Towards Mindful Consumption

By improving knowledge about cannabis, we can help consumers make the best decisions for them – and make the most of the benefits.

By Amanda Reiman, Lecturer, School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

Drug taking is a social learning experience. We often make decisions about whether to use drugs, how to use them and how to act after using them from observing those around us. It’s about more than just learning the ins and outs of intoxication. For centuries, societies have used drugs to bond, to marginalize, to ostracize, to celebrate and to explore. Group participation and belonging has been tied to choice of intoxicant and a willingness to engage or rebuke opportunities for intoxication.

Growing up going to temple on High Holidays, wine was a common part of the religious service and the celebration that followed. I did not learn about wine in itself, but came to see it as an integral part of the religious experience. People drank to be a part of the community and the celebration, the same reasons that myself and my high school peers chugged cheap, disgusting beer and did shots of syrupy sweet liquors. We were not learning about alcohol, we were learning about intoxication. The result? Too many nights with spinning rooms and too many mornings with splitting headaches.

“The more consumers understand the science behind the therapy, the better they will be able to maximize the benefits that cannabis presents.”

Like most of my peers, my drinking slowed down considerably in my 20s, partly because of life circumstances, but partly because I moved to California and started to learn about wine, rather than intoxication. The same social learning processes that had me downing beers in college, had me smelling wine, and asking about growing regions and organic growing methods. When I gained mindfulness around alcohol, I was able to gain mindfulness around consumption.

Cannabis is now legal in eight states for anyone over 21. Unlike the medical cannabis movement, which focused on those who were using cannabis as a prescription drug, legalization made cannabis over-the-counter for adults, opening it up to a wider section of the population. We can help people avoid the ‘teenage years’ of cannabis by stressing the theme of mindful and ethical consumption. Of course, cannabis overdose does not pose the same risks as overdoses on alcohol and other substances. But, as I am fond of telling the college students in my class, developing a healthy relationship with cannabis as a young adult can ensure its benefits at age 90 and beyond.

The more consumers understand the science behind the therapy, the better they will be able to maximize the benefits that cannabis presents. Cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids interact with the individual endocannabinoid system to produce a variety of effects, just as over 200 aromatic compounds give each wine its unique flavor. As regulation makes cannabis testing more rigorous and widespread, consumers will have access to information about the various compounds that impact effect. Part of mindful consumption is taking the time and energy to gain knowledge, which will inevitably enhance experience.