1. How you’re feeling before you smoke (and where, and when, and why…)
Critics of cannabis like to say it makes you lazy and stupid. I would disagree and say that pot doesn’t make you lazy, it just makes that laziness feel profound — and everyone deserves the right to be profoundly lazy if they want to.
Where you consume, who you do it with, the time of day and even what you ate earlier in the day can affect your experience. Smoking at the beginning of the day may help you get up and out of bed, while smoking at the end of the day may prepare you for bed. Eating an edible and heading to a club may be a helpful (or, for this author, essential) ingredient to get you on the dance floor, but eating the same edible before you head into a meditation class may bring your energy levels down.
At the end of the day, there’s only so much cannabis can do to shape your experience of it. Cannabis can alter or enhance an experience, but it can’t create them all on its own.
What mood you have going into your smoke session matters quite a bit too. Studies have shown that cannabis “dramatically increased” consumers’ perception of the “emotional significance” of incoming information. If you feel happy before you smoke, chances are you’ll have a happy outlook while you’re high.
By the same token, go into a smoke session in a bad mood and you may find yourself introspective and prone to ruminate or dwell on your anxieties. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s not that helpful if you’re trying to use cannabis to perk yourself up for a chatty dinner party.
2. How you consume it
One of the main levers to controlling your high is choosing the right consumption method, whether you’re inhaling cannabis (via smoking or vaping), or ingesting it via an edible, beverage, oil or tincture. The key difference is when you eat it, you’re functionally taking a different substance than when you smoke it, since the ratio between two types of THC — 11-hydroxy-THC, formed in the body when you eat it, and regular delta9-THC — is different. That’s why edibles give you a high that lasts longer.
If you do choose to inhale, how (and what) you inhale matters too. Vaporizer users often say the high is a bit more cerebral, cleaner and shorter lasting. Vaping offers more precise controls, too, so you can keep the heat low to target specific terpenes and cannabinoids.
Those who smoke will recognize the deeper, total-body feeling that a pipe or bong rip will bring; you’re often consuming larger quantities, quicker, and as a result you’ll often get more stoned than you would with a vape or joint.
3. Your biology
Once you’ve started consuming cannabis, your body’s biological processes start to kick in, which will also affect your high. Whether you were born male or female impacts how your endocannabinoid system processes the pot.
According to one 2010 study, the influence of cannabis on sexual behaviour and arousability is “dose-dependent in both men and women, although only women report facilitatory effects.”
Males are also thought to have higher sensitivity to certain effects from the CB1 receptors, which are mostly responsible for the feeling of being high (rather than the CB2 receptors, which are concentrated further away from the brain), than women.
And then, there’s the biggest variable of all: DNA. Scientists are researching how DNA and the endocannabinoid system interact, and the general thinking is that eventually, the research will advance enough to be able to produce cannabis products that target an individual’s DNA.
4. How much you’re consuming and your tolerance level
How much you’ve smoked or eaten, and how regularly you smoke or eat that much cannabis, will also determine it. Over time, cannabis consumption will have a diminished effect because a person’s tolerance has increased. Over time, the CB1 receptors in the brain get desensitized, and eventually internalized back into the cell they are on the surface of.
If this is the case, your high may feel a little less potent, or you may need more pot to get the same level of stoned. Some users have devised anecdotal methods for getting your groove back, so to speak, but one thing that tends to work for most people is simply taking a break for a little while.
5. What’s in your cannabis
It’s important not to forget that the quality, character, and chemical makeup of the cannabis does matter, too. The ratio between THC and CBD in the flower or edible will dictate its effect, as will its genetics. And then there’s the wild world of terpenes — essential oils found in cannabis flower that can augment the effect of cannabis in a myriad of different ways. A strain with high limonene content might perk you up; a strain high in myrcene might mellow you out.