Responsible Marijuana Smoking: Moderation in All Things

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel April 13, 2015

    While we now enjoy the support of a majority of the American public to end marijuana prohibition, 64 percent of those same people nonetheless still have an overall negative impression of marijuana smokers. All to often they see us as slackers who fail to live up to our full potential, and whose primary interest in life is getting stoned.

    While much of that disconnect is likely the result of decades of “reefer madness” propaganda, some of it also results from careless conduct on the part of some marijuana smokers that reinforces those negative stereotypes. We can’t change the past, but we do have the ability to demonstrate by our conduct that marijuana smokers also have full, rich lives filled with family and friends, and influenced by our intellectual and professional pursuits. We are about more than just getting high.

    In fact, those of us who smoke marijuana are otherwise indistinguishable from other Americans. We come in all shapes and sizes, with a full range of political beliefs and lifestyles and professional goals. For the vast majority of smokers, our use of marijuana does not define our lives; it is but one factor, including family, work, education, sports, literature, music and faith, that taken together, define who we are as individuals.

    Of course, those of us who smoke enjoy the benefits of marijuana, from its relaxing qualities to its ability to allow one to become more creative, and expansive, in our thinking. I do believe that marijuana smoking plays a very positive role in my life and in my work, and I am sure many other smokers feel the same.

    Everyone needs some private time, and getting “high” — like sex — is not a dirty word. There are times when we can lay aside our responsibility for a time, and enjoy the freedom of just getting high with friends. But that does not suggest that marijuana smoking should become the center of one’s life, or that one should be stoned all waking hours. Most jobs and educational pursuits require a clear mind and a steady focus that are not possible if one is experiencing the short-term memory loss that is an integral part of the marijuana “high.”

    And a healthy family life requires shared experiences and interactions that depend on a degree of personal communication that is frequently interrupted if one of the parties is stoned. And, frankly, like most other activities in life, getting “high” is more pleasurable when experienced in moderation.

    Principles of Responsible Marijuana Use

    Here are a few common sense suggestions for enjoying marijuana in a responsible manner, which will, over time, help persuade the non-smokers that those of us who do smoke are nonetheless good, productive citizens. Many of these are based on The Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use, adopted by the NORML board of directors back in 1996, and found on the NORML website.

    1. Be sensitive to the set and setting before lighting-up. A responsible marijuana consumer should be vigilant to the conditions – time, place, mood, etc. – and should not hesitate to say “no” when those conditions are not conductive to a safe, pleasant and/or productive experience. And we must always respect the rights of others.

    The responsible marijuana smoker does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid marijuana entirely. Regardless of the legal status of marijuana, responsible users should adhere to emerging tobacco smoking protocols in public and private places. It is important politically that non-smokers do not feel as if those of us who smoke are forcing our personal preferences on them.

    2. No driving while impaired with marijuana. A responsible marijuana consumer should not operate a motor vehicle or use other dangerous machinery while impaired by marijuana or other substances (including alcohol and some prescription medications).

    Public safety requires that impaired drivers be kept off the roads, and that objective measures of impairment be developed to detect marijuana impairment; not simply testing for the presence of THC.

    3. Resist abuse. Most marijuana use is essentially harmless; some is not. The use of marijuana, to the extent it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse and should be resisted.

    For example, the concept of “wake and bake” needs to disappear from our lexicon. It is a variation on the “stupid stoner” stereotype of a smoker who sits home on his couch all day and stays stoned from morning until night. That image feeds the prejudice that exists among non-smokers towards those of us who smoke.

    “Wake and bake” might work on an occasional camping trip, or a day spent walking in the woods, but it should not be a regular part of one’s life.

    4. Be careful with edibles and concentrates. When consumed as an edible, the THC in marijuana requires up to 90-minutes, or even longer, to take effect, and it is therefore difficult to titrate the dosage. 10 milligrams is generally considered a single dose for an experienced user, and perhaps 5 milligrams for a novice user.

    One who consumers too much of an edible will likely have a frightening, unpleasant experience, similar to a bad acid trip, which sometimes ends up in an emergency room. Those incidents are not life threatening or fatal, but they do reinforce negative views of marijuana smoking by non-smokers, and complicate our task of moving legalizing forward.

    And the same warning applies to concentrates. Novice users especially need to go slowly when using concentrates, to avoid an unpleasant overdose; and even experienced smokers frequently are surprised by the strength of concentrates. Just as alcohol drinkers learn to use far less if they are drinking hard liquor than if they are drinking beer, those who use edibles and concentrates must acknowledge the distinction from regular marijuana and adjust their intake.

    5. Moderation in all things. Just as alcohol drinkers learn that moderation is necessary to insure a pleasant experience, and to avoid an unpleasant one, so too with marijuana smoking. Getting as high as possible should not be the goal. The purpose of marijuana smoking should be to reach a nice, comfortable, pleasant high that permits enjoyable social interaction with others, and enhances the experience of activities such as eating, listening to music, walking in the woods, having sex, etc.

    In fact, sometimes marijuana smokers prefer a mild level of intoxication, which has resulted in the arrival of many low-THC strains and edibles in states in which it is legal.

    If those of us who smoke marijuana can generally follow these basic guidelines, we will begin to overcome the negative impression of recreational marijuana smokers that persist among nearly two out of three non-smokers, which in turn will permit us to make the remaining cultural and legal changes required to end unfair discrimination against responsible marijuana smokers.




    38 responses to “Responsible Marijuana Smoking: Moderation in All Things”

    1. Don M says:

      That is excellent advice Keith! Thank you for continuing to be a voice of reason among quite a bit of insanity!

      I truly wish I could share this article with my brother who, in spite of my normalness, considers anyone who uses cannabis for any reason to be a stoner loser. I got into a bit of an argument with him over it after pointing out my successes in life and my belief that it has helped me more than it has hurt me, but it ended with me telling him that I’d never mention it to him ever again. Since then we haven’t spoken much; which is truly quite sad.

    2. JJ says:

      Hear, Hear! If my state was legalized I would pin this list to the front of my fridge.

      I firmly believe that legalization will bring a new era of “movers and shakers” to this world, not a crop of lazy couch potatoes. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colors no need to discriminate any longer.

    3. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Pot is everything that is good. It helps you think and to understand the complexities of life in a very quick and a more pleasurable way. So write them down and believe in yourself and enjoy life.

    4. fireweed says:

      concerning the last point, one of the biggest misconceptions about pot is that you can keep getting higher by smoking more, but my experience has been that you just end up kind of muddying the effect so that you don’t feel anything but a little tired. Unlike alcohol, where you can keep getting more drunk even after you’ve stopped consuming alcohol.

    5. fireweed says:

      to add to JJ’s comment, I recall having a conversation with a coworker about 30 years ago when the anti-marijuana rhetoric had reached fever pitch, and we were the only ones in our department that smoked, the irony was that we both were the ones that took on the most projects and did the best work in our department.

      as an aside, I can’t believe I dodged drug testing for the last 30 years!

    6. Bob Constantine says:

      I appreciate the sentiment of the article, but wish that the root causes of prohibition were examined and understood by more people.

      The problem isn’t in the multitude of behaviors that cannabis consumers display. The root problem is some people think they can “own” other people and force their choices on them via some kind of democratic process which attempts to take a thing inherently wrong and by a voting consensus make controlling other peaceful people acceptable.

      The substances consumed and the habits people have are secondary. We all own ourselves, none of us own others. Laws be damned that violate that idea.

      I don’t think any of us should tell others what to do, if the other person confines their actions to themselves while on their own property or property they have the consent of the owner to be on.

      I think wake n bake is a personal choice and a great way to start a day if a person is so inclined.

      Ironic that millions of caffeine addicted Americans are okay with jailing people for a plant, then they drink the brew from an addictive and mood altering plant on their way to work.

    7. TheOracle says:

      Kudos to you, Keith!

      Anybody come up with a mnemonic device for it?

    8. Julian says:

      And the timing to provide a responsible image for marijuana consumers could never be more important: Our Great American Cannabis Tragedy is converging into a perfect storm for legalization:

      1).Judge Mueller’s likely decision in two days in favor of the Defense calling schedule 1 unconstitutional for cannabis

      2).The delay of appointing Attorney General for Loretta Lynch offers Holder an opportunity to make one last executive order at the same time of Mueller’s decision

      3). The Carers Act is pending in Congress

      There is an incredible opportunity here to deschedule marijuana during the next week or two. What Keith is saying is our responsible representation of marijuana consumers is swaying public opinion, Federal Judge’s decisions, The President and just perhaps, even the decisions of Congress who created this mess we call prohibition in the first place.
      These are incredible times to see Democracy at work. Let’s make our voice heard respectfully… And responsibly.

    9. JC says:

      Indeed another excellent article! I wish more of the younger crowd reads this, as they are the ones who have not had the time to learn this from experience. @ Don M, I completely understand what you experience with your brother, I too have had folks who do not understand or condone my Cannabis use, and it has been rough, but there are those who have come around, for them I am grateful. I believe we are all beginning a new era of acceptance, with Cannabis specifically, but also in other social matters.

    10. Mr D says:

      Just felt like I had to be a voice here on my belief. The one thing that is hard for non-smokers to understand is this; Although cannabis should be treated the same as alcohol and regulated the same. . . Cannabis is not alcohol. I know This article is saying what needs to be said to convince non-smokers that cannabis smokers (consumers) are responsible people and by me saying, what I’m about to say, is damaging to the movement but I still have to say it. Because for me it is the truth. I’ve been out of work for quite some time now due to depression and anxiety.(and I haven’t smoked in years, other than a couple times to try and help my illnesses but smoking make my anxiety worse. Oddly enough, when I did work, every job I did have, I smoked. I would ‘wake and bake’ every day and go to work and work my butt off. I was responsible to show up on time every single day, never called off, and did my job well. All of my jobs. And yes, I drove myself to work also (high but not impaired)[I don’t care the flak I receive from saying that. It’s the simple truth.] I realize this is the image that is a big “no no” in this movement, but like I said, I just speak my personal truth. People who consume cannabis already know this but I’ll say it once again. Cannabis. Is. Not. Alcohol. Thank you Keith and NORML for all that you do.