Discreetly Dank is a recurring column dedicated to giving a voice to those who dare to be dank. Each volume will come from a different writer in need of a safe space to document what it’s really like to be a weed lover in a world that still hasn’t normalized cannabis.
“I know that what I went through for a few years with weed was addiction or something like it.”
There was a time in my life—those nebulous, sizzling years of my early 20s—when everything I loved about life I attributed to cannabis. I was working at a dispensary in California and making more money than I ever had. I’d fallen in love with a fellow stoner who led me into the world of secret seshes and the allure of the gray market. And I felt like I was helping people soothe their ailments and enhancing their lives with the work I was doing.
As an aspiring writer still in college, I dreaded my impending graduation and how I’d find a job amongst so many other journalists who I felt were hungrier, bolder, and more persistent than me. I never felt like I knew enough to cover crime or the education system, but suddenly, everyone had questions about weed and where the industry was going.
I always had a dream of writing for a living, and the plant’s growing popularity provided me with a beat that my professors knew almost nothing about yet still encouraged me to pursue.
I can’t lie. It felt pretty damn good to have at least some of the answers. Using my network of people I knew in the industry, I made and leveraged connections that no one else I knew had, and I carved out a lane as a writer where I felt uniquely equipped to cover the subject matter.
There was just one problem, though.
I didn’t feel confident writing about weed without weed. I didn’t believe I could make it as a writer outside of the cannabis niche and without submerging myself into cannabis culture.
I attributed any progress I made or triumph I experienced to weed, and began thinking of it as my lightsaber, my sword in the stone, and my golden fleece all in one. It had opened up so many doors for me, and it only felt right that I consumed as much as possible.
Learning limits the hard way
“When I smoked weed, I was less anxious. I could get through my assignments, and I could couch all the things I felt insecure about.”
Weed first came into my life when I started casually smoking at my California high school. It was a sometimes thing, mainly at home or at parties, subsisting on the occasional dime bag and mooching from my sisters. I didn’t go to school or my extracurriculars in high and didn’t like doing my homework zooted. But then came college.
My first years of college felt like a perpetual brace for disaster. None of my actions seemed to have the outcomes I wanted. When I smoked weed, I was less anxious. I could get through my assignments, and I could couch all the things I felt insecure about.
Then there was also the part where it was my job to know all about weed in order to help others. How could I convince patients to try this edible or that strain if I couldn’t share a personal anecdote? How could I report on a topic when I didn’t know it inside and out?
Soon after I entered the weed world professionally, I was smoking every day, puffing on joints of 30% THC Bruce Banner, and trying to find my edible sweet spot. My partner was a huge dabber, so, naturally, I was a huge dabber, too.
Sophomore year of college, I even spoke with a counselor because I thought maybe smoking weed every day and trying to write all my essays high wasn’t the best option for me. When I told my counselor I was feeling listless, unfocused, and a bit depressed, she said I was smoking too much weed. But I didn’t really care enough to stop.
The pros of smoking weed still outweighed the cons for me. Even if the cons were growing in ways I couldn’t see.
What is cannabis use disorder?
In the Harry J. Aslinger days of Reefer Madness, cannabis was deemed a portal to hell. But the work of cannabis activists of the last couple of generations has been to help people realize that weed is, actually, pretty normal and boring.
A big part of my own weed activism was based on the idea that weed wasn’t addictive because it contributes to far less death and disease than alcohol or cigarettes, and because it does not result in lethal overdoses or the gripping dependency that can come with taking opioids or amphetamines.
But I know that what I went through for a few years with weed was addiction or something like it. In fact, the term used for it these days is “cannabis use disorder.”
Per the CDC, having a cannabis use disorder means someone is “unable to stop using marijuana even though it’s causing health and social problems in their lives.” Some research estimates that about 1.5% of the US adult population has a cannabis use disorder, but these numbers aren’t static.
Outlets like the New York Times have reported on escalating cannabis use among teens, and claimed that their addiction to high-THC cannabis products can affect their brain development, memory, motivation, and physical health. I really can’t say if that was the case for me as a teen, but by college, the negative aspects for me were definitely emotional and social.
On top of that, my classwork started suffering because it was easy to rationalize not doing an assignment when I was high, or to find myself caught in THC-inspired pursuits while on deadline. And when my relationship ended, I turned to my dab rig and hash gummies to quell the volatility I felt instead of seeking out social or therapeutic support.
These were all signs that I smoked too much, but it still took a lot of reflection to figure out why weed had gone from being a help to a hindrance.
Practicing intention and moderation
For me, and for many others, cannabis can be so many things – including a crutch.
What took so long for me to realize was that I was no longer using weed to enhance my life and help me seek out new insights. I was numbing myself. Being high as frequently as I was in those days weaponized weed against me, instead of inspiring my growth.
Don’t get me wrong. Cannabis’ medicinal value and growing list of benefits has an incredible amount of potential in our society. But I think to sidestep the reality of how people can potentially suffer due to the overconsumption of cannabis would be dishonest of me.
I will never stop fighting for people to enjoy weed safely and in any way they want, and I still use cannabis regularly. But the old me could smoke the new me under a table, and I’m glad about that.
Now that I know (and believe in the existence of) cannabis use disorder, I also know that I am better for my awareness.