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What to Expect When Consuming Medical Marijuana 

Medical marijuana may be newly legal in many states, but it’s long been a staple in human civilization. Societies have consumed the plant for medical and recreational purposes for thousands of years1. As prohibition begins to relax and adults can now buy medical marijuana in a safe and regulated environment, a new generation of consumers are entering the fold. If you’re new to medical marijuana, here’s our guide to what you can expect of your first experience.

Why do people consume medical marijuana?

You may know medical marijuana as medicine. Many have found relief from pain, anxiety, and other debilitating conditions through the plant. You’re far from alone – medical marijuana has been celebrated for its medicinal value for thousands of years. Its seeds were discovered in the graves of shamans throughout modern-day China and Siberia, signaling the plant’s medical – and perhaps even spiritual – importance to the cultures of the day.

You may also find that consuming medical marijuana is helpful for everyday purposes, such as relaxation, energy, or focus. This type of consumption has also been part of human civilization for millennia, emerging around the same time medical marijuana was first used as an herbal medicine. Today, most U.S. states and a handful of countries permit adults to possess and consume medical marijuana products.

How medical marijuana works

Whatever your reason for trying medical marijuana, knowing how it works is key to finding a routine that works best for your body and mind.

There are two key components to the process: the phytocannabinoids found in medical marijuana and a bodily system called the endogenous cannabinoid system, also called your endocannabinoid system or the ECS.

  • The endocannabinoid system: Your ECS is composed of cannabinoid receptors that are found quite literally from head to toe, including in your skin, brain, immune system, and central nervous system. These receptors and the cannabinoids that interact with them influence many of the most important systems in your body.

Many of the effects medical marijuana has on our perception and bodily functions can be tied back to the interaction between cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. What the chemistry doesn’t tell us, though, is how we can expect medical marijuana to affect each of us on an individual level.

What you need to know before trying medical marijuana

  • Know your “why”: It’s important to understand your goals for consuming medical marijuana, whether you experience sleep disruptions, want to relax after a long day, or ease discomfort. Knowing these goals will help your medical practitioner, the dispensary pharmacist, and associate select the right products for your goals.
  • Not all cultivars are the same: Each cultivar – also known as strain – has its own cannabinoid and terpene profile. These compounds which work together to elicit certain desired effects, called the entourage effect. The cultivar you choose, therefore, plays a significant role in steering your medical marijuana experience.
  • Product type and consumption directly impact your experience: Each medical marijuana product impacts your body in a different way. Understanding how a product and an administration method could influence your overall experience can help you select the best possible medical marijuana product.
  • Everybody is unique: Finally, it’s important to remember that no two medical marijuana experiences are alike. While there are many general expectations for consuming medical marijuana, you might not experience all or any of them. Your own biological makeup, when you last ate, and how you’re currently feeling are only a few of the factors that can influence your medical marijuana experience.

What can you expect when you try medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana consumption comes along with a full gamut of possible outcomes. Depending on the cultivar you select and the product type you consume, you might or might not experience one of these common outcomes:

  • Laughter: Some medical marijuana consumption can prompt laughter. This is most likely due to the way phytocannabinoids and terpenes influence dopamine regulation and stimulate blood flow to certain regions of your brain2.
  • Relaxation: Some medical marijuana cultivars are more likely to be relaxing than uplifting. In some cases, medical marijuana could even help with sleep disruptions3. That relaxation could be due to terpenes, like linalool or myrcene. It could also be a byproduct of medical marijuana’s medicinal effect, making it easier for you to unwind.
  • Increased appetite: You might have heard of the “munchies.” Well, there’s a reason medical marijuana can make you hungry. It’s thought that THC might stimulate a hormone known as ghrelin4, which increases senses of smell, taste, and hunger sensations.
  • Increased thirst and dry mouth: You might experience “cottonmouth,” or a persistent dry mouth and thirst. This is because THC and CBD bind to endocannabinoid receptors in your salivary glands. This modulates the neurotransmitters methacholine and norepinephrine, which play a role in saliva production5.
  • Dry eyes: A commonplace occurrence, dry eyes are likely caused by THC lowering blood pressure, which causes blood vessels and capillaries to dilate6. Although overall blood pressure is lowered, the dilation of these vessels and capillaries increases blood flow to your eyes, which can make them appear bloodshot.
  • Distorted perception of time: Multiple studies have shown that people tend to overestimate time after consuming medical marijuana7. Due to this distortion of perception, you might experience a delayed reaction time as well. The reason behind this shift in internal clock is not yet well understood.
  • Heightened anxiety: Even though medical marijuana can help alleviate anxiety, it may lead to increased anxiety in some people8. This can be for many reasons. For example, THC can increase heart rate, which could be perceived as a symptom of anxiety. Additionally, the altered mental state THC may cause could be overwhelming and may induce anxiety response. This makes it especially important to consume medical marijuana in a safe environment.

Tips for trying medical marijuana safely

When consuming medical marijuana, there are some safety considerations to keep in mind.

  • Be prepared to not drive: Because medical marijuana distorts perception of time and slows reaction time, driving a vehicle or operating heavy machinery is not only unsafe, but is against the law. Stay put or arrange for someone who has not consumed medical marijuana to give you a ride.
  • Try it with loved ones you trust: Always consume in a place you are safe and comfortable. Trustworthy and reliable friends or family members can offer an added layer of support.
  • Start low and go slow: Begin with small amounts of medical marijuana. Take your time to see how you feel. Gradually increase amounts over time until the desired experience is achieved. Keep track of how much of a medical marijuana product you consumed and over what period of time.
  • Give it time: Sometimes there is a delay between consumption and a perceptible change in feeling. Always give it time before increasing the amount of medical marijuana you consume. This is especially important when it comes to ingestible medical marijuana products.
  • Know your limits: Stop if you’ve had enough. The effects of medical marijuana, both positive and negative, could increase as your intake increases.
  • Store your products in a safe place: You — and only you – should have access to your medical marijuana . Be sure to store it securely away from pets and children.

Deciding how to begin your journey may not be the easiest or most obvious choice. At Ethos, we understand the thrilling challenge of navigating this new space. We are here to serve as your educational partner and help you have the most positive medical marijuana experience possible. Whatever your goals for your personal medical marijuana journey, we will be with you step by step with information to help you make the best decision for yourself.

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