There is a Zen comic that I wish I could use as the graphic for this article, but I don’t have permission from the artist, and I have no idea where that book is right now. But use your imagination for a moment: On the page are two very happy men. The one in the left is standing in a room full of riches, jewels piled up on the floor, bags of money stacked as high as the eye can see. He is saying “WOW! I Can’t believe my wealth has increased so much!” On the right is a lone figure sitting under a tree at the creek with his begging bowl, an equally ecstatic look on his face, saying “WOW! I can’t believe my desires have decreased so much!”
It’s not a funny cartoon so much as it as it is true, and dear readers, I am deciding that this is particularly true where weed smoking is concerned.
I’m not exactly a pioneer in this discovery. A study published in Science Daily measured the impairment and relative intoxication of various people who consumed their usual product- weak joint, strong joint, moderate strength dab, or super concentrated dab. And the people doing the stronger products did have measurably higher THC levels in the blood relative to their habits. But the intoxication and impairment they felt was about the same across all four groups. I found this fascinating. And it started ringing bells for me.
I can’t find this exact quote to reference either, but I swear I remember this: the comedian Ilana Glazer recently observed that “pot used to be stronger.” While I don’t believe this to be technically true in terms the potency of the plant, I can dig what she’s saying. I feel that too. We used to get super high, Ilana and me, back in the 80s. A few puffs and our eyes would water, the world around us would disappear and we would laugh maniacally at everything just like you saw in Reefer Madness. I’m using the royal “We” here, I’ve never met Ilana Glazer in real life, but when she talks about weed, I feel like I have. I mean, maybe I did meet her, but we got high and I forgot. That happens.
But I digress. The point is, we used to smoke weed and it melted our minds. We don’t really get that effect anymore, even though it’s easy and affordable to buy bud upwards of 25% THC. Hell, I have a bag of 32% sitting in my room right now. Hash oil dabs in the 90-95% range were unheard of back in the day, now every shop has them. I don’t think there’s any problem with the strength and purity of the product compared to what we got in the Reagan 80s.
What has happened? What’s not as good, is us. We’re not as good at processing the plant. We have become desensitized to its use through repetition.
I am becoming convinced that the way out of this, for regular users who rapidly build up a high tolerance, is going back to the use of products with a lower THC level.
Now that THC content is labeled, it’s natural for the consumer to want a lot for their money, believing more is better. My normal behavior in a weed shop where I’m not familiar with any of the brands, is to ask for something with the highest THC for my price range. I’m a cheapskate so, at the lower end, I’ve found the occasional jar hitting over 30% THC at a $35 an 8th price or less.
However, my enthusiasm on finding these “bargains” usually dissipated when I took them home. These were often dense, resinous buds that worked, but had virtually no smell, tasted funny to me, and seemed to run out quickly. I was thinking this was some cultivation experiment that didn’t succeed in every way, maybe they didn’t get get good terpenes as a result of bumping the THC so high, not that I know shit about farming. I wonder if there is such a thing as cultivating specifically to make extracts, which I suspect some companies may have done and then seen the oil market drop thanks to last year’s vape health crisis, forcing them to sell the bud as bud.
I also started to notice that my tolerance was kicking in for these high-test bags almost immediately, even the ones that did have nice flavors and terps. You would think I could use less and get more stoned, and an 8th would last longer. But that didn’t happen. I was having to shovel it in after a day or two.
I had never had enough weed in one place to experience this phenomenon. I really felt it the time I got a bunch of vape cart samples to review for this column all at once, and raised my THC intake overnight. I was happy to get them, but after a couple weeks, I had noticeably burned out my sensors. I hit a point where couldn’t get high. I knew the product wasn’t bunk, it had worked for me like crazy when I first got it.
This is a frustrating thing indeed, to have plenty of marijuana but too much tolerance to even get stoned anymore. I imagined myself as one of those skeletons clutching a treasure chest at the bottom of the sea.
As the TV Show The Good Place observed about frozen yogurt, it is just so HUMAN to take something wonderful – ice cream – and change it to make it worse, just so you can have more of it.
So, as with froyo and bargain-bin sushi, I decided that was not the way to enjoy life. I shifted my focus to flower grown by affordable craft companies, which usually meant THC counts in the 18-22% range. What I began to notice, not only were these lower octane bags lasting and sustaining me better, I was enjoying the experience more. I could also take a hit of super weed or a moonrock, and have it knock me over, as long as I limited that exposure to once a week or so.
What happens as we keep going down?
I’ve been picking up eighths with as low as 12% THC, usually in combination with something close to 20%. Sure enough, that first bowl of 12 % is still satisfying and relaxing. When it’s time to watch some Pink Floyd videos or Betty Boop cartoons or what have you, a few hits of the 20% takes me there.
Here’s a suggestion for you readers to try at home. If you have found your personal tolerance getting in the way of dopesmoking enjoyment, try living under 20% for a week. Get some inexpensive but decent quality pot that’s low enough to really make a difference – I’d say between 14 and 18%. Your body will recognize a big drop if you have been sucking down extracts or super premium bud for a long time.
Take a little vitamin C and echinacea to enhance the cleanse. You may feel a bit of a rush or a need to nap as the excess THC starts to leave your cells and come to the surface on day 2. Once the flood of THC has begun to exit your system, you should find your sensitivity has improved.
There is also such a thing as taking a “tolerance break”, just quitting for a while, and I’m all for that too. It works the best and the quickest, no denying it. Just keep your stash at 20% or under once you start up again, and you’ll make the most of it.
Should you decide to try it, leave a comment and tell us how you do. Clearly, moderation is the way for a lot of human activity to be maximized. and weed is no different. Even an enthusiast should be able to dig it, because moderation is how you manage to stay high without burning out. We encourage living your best life, at the holidays and throughout the year.
Happy hookah holidays, dear readers.