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To microdose or not to microdose

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Kathy Bates stars on the Netflix show Disjointed, in which she plays a cannabis activist and new dispensary owner. Naturally, the subject of her own use came up when she was a guest on Conan O'Brien's late night TV show.

"I had cancer twice," she told Conan. "I couldn't really do the opioids, you know. The oxycodone made me sick and other stuff. I've learned the marijuana takes the nausea away, and there's a lot of other good things, the anxiety. The cool thing about it, now they have a different delivery. They have vape pens and stuff, so you don't have to get whacked on it. ... You can keep it in second."

You don't have to get whacked?

The come-on from most folks who have product is that they have something that will blow the top of my head off. As a person who would prefer to have the top on my head attached, I don't pay them much mind. Besides, most of them are lying.

The point is that we live in a time where the extremes seem to be all that count. The contrast between not high at all and totally out of control is what drives the viewpoints of many regarding marijuana. And I got to say that back in the day I probably would have laughed at anybody trying to sell me something that was just going to get me a little bit high.

However, the medical use of marijuana has introduced microdosing to the world of marijuana. Microdosing, according to the Third Wave's "Essential Guide to Microdosing with Marijuana," is the "lowest dose of the drug that creates a perceptible effect — and therefore it is below that threshold, resulting in a sub-perceptual effect that is subtle without markedly influencing your mood or mindset. For pot, it has been nicely described as the sensation of being on the verge of feeling high."

Or as George Clinton and P-Funk said: "Standing on the verge of getting it on."

It makes sense. People who need the medical effects still have to function on their jobs and in their daily lives. One of the last vestiges of opposition to cannabis is anchored on the question of driving under the influence. It's a valid public safety concern.

Also, selective breeding has driven the THC content up in many strains. Sometimes you don't want to be that high, or maybe you don't ever want to be that high.

"We've run across such strong strains," say local cannabis activist Mike Whitty. "I think the cannabis community should take microdosing seriously partially to be constructive and not fall asleep."

Microdosing can be done by just smoking less — maybe just one or two puffs on a joint or a pinch in the bottom of the pipe. Depending on your level of experience with marijuana and the potency of the product, this may be too much or not enough. You may have to experiment with this a bit to find your optimum level.

Using a vape pen is useful, especially for people who have to be out in public or at work. The pens are odorless and innocuous. A user can just pull it out of a pocket take a couple of puffs and put it away. You don't have to pull out vegetation and papers to construct a cigarette. The thing I like best about the vaporizer is I can use it when I have an upset stomach — which happens often. I can take a couple of puffs on the pen and my stomach settles down. The bonus is that with the vaporizer I can keep my focus and work. Smoking bud tends to make me easily distracted. Bud is better when I want to go to sleep at night.

Packaged edibles might be the most appropriate method to deliver a microdose because they generally come labeled with how many milligrams of various cannabinoids are in the product. Once you figure out the optimum dose for yourself, then you can always give yourself exactly that much. Candies tend to come in 5 to 10 milligram potencies, and it just so happens that many microdose advisers recommend from 5 to 10 milligrams as a starting point for microdosing.

The point is that marijuana is not all about getting as high as you can get. There are gradations and levels and all that. People are starting to think about those different levels as we pay more attention to how marijuana works.

"I'm gently pushing that when an audience can hear it, without being too doctrinaire or preachy about it," says Whitty, who speaks on the spiritual and psychological effects of cannabis. "It's perfectly appropriate to raise the triple questions of self-care, self-discipline, and self-responsibility. I have to try to keep talking about responsible use."

Finally, some people who might benefit from medical marijuana are afraid to get high. Some are afraid they will go to that extreme out of control place, take off all their clothes, and run down the street naked. Maybe these people should just leave marijuana alone. However, if they must, the microdose might just be the right thing.

It took the alcohol industry a long time to start talking about responsible use. And the responsible use of opioid drugs is high on the national agenda. If the marijuana industry can deal with this out front maybe it can avoid some drama later.

Besides, microdosing is good for you.

Retro memories: One time when I was visiting Mexico City, I met a busking guitarist who called himself the John Lennon of the Zona Rosa, a tourist district. One evening we bought a couple of joints and went to his apartment. After we smoked the first one I got ready to fire up a second, but he stopped me. "Let's wait a little while," he told me.

About 15 minutes later I felt the full flush of the first joint and really didn't need the second, which we smoked more than an hour later. So I got a lesson there. Stop and enjoy your high. You don't have to suck it all down at once.

Another time I was in Negril, Jamaica, staying at Sammy Jackson's camping spot on a cliff overlooking the sea. A quartet of young British guys showed up. They had 24 hours and they intended to smoke an entire pound of marijuana in that time. They got their pot and set up at a table on Jackson's back porch to puff away at pipes and spliffs. Everybody else staying there got to help them.

I can't remember if they met their goal. I just have this image of them on the porch in the wee hours of the morning trying to huff their way through a pound. I just don't think they were appreciating the high.

I'm not dissing them. I've done plenty of silly stuff in my day. But you can learn a few lessons and change your perspective. I prefer to enjoy my high, and not indulge in the oh-so American practice of over-consuming.

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