What’s the point of microdosing cannabis?
Microdosing cannabis: vapid buzzword or marketing trend? Could the practice offer benefits, as opposed to, say, consuming “full fat” cannabis? Is microdosing a ritual or a medication, both or neither? Does microdosing mean smoking tiny joints or limiting the bong hits? Perhaps it’s about slowly building cannabis tolerance? Let’s take a look.
What is microdosing?
Most people have heard of microdosing psychedelics. The practice of consuming extremely low doses of a psychedelic substance, such as LSD or psilocybin (usually in mushrooms), has rocketed in popularity in recent years.
But what about our good friend, weed? And how does microdosing cannabis work? Let’s cut to the chase.
What makes a ‘dose’ actually a microdose? Is there a specific amount of cannabis that separates the two? Well, it’s all to do with our cannabinoid bestie — the revered head honcho of the high life — THC. Consuming under 10mg of THC tends to be considered a microdose.
While it can be a comical image (“strictly only one drag on that spliff allowed each day, man!”), it probably won’t surprise you that microdosing cannabis doesn’t have much to do with smoking joints.
Of course, there’s no rule saying it can’t be done, but it works better with vaping — you can simply take a single puff, or perhaps two. Yet it’s still pretty difficult to control the exact amounts of cannabis you ingest with this method. Microdosing can be best achieved with sublingual ingestion (think drops of cannabis oil) or by consuming edibles.
Microdosing cannabis: how the market brought us here
Here in the United States, THC is king (or queen!) when it comes to product sales. Not only is it the most well-known cannabinoid, it’s also the number one marker that cannabis consumers consider before making a purchase. Many customers walk into a dispensary and are instantly drawn to the highest THC strains.
It goes something like this: “Oooooh, 25% THC, that must mean this strain is nicest / best for my pain / will get me most blazed / is the best quality weed!”
Actually, only one of these things is true (psssst, it’s the “most blazed” part — if we’re going to compare consuming the same amount of a 17% strain with a 25% one, at least). Now, the remainder of assumptions are a little problematic. We’re not knocking consumers here — or even companies trying to stand out in an increasingly competitive complex and overcrowded market.
However, brands trying to make their name have been doing the most to outgun each other on THC content, including not being entirely honest about it. You will likely enjoy your weed more if you choose strains based on smell, terpenes and flavonoid profiles. But like it or lump it, that THC figure remains the biggest market driver to date.
What does this have to do with microdosing cannabis?
Growers have been engineering THC percentages and cultivating high/low THC strains for many moons. But the dispensary experience is specific to legal markets. At last count, recreational cannabis has been legalized in 21 states, plus Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and D.C.
As the market matures, we expect better cannabis education and a more diverse range of products. But currently, sales wars have resulted in a super high THC weed flooding the market. And not everyone wants that. Enter: the microdose.
Who might microdose cannabis?
Many customers might want to use cannabis for pain, to help manage a chronic illness, or who simply want to “take the edge off” without getting super high. For patients, or for people using cannabis for the associated medical benefits without a prescription (i.e. self-medicating), microdosing can be an effective maintenance plan.
Small doses of cannabis may help with pain symptoms without the strong psychoactive effects, which aren’t always desirable. Some people love feeling stoned, others don’t. That’s just fact. While cannabis tolerance also grows with consumption, individuals respond differently to weed. For those with low cannabis tolerance, microdosing can also be an effective option.
A look at the science behind cannabis microdosing
We know it’s possible to microdose cannabis., but is it effective? Studies have shown that a little THC can go a long way to help treat pain, PTSD and anxiety. Do note that research on this is mixed — and some studies indicate certain conditions require high levels of THC for pain or symptom management. It all depends on the individual and circumstance.
In a 2012 study, patients with advanced cancer who were unresponsive to traditional opioid painkillers were given Sativex, a THC/CBD compound, at low, medium and high doses. Patients who received the lowest dosage of cannabinoids showed the most reduction in pain. In contrast, those receiving higher doses actually experienced more pain.
Another study looked at the impact of low doses (4mg) of a synthetic cannabinoid, nabilone, on incarcerated individuals suffering from PTSD. Researchers concluded that participants showed significant improvements in PTSD-associated sleep trouble, including insomnia and nightmares, as well as general symptoms and chronic pain.
Note both studies look at small doses of cannabis medications (one being synthetic cannabis). Ultimately, microdosing isn’t for everyone. But for some consumers, gaining some or all the benefits of cannabis without impacting their state of mind or cannabis tolerance is the high life.