By Mikki Norris with Chris Conrad. Originally written for
a display at the Hash-Marijuana-Hemp Museum of Amsterdam
The cannabis "marijuana" or hash high is different for
each person depending on the particular details of
conditions, setting, timing, state of mind, and the variety
of cannabis used. Although cannabis is generally pretty
benign, nothing is always safe and fun for everyone in every
situation. This includes cannabis. Comfortable surroundings
and good judgement are advised.
Smoked or vaporized cannabis is felt within seconds of
being inhaled. It's peak effect is from 15 minutes to a half
hour in duration, followed by a steep decline that levels
off and wears away in 2 to 4 hours. People can smoke it in
hand-rolled cigarettes, called "joints" or "spliffs," a
variety of pipes, or water pipes ("bongs"). A new technology
in the form of "vaporizers" is enabling people to consume
the resin containing THC through heating it short of burning
the plant matter to eliminate harms that come with smoking
Eaten cannabis is not felt at first. It is a good idea to
wait and see for an effect after a suggested dose, before
eating more. In a half-hour to an hour, the initial effect
is felt, and that can be abrupt and powerful. It maintains a
relatively stable level and drops off in 4 to 6 hours.
Intensity depends on dosage and metabolism. But if you don't
know yours, be prepared to lie down and rest for a while, if
necessary. Fresh air, fresh juice, and gentle reassurances
are the best things if you consume too much.
Based in part on observations from the book, High
Culture, by William Novak (The Cannabis Institute of
America, Inc., 1980.)
Cannabis use can increase focus and concentration making
a person's moods, sensations, and experience seem more
intense. Your heart may feel like its pounding, the music is
fantastic, this is the best dessert you've ever eaten and,
wow, get a load of how beautiful nature is. The problem is
that if you're concentrating on something that's negative,
you can intensify that feeling, as well. Fortunately,
something else will come along and distract you with another
thought to pursue, if you so choose. And if your fleeting
idea feels like the answer to the world's problems, please
write it down. It's profundity might escape you later, but
it will feel good if it turns out you're right.
Marijuana does not appear to affect actual memory. You
still remember your name and address, parents, childhood,
and whatever you've learned along life's highways and
byways. Cannabis can be a memory trigger, which means that
the experience is likely to remind the user of things that
s/he has associated with cannabis in the past. There is some
historical evidence that it's even been helpful for some
seniors to retain or recover memories and recognition.
A short-term memory interruption is common, however. A
speaker may lose track of what he was saying just a moment
ago. This effect is temporary while high and does not impact
memory in general. It is really a fleeting distraction, and
the description is misleading, because "short term memory"
refers to thoughts that have not formed into memory yet.
It's like the moment before you begin to type at your
computer; you haven't hit the keys yet, so there is nothing
to save. But if you reconstruct what led up to the idea, you
will probably think of it again.
IS CANNABIS AN ESCAPE?
Most people consider cannabis to be an experience
enhancer rather than an escape device. If you feel good, it
may make everything seem even better. When some people feel
down or depressed, smoking seems "inappropriate" and they
might get more into their problems. But, many report that it
may lead to a new understanding or perspective on a problem,
helping to resolve it and lift one's mood. It has been
extremely helpful to people with terminal illness, helping
them shake off depression and live out their remaining time
with dignity and relatively good cheer.
For some people it is definitely an escape, but whether
that is good or bad depends on the way that it is used. If
it allows perspective and insight, that is good; if it is an
avoidance mechanism, that is not a good use of cannabis.
This is where the concepts of sensible and responsible adult
INSIGHTS AND CREATIVITY
People often get a new perspective on a familiar scene or
problem, a seemingly profound thought or burst of
creativity. There is a sense of awe, revelation and
realization. Stoned insights tend to fall into three
categories: 1) A deeper recognition or understanding of an
already known truth or perception; 2) A new way of looking
at something; 3) Playful fantasies and ideas.
It can result in uncontrollable giggling about silly
ideas, or a burst of complex insights, such as when Carl
Sagan solved a physics equation while "under the influence."
It can draw on the appreciation of a hitherto overlooked
phenomenon, or reveal profound metaphoric relationships that
apply to one's own life. It can separate the consumer from
the immediacy of life and lead to a more balanced
perspective of their own situation. The possibilities are
limitless because each set and setting is unique, and
therefore capable of new ways of looking at things. That's
spontaneous mental generation.
Unlike alcohol intoxication, people who feel the effect
of cannabis are aware of that fact and tend to moderate
their behavior accordingly. For example, most people prefer
not to drive when high since they know that their
perceptions are somewhat altered even when not impaired.
There is an effect wherein you may experience a feeling that
you are simultaneously observing your own actions with an
objective eye at the same time as you do the action, giving
a new sense of perspective. At the same time, certain
experiences may be infused with a new sensibility, such as
"how can people go out and get drunk like that? I'm glad I
chose cannabis instead." Just don't get judgemental about
it. Many people report that cannabis makes them more
open-minded and tolerant of diversity.
Your pulse speeds up a bit, so the count of heartbeats
may give you the sense that more time has elapsed than
actually has. The external measurement of time appears to
pass more slowly, as well. For example: you may feel like an
hour has gone by but when you look at a clock it might only
have been ten minutes. You may look at a clock repeatedly
and still not keep track of what time it is. Events seem to
unfold more slowly, allowing more detailed observations and
reactions. Several ideas may occupy the same moment, or
thoughts may pass so rapidly that you don't even try to keep
up, just observe the passage. Wow, is that still the same
song playing as a while ago? That's one long song. And if
you're driving, you might find yourself driving below the
speed limit and letting everyone else pass.
Most people who've experienced it think that cannabis
makes sex better. Some even consider it a mild aphrodisiac.
It tends to increase sexual pleasure as it may lower
inhibitions, slow down time, induce relaxation, make people
more aware of touch and senses, and helps to focus on the
present moment. Orgasms may not be more intense, but the
experience may seem more sensual. There's a sense of deeper
appreciation for the ambiance such as candlelight, visual
aesthetics and music. More imaginative approaches may be
explored, but that does not remove the individual's
responsibility or judgement for practicing safe sex and
proper use of condoms.
All these effects are temporary. Reddening of the eyes;
slight temporary increase in the rate of heartbeat; cool
fingers and toes; mouth gets dry &emdash; "cotton mouth."
Cannabis and the cannabinoids are all non-toxic. Smoke
itself is an irritant, and bronchial irritation can occur
but no direct link to cancers have been proven. Ironically,
cannabis is also a vasodilator and bronchodilator, so it can
actually help some asthmatics.
There are no deaths that have been attributed to cannabis
overdose, but it is possible to have a very unpleasant
experience, especially due to the one-hour delay in effect
when large amounts of it are eaten. That would be extremely
rare, but once you've eaten too much you may need to vomit
or just wait it out. That is an advantage to smoked or
vaporized cannabis; because the effect is felt almost
immediately, it is a simple matter to stop when the desired
subjective effect is achieved.
Most people get "the munchies" (a strong desire to eat)
and say that food tastes exceptionally good, and chocolates
or desserts taste even better. Some people say they can
taste the separate ingredients in food and distinguish new
subtleties in olfactory sensations. A few people experience
the opposite effect: a loss of appetite and would rather
postpone eating and do something else. Sometimes that is
accompanied by a very strong appetite a few hours later. If
it kicks in late at night when you should be getting ready
for bed, that is where spontanaeity vs. personal
responsibility and moderation comes into play.
THINKING/ CONSCIOUSNESS ALTERATION
Consumers may feel a slight euphoria, happiness, or sense
of "well-being." Many mundane things suddenly seem more
interesting; alive; rich in details. Problems seem less
severe and pressing. Stoned thinking has been compared to
the indirect move of the knight on a chessboard, as opposed
to the direct linear moves of the rook or bishop; like
switching between two or more frames of mind. It may take
you off on tangents as you follow a train of thought. For
some however, thinking may be "foggy;" less clear or
focussed. Then there are the times when you just get the
giggles and laugh about anything, no matter how silly or
ridiculous. You may realize that something that has really
been bothering you is actually not such a big deal after
all, or that something you overlooked before could be the
key to a problem you've been trying to solve. Some people
become more observant or self-conscious, and talk less.
Others become more spontaneous and sociable.
A profound metaphor may reveal itself with rich
implications for your life and destiny. This aspect has led
to cannabis being used as a sacrament in many of the world's
religions throughout history. There are a variety of
Christians, Hindu and Moslems and other denominations who
revere cannabis as a sacred plant. Bible scripture is cited
to support its use.
PARANOIA / ANXIETY
Some people, especially novice smokers and people living
under drug war marijuana prohibition, may feel uncomfortable
with the changes they experience while stoned. They may
become paranoid or self-conscious, or possibly experience a
sense of panic (especially if they ate too much cannabis).
This is often triggered by the sudden and often subliminal
recognition that the cannabis consumer's heart is beating
faster, and just reminding them that this is a normal effect
will usually reduce their anxiety. Antidote: This discomfort
is usually handled by changing the environment, getting some
fresh air and trying to relax. One should lie down, breathe
slowly and drink some orange juice. A reassuring friend is
also helpful. Remember: No matter what, the effect will wear
off in a few hours.
On a physical level, cannabis helps relax muscles and
reduces spasms, including those caused by spinal injury or
MS. Many adults also often use cannabis to relax and unwind
after work, to let go of the day's tensions and adjust their
mental attitude. Most people prefer not to smoke when they
have a lot of things to get done, because smoking cannabis
(especially indica) can sometimes make one tired, sleepy or
feeling sluggish. Other people become energized or even
hyper when they consume cannabis. Other people find that it
gives them a lift and change of perspective to keep them
No one has ever died from consuming cannabis. There is no
such thing as a fatal overdose. On the other hand, one can
consume more than a comfortable amount, especially when
eating or drinking it. Symptoms of overindulgence usually
include unpleasant physical reactions or exaggerated
psychological emphasis on annoying situations that can lead
to paranoia or, rarely, panic. Since the effect of smoking
is almost immediate, it is relatively easy to prevent this
from occurring by stopping your intake while still at a
comfortable level. Any negative effects wear off in a short
time and you can often simply lie down and sleep them away.
Generally, there is no hangover when you wake up.
Some people enjoy smoking and interacting with others,
and feel they enjoy a special communication, bond or
connection with other smokers while high. Others may
sometimes become quiet, introspective, self-conscious,
uncomfortable or have difficulty making conversation and
prefer not to be stoned in public or a social situation.
Most people say that music sounds "richer." They can hear
sounds differently, more vividly and intensely. Some claim
it enhances their ability to hear the distinct lines of
several instruments at once and that they better grasp how
the various instruments interact to produce the music.
For some reading seems impossible while high as they may
forget the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to
the end. Stoned readers may at times find themselves reading
the same paragraph over again. Stoned readers may at times
find themselves reading the same paragraph over and over
again. Stoned readers may find themselves reading the exact
same paragraph over and over and over again and again. On
the other hand, others can focus on it and feel reading is
even more enjoyable. When reading imaginative works, being
high can increase the sense of empathy and help one to
Excerpted from the Hash, Marijuana, Hemp Museum of
PO Box 2662, 1012 DV Amsterdam, The Netherlands