiness is the great unifier of 2020, I'd argue that THC brings the ever-evolving weed world together — albeit more positively. We can passionately debate indicas versus sativas versus rejecting labels altogether, but at the end of the day, stoners of all stripes can rally around THC.
That's because THC is the “it” cannabinoid. It's the reason most of us fell in love with weed in the first place. Even for me, a low-dose lifestyler who's maintained a 5 milligram gummy tolerance for more than a decade, THC has been indispensable in my pursuit of the perfect high. It's responsible for countless nature doc binges, insane nacho creations, and the note in my phone reminding me “poems are just shrimps.”
But thanks to 2020, I've had to scale my THC intake way back. My tolerance has sunken so low that the slightest whisper of THC can sometimes send my mind careening into dark places. As a result, I have fully committed to the non-alcoholic beer of weed, otherwise known as hemp-derived CBD.
I used to turn my nose up at hemp-derived drinks and THC-free joints like a high school senior dissing uninitiated freshmen — mostly because federal law mandates that hemp products contain no more than 0.3% THC. Without a significant pinch of THC and the entourage effect that comes with it, I could not understand how these strictly CBD products were supposed to make me feel anything other than sober.
But when anxiety strikes, that's kind of the point. Everyone responds to stress differently, but for me, the last thing I want to do when my mind is already swirling is adding THC-fueled distraction that can quickly turn into confusion and a sense of helplessness. All I want is a sense of clear, calm groundedness. When dosed appropriately, high-quality hemp flower can help bring me back to earth and prevent an anxious episode from spinning out of control. There's plenty of research to suggest I'm not the only one who's experienced hemp's calming effects.
That said, not all hemp products are alike and not all consumption methods are perfect for every issue. For muscle aches and minor pains, I reach for weedy topicals; for bouts of anxiety, I like to smoke high-quality hemp flower.
I smoke out my anxiety for a few reasons:
- The range of terpenes and minor cannabinoids in the flower makes for a more effective experience (aka the entourage effect I mentioned above).
- Smoking allows me to feel the calming effects more quickly than I would with an edible.
- Smoking also bypasses my digestive system and increases bioavailability, otherwise known as the amount of CBD my body is able to absorb.
When shopping for hemp flower, the first thing you'll want to do is look for independent lab test results. This is the first indication that you've found high-quality flower, whether it's hemp or otherwise. The second thing you'll want to do is actually read those results. What's the percentage of total cannabinoids? Any notable terpenes? Everyone experiences cannabis differently, but knowing these percentages and how your body responds to them can help you predict how each new batch of flower might make you feel.
The hemp flower getting me through 2020
When I claimed back in April that CBD pre-rolls were the future, I had no idea how true my own prediction would be. Five months ago (1,000 years in corona time), I argued CBD pre-rolls were worth considering and sharing with lightweight or weed-cautious friends. Now that my stress is manifesting into migraines, stomach pains, dizziness, and nausea, CBD pre-rolls are essential.
Lately, I've been relying heavily on Friend Leaf, an organic hemp flower and pre-roll brand. This brand goes above and beyond when it comes to lab testing by showcasing results on their website and via scannable QR codes right on the packaging. I was in terpene-nerd heaven looking up the stats on the joints I'd chosen — a three-pack of the cheekily named Trophy Wife strain — and finding high levels of myrcene. Myrcene is known for having sedative qualities and anecdotal evidence suggests high-myrcene strains are more likely to be relaxing. No wonder a few puffs helped me narrowly avoid a full-blown panic attack.
I love the reusable glass packaging they use for their pre-rolls and flower. Just be sure to store Friend Leaf products in a cool, dark place to prevent sunlight from penetrating the clear glass and degrading the flower inside. Because these are hemp products, you can shop all of their products online and have them shipped nationwide. Buy a pack of three pre-rolls for $26 or an eighth for $36.
When I'm feeling calm enough to handle a touch of THC, Alive and Kicking is still my go-to brand. Their high-CBD, cigarette-like joints are so small it's nearly impossible to overdo it. Even if you do manage to overdo it, the barely-there “high” fades quickly and leaves a shimmery aura of calm in its wake. These are currently only available in California, but they also have hemp pre-rolls you can buy online for $29 a pack.
Keep in mind there will never be a one-size-fits-all cannabis product, and even when you find a product that works for you, there's no guarantee it'll work forever. A year ago, I relied on edibles and nature documentaries to relax. This year, I'm all about hemp pre-rolls and text-banking for my favorite local candidates.
As the king of stoner wisdom, Heraclitus liked to say, “The only constant is change.” That's certainly true of my relationship with cannabis.
Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps