I began using cannabis at age 17, which is exactly half my life ago. After so many years of not really fitting in, not loving the drinking scene, and looking for something that would help me feel “chill”, cannabis truly became my first love.
Like many relationships, there are ups and downs, and although I’ve chosen a lifelong relationship with cannabis, I can certainly say that our partnership hasn’t always been puppy dogs and roses.
Early Struggles Find Relief
I’ve struggled with my mental health all my life. Temper tantrums at a young age, always feeling this infinite sadness, and never truly understanding why my brain was doing the things it did and making me act out the ways I did.
Cannabis opened up a new world for me. A world where I felt as though I could get into a state where I was more talkative, more confident, and felt more in control of my thoughts. I never saw this as a bad thing.
At the time, and we’re talking very early 2000s, cannabis was still illicit, and those who smoked always got the labels of “the stoner”. I always gravitated towards “the stoners” at parties, because I knew they understood the appeal of cannabis.
I can remember being scrutinized really early for my cannabis use, told by some friends that if I continued to use cannabis, “I’d be found dead in a gutter” (literal words). I chose to prove them wrong.
Proving Them Wrong
I went on to get an undergraduate degree, a diploma and landed a very successful job where I was doing extremely well for my age. But work was stressful. Almost too stressful than I could handle.
As I became more successful, and life became more stressful, I began to realize that my cannabis use was increasing, and so were the negative side effects on my mental health.
Let’s remember this is the early and now mid-2000s. We didn’t have cannabis as we do now in the legalized parts of the world. Cannabis was all about getting a “bag of weed” off whoever you could manage to get it from. There was no strain choice or understanding of what you’re consuming. I had no idea what “safe consumption” was, and at that point in my life, I truly was abusing cannabis so that I could get “totally blazed” and forget about my problems. I didn’t know back then about THC and CBD, and how they affect my mood, mind, and mental state.
Becoming Woke on My Wake n’ Baking
After a number of life-shattering events, including the death of my father, and some really bad heartbreaks, cannabis use began to increase more; as cannabis increased in an unhealthy way, so did my problems with my mental health.
My doctor would remind me time and time again that cannabis is fantastic for “in the moment” relief of symptoms, but that there is somewhat of a hangover from THC that can lead to more depression and anxiety. I understood that I was self-medicating, and then medicating more to cover up the side effects, causing a whirlwind in my head where I couldn’t catch a clear thought if I tried. Sometimes I felt as though I had induced some sort of psychosis just from using bad cannabis and abusing it.
Oddly enough, a career change landed me right where I am now: in the cannabis industry. One thing I began to learn about is “cannabis use disorder”, a literal psychiatric condition that describes a dependency on cannabis and an inability to stop its use.
My cannabis use became something that was interfering with relationships and had many people concerned about me, including myself. It wasn’t until I recognized that I could have cannabis use disorder that I began to really think about the ways I consume cannabis.
A Change Is Coming
After a move away from Costa Rica, where I was getting very “bad weed”, back to Canada, I began to take control of my cannabis use. Steve DeAngelo in The Cannabis Manifesto reminds us to see cannabis as a wellness tool, not an intoxicant.
I decided that I wasn’t going to ever use cannabis again to get high.
My new journey with cannabis involved first a 2-week long cannabis detox or tolerance break, in which I used herbs and supplements to cleanse my body of the cannabis I was using. To be honest, I felt great but recognized that there was a lot that I was using cannabis for, including anxiety, pain, and my inability to focus where I need to most.
Once I was ready to get back to cannabis, I began to lose what I had, to make sure that I was not consuming more than I should within a day. I talked to my psychiatrist about using cannabis in relation to my current medications as well as my diagnosis. He confirmed that cannabis and my medications had no negative interactions (which was important for my physiology), and that cannabis could continue to be used, but that I should focus on using lower-THC strains with high CBD.
I began integrating CBD oil into my daily routine, and have started to limit my THC.
From Meaningless to Mindfulness
Then came getting my medical cannabis card through Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR), which has changed everything. Now I can select strains that allow me to focus purely on the symptoms I am managing, including pain, anxiety, mood, and at times, intrusive thoughts.
I use an app called Strainprint, where you can track your cannabis sessions, the strain you’re using, your dose, and what the effects are so that you learn to use cannabis more mindfully. At any time, I can see a Snapshot of how much I am using, how often, and what the efficacy of my sessions are.
My Torrid Love Affair
I consider my relationship with cannabis a torrid love affair, where it’s mostly been love, but there’s always that awareness that if I’m not careful, things can go awry at any time. Being involved in the industry has taught me to respect the cannabis plant and cannabis use.
I’m proud to report that today, I am mentally healthy, thanks to a perfect balance of medications, therapies, and mindful medical cannabis use. I share my story as legalization spreads across the U.S. and is so imminent in my own country of Canada, as cannabis use can have negative consequences if it’s not approached with intention, mindfulness, and education about what you’re ingesting, and how it’s affecting your body.
I encourage everyone to use cannabis with intent and to track their cannabis use in ways that help you stay on the side of beneficial rather than detrimental. There is always too much of a good thing!
Anne-Marie is a freelance cannabis writer and educator dedicated to cultivating and disseminating important knowledge about cannabis as legalization spreads across the globe. After earning her BA and Masters, she followed an exciting career in the research and education field, finding innovative ways to create collaborations between community needs and research and academic pursuits.
Based in Canada, she is a full-time writer for the world’s best cannabis companies, advocates and organizations.