How I consumed cannabis in college without losing focus

Published on August 26, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020

To be clear: With some notable exceptions, I believe cannabis should be consumed by folks who are at least 21 years old. So if you’re under 21, please feel free to bookmark this article for a later date.

Having said that, I consumed cannabis for the first time as a 21-year-old college student, and it’s been a beneficial tool in my life ever since. That’s why the “stoner-slacker” stereotype that’s so often assigned to college kids who enjoy weed thoroughly annoys me.

Despite consuming cannabis quite often during the last three semesters of my college career, I graduated on time and with honors—all while maintaining a job, an apartment, family obligations, a serious relationship, my health and wellness, the health of my pet, and, during my senior year, an internship.

Unfortunately, since medical cannabis wasn’t legalized in my home state until 2018, none of my college-aged cannabis consumption was legal. I realize consuming cannabis in a prohibition state was incredibly risky, and I’m not condoning illegal cannabis use here; it’s always ideal to consume cannabis legally and safely. But the point is, weed didn’t prevent me from excelling in college.

Rather, it helped me thrive in ways I didn’t think were possible for me.

Throughout my last three semesters of college, I used cannabis as discreetly and responsibly as possible to not only have fun, but to manage severe anxiety, debilitating menstrual cramps, and difficulty sleeping as well. And over the past few years, cannabis has also been hugely instrumental in helping me heal from the trauma of sexual violence.

That said, I know cannabis consumption can be tricky when you’re in college, especially if you’re a new consumer. That’s why I wanted to share my tried-and-true tips for consuming cannabis in college without losing focus. I hope they help!

I Used Cannabis as a Reward

Coffee was my drug of choice when I was studying for exams, writing research papers, or reading textbooks—but cannabis became my preferred post-homework treat during my junior year of college. I stopped smoking cigarettes completely, and my alcohol consumption became increasingly minimal as well.

For me, making cannabis my nightly reward for a job well done was an excellent way to stay motivated—and a much healthier alternative to smoking tobacco and drinking.

I (Mostly) Consumed Cannabis on Nights & Weekends

I won’t pretend there were zero exceptions to this rule, but most of the time, I didn’t consume cannabis during the day when I was in college. Monday through Friday, I generally saved my smoke sessions for nighttime, when I was finished with classes and work.

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Unless I had to work a morning shift, weekends were an entirely different story. I almost always gave myself permission to wake and bake on Saturdays and Sundays—and I still managed to turn in all of my assignments early, or at least on time.

Back then, my “writing brain” worked best in the afternoons, evenings, and late at night, so waking and baking every weekend wasn’t an issue for me. But everyone’s different, and what worked for me might not work for someone else.

In my experience, the key to enjoying cannabis and staying on top of your schoolwork is knowing what your study schedule should look like, and then planning your smoke/vape/edible sessions around that schedule.

I Didn’t Consume Cannabis Before Work

As much as I would have loved smoking a huge bowl before working my countless retail shifts, I never consumed cannabis before going into work as a student. I’ve always been a high-functioning cannabis consumer (pun intended), and the company I worked for didn’t drug test—but I knew I desperately needed my retail job in order to feed myself and pay my rent, and cannabis stigma was even more pronounced when I was an undergraduate.

So instead of jeopardizing my livelihood, I stuck with post-work smoke sessions.

Could I have gotten away with going to work medicated? Probably. But I still think going to work sober was the right move for me at the time—that job helped me pay my bills throughout college, and it helped keep me afloat financially when finding a higher-paying job post-graduation proved way more difficult than I’d hoped it would be. I’m glad I didn’t take any chances, or put myself through the stress of having to act sober when I wasn’t.

I (Mostly) Didn’t Consume Cannabis Before Classes

I won’t lie—I absolutely consumed cannabis before attending several of my fiction and poetry workshops. In fact, I feel like consuming cannabis before those classes was actually quite helpful for me. A small dose allowed me to feel less socially anxious in creative workshop settings, and feeling less socially anxious enabled me to discuss my work and the work of my classmates more freely.

But with very few exceptions, I never consumed cannabis right before attending a lecture or a non-creative class. And I never, ever consumed cannabis before an exam. For me personally, it always felt easier to focus on tests and drier subjects (like the history of Middle English) when I was sober.

I Used Cannabis to Spark Creativity

While I made a point of never consuming cannabis before studying for an exam or before reading a seventeenth century novel, I regularly smoked weed before composing fiction and poetry. Not only was it an absolutely joyous way to work on my creative assignments, I ended up writing my best-received short stories and poems when weed was part of my creative process. 

If you think getting lifted might help spark your creative side as well, check out these cannabis strains—just don’t wait until the night before your assignment is due to try them.

I Took Time Off From Cannabis When I Felt Like I Needed a Break

About one month into my final semester of college, I decided to take a break from cannabis until after I’d turned in my very last undergraduate assignment. I was juggling 17 credit hours, an internship, a part-time job, health issues, and a serious relationship that, although I couldn’t see it at the time, was becoming increasingly abusive in every sense of the word.

If I’d had access to legal, transparent cannabis, or CBD-dominant products, or had known how to microdose properly, then I might not have taken time off cannabis. But those options simply didn’t exist for me in Missouri in 2012, and I had so much going on back then that taking the time to consume cannabis felt like more of a hindrance than a help. So I took a break, and it ended up being the right choice for me.

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Elizabeth Enochs
Elizabeth Enochs
Liz Enochs is a writer and journalist from a small town in Missouri that you've probably never heard of. In addition to Leafly, her work has been published by Bustle, Narratively, USA Today, HelloGiggles, POPSUGAR, and many others. More often than not, you'll find her in the woods.
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