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As a social scientist, spiritual counselor, budtender and someone who spent 8 of the last 9 years single, I’ve noticed some disturbing trends amongst hetero-normative women and men within the cannabis community regarding social wellness and forming intimate connections. In states where legal cannabis products are available, there seems to be an increase in consumers who use cannabis on a regular basis to help them thrive in personal development, physical health, career management, stress relief and social settings. You can see that these folks appear to have a rich life, healthy glow, and positive attitude. They are actively dating, in relationships or happily single and express confidence in what they have to offer. The products these people use range from high potency flowers to micro-dosed breath mints.
With others however, especially single men, the conversations often take a darker turn. Although most claim that they are using cannabis for all the same reasons mentioned above, upon further conversation they’re reporting loneliness, depression, decreased confidence, lack of social outlets, decreased libido and uncertainty of how to recognize or handle intimate situations if they did present themselves. As a result, they are choosing sedative, high THC products with the intention of getting blasted and tuning out.
The paradox is that most people started using cannabis in social settings, often with hopes of creating lasting relationships of some capacity. Youth makes many of us more social in nature, conversations are easier, we attend school or other group settings that force social interaction on usandthe potential for intimate relationships. It’s no secret that after entering the work force and getting to an age where many have families and careers to focus on, it becomes increasingly difficult to form meaningful social connections. Society has developed in such a way that alcohol, team sports, and religion are the main ways to socially connect outside of work or education. This leaves folks to try to “find their niche”, leaving Harry Potter fans to find one another, a thriving K-Pop community, and people who smoke or eat weed to search for connection within the cannabis community.
Since there are no legal ways to consume cannabis in public or gathering spaces for people to get together,cannabis consumers are forced to retreat into the freedom of nature or the shadows of their living room, neither of which leave much room for social connection or fostering intimacy with someone you don’t already know. Aside from the prohibitive legislation, the big problem with this is that we still market cannabis as a social experience, promoting beautiful people laughing and going on mountain adventures and sharing campfire joints with friends. Everyday people come into the dispensary looking for the feeling those advertisements promise. They linger, asking any question they can think of, starving to make conversation, disappointed when budtenders are too busy to chat and overjoyed when another shopper chimes in. I suspect some look forward to these 5-10 minute interactions all week, and spend more than they should just to stay an extra few minutes in the store.
Cannabis advertising is very similar to what we see from liquor ads, and although both are intoxicating substances, the use couldn’t be more different. If you drink with someone you barely know, it’s probable that alcohol will reduce inhibitions to a point where you open up to vulnerable conversation or even physical intimacy. After smoking weed, it is extremely rare to become more comfortable around people you don’t know or relaxed in unfamiliar situations. Even though it is marketed the same, cannabis will not afford the same opportunities for connection and intimacy as alcohol, and the damaging effects of treating it the same can be seen amongst users.
We can’t continue to market cannabis as a solution to depression, loneliness and productivity without addressing the overwhelming prevalence of them within the community. If you are using cannabis to manage depression, it can be extremely dangerous to rely on cannabis as a social outlet. In reality the chances of meeting friends through cannabis in the legal market are as thin as the chances of connecting with someone at the grocery store, or work.
Let’s face it, until we have legal social settings for people to meet and mingle, cannabis will only enhance the relationships you already have, not assist in creating new ones. In my single days I can’t even count the amount of times I debated whether to force myself to go out for a drink to meet a guy, or let someone into my home for the blunt my body preferred. After fretting safety and standards, they most often ended up getting too high and falling asleep on my couch. I definitely don’t recommend that as a good way to get to know someone (not even for the guy reading this who thinks his tolerance is way too high for that to happen).
Funny enough it has nothing to do with cannabis, or how many friends they have, or how active their lifestyle is. The reason some are thriving, is because in addition to using cannabis, they are also going to therapy, getting reiki, listening to podcasts, going back to school, doing barre, eating well and connecting with some sort of spirituality. For them, cannabis is an addition to a very rich life, not a substitute.
The reality is that cannabis is not the key to great friends, a loving partner or a mountain adventure, just like it isn’t the key to mind-blowing sex and deep connection. You have to invest in creating those things first and adding weed into the equation instead of just investing in the weed.