Taking a tolerance break

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Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons

“I can never tell when you’re high. You don’t act any different,” a friend said to me last weekend. We had taken a day trip to go stand-up paddleboarding at Lake Hosmer near my home in Bend, Oregon. After about 20 minutes of paddling, we reached a section of the lake where we could just chill and float and allow the current to carry us. I immediately reached into my dry bag to pull out a joint and lighter.   

“That’s because I’m always high,” I replied. I laughed and took it as a compliment. It wasn’t the first time someone had said that to me. I can basically smoke as much as I want and not only maintain my composure, but carry on as myself, vibrant personality and all, without anyone being the wiser.

Some people absolutely cannot act normal or perform basic tasks on weed, and it becomes very apparent when they get too high. They melt into the couch, can barely keep their eyes open and their whole personality morphs into “everything is hilarious, and I can’t stop eating.” These people usually know better than to smoke weed before work or anything else that requires them to keep it together in public.

I, on the other hand, incorporate it into a daily routine. As a stoner and someone who works in the cannabis industry, I burn trees like it’s my job. Because it is. I review strains and products and still have to be cognitive enough to actually do the work. I usually smoke at least three times a day: before I run or go to yoga, before I cook dinner and before I go to bed, which means I have a light high between the hours of 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. and my body has just adjusted to it over time.

I think some people might find my daily cannabis habit trashy, but it hasn’t been problematic for me yet because it’s not holding me back from the life that I want to live. But recently, I’ve been considering a tolerance break. Not because I’m ashamed or feel like I have something to prove, but simply because I miss the good ol’ days of being too high to function. I’m not getting that same overwhelming buzz like I did in college, where it only took a couple bowl hits to make me geek out for hours. And that’s when I lived on the East Coast and only had access to mediocre mids, as opposed to the potent strains I smoke today. Despite constantly rotating strains and different methods of consumption, I’m unable to reach the euphoric high I experienced when I was a novice.

Research shows that weed tolerance is the result of a reduction of cannabinoid receptors in the brain. When you blaze, THC activates a brain cannabinoid receptor called CB1, which is what makes you feel high. When you repeatedly expose the brain to THC, your brain reduces the number of CB1 receptors in order to minimize the increase in CB1 activity, so you don’t experience the same high.

Luckily, a cannabis tolerance break works like a reset button. After just two days of laying off the herb, CB1 receptors begin to replenish and start to bounce back. After four weeks of abstinence, CB1 receptors return to almost the same levels of nonsmokers.

My goal for my tolerance break is going to be two weeks, mostly because some of my monthly income comes from writing strain reviews, and turning down work in favor of abstaining longer would be financially irresponsible of me. Considering the fact that I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone that long without consuming weed, I think two weeks will be plenty of time for me to reap some of the benefits.

Besides wanting to lower my threshold for cannabinoids, I’m interested in re-evaluating my relationship with the plant and the role it plays in my life. Since marijuana is incorporated into my daily routine and lifestyle, a tolerance break will definitely be a challenge in the sense that it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone: Will I still look forward to trail running if I’m completely sober? Is it going to be as enjoyable? Will I get bored or develop social anxiety if I can’t get stoned with my friends? Am I going to have an appetite? How am I going to fall asleep at night without getting high AF first?

Over the next couple weeks, I’m going to write about my thoughts, opinions, side effects and any interesting research I discover throughout the course of my tolerance break. Cannabis is a highly individualistic experience for everyone, so I’m excited to share my journey. After all, I can still support the mission of normalizing marijuana without getting stoned every day.