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Dear Mama: Getting High

Why do some people not get “high” from smoking pot?

Janice, in Florida

This question reminds me of a relative who always said they didn’t get high. Trust me, we all knew she was high, but for some reason she always told us pot did nothing for her. It’s not uncommon for people to report not getting high the first or second time they try cannabis. Over a third of first time smokers report no high the first time they tried pot.

So a good place to start is the word “high”. It probably isn’t what you thought. It’s not seeing colors and hearing things, and you don’t really feel a big, obvious change in yourself. Often it’s very slight changes in your perception, a feeling of full body comfort, or an increased sense of relaxation. This relative of mine, who remains nameless, never thought she was high, but we noticed that she was friendly and sociable after partaking. She wasn’t a warm and fuzzy person in general, but after a few puffs she was always more engaged socially.

Often people tell me they didn’t feel anything and I ask,” are you home alone?” I find that we don’t often notice the slight changes when we are home alone doing what we usually do. But the same dose of medication could feel very different if you were in a meeting, courtroom or grocery store situation. That’s why I always say “stay lifted”. I think that it’s a more accurate definition of the feelings of cannabis consumers.

There are a few other factors that I would look into as well that could be affecting your ability to feel/get “high”. We are all born with cannabis receptors in the brain. Breast milk contains natural cannabinoids, but as adults if we aren’t using any cannabinoids these receptors can be dormant. After consumption they begin to wake up, but it could take a few sessions to get them up and going. Your high could be radically different on the third or fourth try of cannabis as these receptors become awake and functional again. The job of this system is to create homeostasis in the body, so this is a system that you want working!

Of course if you have never smoked before, and even you have smoked cigarettes, inhaling cannabis isn’t the same. So you may think you are inhaling, but you may not be getting enough into your lungs, for a long enough period of time, to metabolize the medicine. Holding it in longer can help but not if its only in your mouth and not in your lungs. The relative I spoke of above used to also always say they didn’t get a good hit of the joint, as we all watched them exhale a huge cloud.

You could also have a high CBD strain. CBD can dampen the psychotropic (high) effects. You could have tried crappy pot. It’s out there, and sometimes it just is meh… I know, I know, but it’s true, some pot isn’t very good and doesn’t really get you very high.

Being ‘high’ isn’t the goal of all cannabis patients. I work full-time and have all kinds of extra projects going on and couldn’t do that if ‘high’ was an impairing type of sensation. I am a daily user and personally it means that my pain and nausea are in check, my focus is more centered, and often my mood is elevated and optimistic. Perhaps we need to be more clear about our expectations of using cannabis and, as patients, painting a more realistic picture of how we feel to those who are new to the world of cannabis.

Practice makes perfect, so I’d suggest trying it a few times, adjust your expectations of the outcome and trust that maybe just feeling a little better is all that being “high” really is.

Stay Lifted, Mama

Laura Mastropietro

Laura Mastropietro, former cannabis co-op grower and patient advocate, consultant, Edible Chef for two edible lines, featured in ‘Cannabis Saved my Life’ by Elizabeth Limbach, currently curates a learning hub called, stays active in the cannabis community while running a restaurant and commercial bakery in beautiful Sedona Arizona. Wife, Mother, Grandmother, with a full beautiful life and toss in a life altering disease, cannabis is the magic that helps her keep it all going. Have a cannabis question? Send it to Dear Mama at


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