Mandee smokes cannabis from the one-hitter.

Stoned or high? Which would you rather be and why?

Why is THC so often considered the bad boy of cannabis? Why are there CBD-only laws? What’s with all the negative connotation around getting high?

These are important questions.

So many people still treat the cannabis high like it’s a bad thing. But it’s not. The psychoactive experience can, in fact, be a very positive thing in a person’s life and health.

But we at Green Flower found ourselves wondering this: does the phrase “getting high” somehow cheapen cannabis as medicine? Is there a better way to say it? Do we even care?

Of course we care. How we talk about the plant DEFINES how we approach it and how we teach others to approach it.

I talked to a few cannabis experts to get their thoughts on the matter, and it turns out we’ve had the right word all along – and a stigma that begs for clarity and truth.

The psychoactive component of cannabis can actually be a good thing.

woman smoking marijuana

The psychoactive side of cannabis – when used responsibly – has allowed people to live their lives to the fullest.

“My patients need that THC; they don’t really get a lot of benefit from CBD-only products,” says Bryan Krumm, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who currently works with about one thousand PTSD patients in New Mexico.

He has seen whole-plant cannabis heal all types of patients throughout 25 years in the psychiatry field. He has seen it relieve struggles with PTSD (including his own), as well as other psychiatric woes such as depression and addiction.

“There’s nothing wrong with that psychoactive effect,” he says. “People opposed to cannabis complain that this is a euphoriant and that it makes you high. But that’s what we do in psychiatry. We try to induce euphoria, to lift people’s moods. We don’t want people to be down and low and depressed.”

The difference between Krumm and a lot of other psychiatrists is this: he refuses to ever prescribe another pharmaceutical.

His only exception is the FDA-approved Marinol, a synthetic version of THC developed in the 1980s. A lot of cannabis physicians and practitioners frown upon Marinol because of negative studies and because whole-plant cannabis seems to be more therapeutic with its additional 100+ cannabinoids and multitude of terpene profiles.

But Krumm prescribes Marinol to certain patients when they travel out-of-state to places where cannabis remains prohibited. And some of his patients, contrary to what the studies tell us, actually prefer it to whole-plant medication.

By talking and listening to so many patients, Krumm has discovered that a lot of the studies out there are inaccurate.

The importance of reclaiming the term “high”.

a man vaporizing cannabis

Have you ever thought about the connotations of the term “getting high”? Do you think non-consumers might not understand?

In general, the term “high” is supposed to have good connotations, Krumm says.

“If you do the right thing morally and ethically, you’re said to be taking the high road. When we want to get smarter we pursue higher education. We set out to improve ourselves and lift ourselves, and we try to raise ourselves up out of poverty.”

But, like with so many other things applied to cannabis, the idea of getting high immediately gets a negative connotation, he says. “We need to change our understanding and reclaim that term as something positive – which is what it’s supposed to be.”

The difference between high and stoned.

photo of cannabis trichomes

The cannabis high can be extremely therapeutic and valuable. It is also widely misunderstood and abused. Photo: Silver Haze Calyx and Stigmas I, art edition, by Sebastian Marincolo.

For Krumm, stoned and high are two very different things. He believes the idea of being stoned deserves its negative connotation. “I don’t want people to be stoned; I want them to be high and to be functioning. When people feel elevated, they can function better. If they’re down and they’re stoned and out of it, wasted or whatever, they can’t function then.”

Another expert I talked to, Sebastian Marincolo – a cannabis philosopher and writer who has been researching the herb for 10 years now – likes the difference between high and stoned. “When we say stoned we think of that couch-lock state of mind where you’re sedated, not thinking clearly – and for some people this is the desired effect,” he says.

“But the ‘high’ is something else,” Marincolo continues. “It is more euphoric and energetic – a different state of mind which comes with systematic changes in cognition and perception. And most people underestimate all of this and they don’t understand the full bouquet of changes.”

Sebastian’s “bouquet of cognitive effects.”

close-up of cannabis leaf

Sebastian Marincolo has a way of capturing this plant’s magic in his photography as well as his writing. Photo: Silver Haze Leaf II, art edition, by Sebastian Marincolo.

Where a lot of people view the psychoactive element as the adverse side effect of marijuana, Marincolo has methodically explored and laid out what he calls the bouquet of cognitive effects offered by the plant.

In Marincolo’s new book What Hashish Did To Walter Benjamin, he writes about many of these cognitive effects:

  • Hyper focusing
  • Episodic memory retrieval
  • Pattern recognition
  • Enhanced imagination
  • Increased empathy
  • Associative & lateral thinking
  • Deeper introspection

“It doesn’t really give you a total enhancement of cognition, but there are a bunch of possibilities,” Marincolo says. “No matter what you do, you always have some functions enhanced and some that get worse.”

For example when you smoke cannabis and become hyper-focused on something, it’s entirely possible to lose track of time or skip out on other things that are happening just because you’re so focused.

And of course, this can also happen to people who aren’t using cannabis!

Learning how to make the most of the cannabis high.

Shredding on a mountain bike

However you decide to use cannabis, if you exercise intent and mindfulness it can add a lot of value to your life.

Dismantling the stigma surrounding the marijuana high is one thing, but learning how to make the most of it is another.

A lot of long-time consumers and patients have already figured this out for themselves, but it doesn’t always come inherently.

Getting high has been so stigmatized for so long that there isn’t a lot of education out there on how to successfully implement this into your life.

With the state of hyper-focus, for instance, it can be very easy to lock your attention on the wrong things, wasting time and hampering productivity (another thing that people do just fine WITHOUT cannabis).

Or maybe you get high for the first time, smoke too much, and your mind starts racing – but veers off track into paranoia and anxiety. And then you think: Wow is pot always like this? That’s no fun. I’ll never try that again.

Yet another scenario could be somebody who likes the high a little too much and takes in more cannabis than their body really needs. This could also get in the way of productivity or relationships.

Responsible cannabis use really is a thing, and prohibitionists like to use examples of irresponsible use to help support their anti-pot message.

Or they try to take THC out of cannabis altogether.

The problem with focusing too much on CBD.

CBD-dominate products (cannabis with extremely low THC and zero psychoactivity) can be a huge blessing for a lot of people, but as Krumm and Marincolo both point out, these products are not going to address everybody’s needs.

Yet in places with CBD-only legislation, how can people know whether or not they would benefit from other cannabinoids and terpenes, unless they are informed about the different benefits and can approach the experience without stigma?

And just as important: when CBD-only products don’t work for people, they may give up on medical cannabis completely, not knowing that there is much more to the plant’s potential to heal.

“The emphasis on completely removing the high from cannabis concerns me,” Marincolo says. “We need to stop looking at this as a side effect or as something negative. Sure for some people it can be negative, but for others it can be extremely therapeutic.”

Let’s end the stigma of “getting high.”

The cannabis high comes with a lot of game-changing benefits, and we need to be able to talk about it, experiment with it, and use it in an informed way.

If approached responsibly, the psychoactive experience here can lead to a lot of different positive outcomes, depending on the situation.

To fear or stigmatize the high, is to cling to misinformation and to deny the facts of progress and education.

What is your opinion? Do you think the phrase “getting high” has too much baggage from the reefer madness era, or can we re-define it and show the world that it can be a good thing?