Happy 4/20, friends! Or, as my husband likes to call it, Weed Grower Christmas — the day Willie Nelson hops down chimneys worldwide to fill stockings with fat joints. In honor of this day, falling on Earth Week, as usual, I thought I’d write a little tribute to cannabis to say thank you for the many benefits she bestows upon my life.
(My)* mental health benefits of cannabis
I first started using cannabis to alleviate social anxiety, which used to be crippling for me. In college, I’d only speak to answer a question in class. I had very few friends and would usually freak myself out of going to any social events I was invited to. Sometimes, I’d be so anxious I couldn’t go into a store. I recall spending more than a few afternoons sitting in a parking lot, trying to get myself out of my car and into a building full of people.
I took benzodiazepines for this up until my late-20s. (Read more about my mental health story.)The problem was, these drugs totally wiped my memory and left me so uninhibited that I’d start blabbing top-secret information to anyone listening. But it was the memory loss that bothered me most. I knew I had to change something.
Because this was before the days of cannabis reform and legalization, I started secretly using weed.
Up until that point, I had been pretty anti-weed. I bought into the stories that people who use cannabis are lazy slobs doing nothing with their lives.
Then, I met my college boyfriend, a smart, charming man with a white-collar job, a tidy apartment, and a clean diet. He ran at least three days a week — and is, in fact, the person who got me hooked on running — and surfed whenever possible.
He was also a stoner.
I was amazed.
I was even more amazed when I started smoking myself and began feeling relaxed in social situations. As I started opening up and engaging people in conversation, I slowly realized they were not scary at all. In fact, smoking enough weed helped me see that everyone has fears and that some people were even intimidated by me.
I began to see the masks people wear to hide their true selves.
How cannabis has helped me as a runner and writer
I’ve run a dozen official marathons and ultramarathons in my life and more unofficial long runs that went over 26 miles. Cannabis played a key role in my running career, which led to the added benefit of scoring a sliver of the spotlight as a fit stoner.
Cannabis helped with running in so many ways. First and foremost, it shifted my focus to my body and what it needed. Not only did this help me perform better, but it also dissolved the potential boredom of long runs by giving my brain something to do. I’m not the only one who notices this benefit. I’ve talked to tons of people over the years who have similar stories of how cannabis helps them feel fully engaged in their workouts.
Apparently, stoned yoga is a thing now? Sign me up!
Cannabis is also a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, which helps with athletic recovery of all kinds.
That’s great, so how did cannabis help you write?
As for my writing career, I got my first big break in journalism with a piece I wrote for Outside Magazine about How to Run Stoned. Writing this article was a big deal at the time. It’s essentially how I broke the news to my entire family that I’d been using weed at a time when it was still highly stigmatized.
Now, my parents are eager to help out when they visit us on the weed farm. My how things have changed!
Various outlets, including High Times, republished the Outside article. This brought me a bit of attention, and I’ve since appeared in Women’s Running, and Women & Weed Magazine (affiliate link) talking about my experience as a cannabis-using athlete. I’ve also written countless blog posts for myself and others about the numerous benefits of cannabis. I continue to write about it because I believe increasing understanding helps reduce stigma.
I understand that weed isn’t for everyone. For me, it’s only opened doors. And for that, I say thank you! I feel blessed to live in a place where cannabis is legal, and on enough land to cultivate it for myself and others. Jason and I are both medical patients and certified cannabis caregivers in the state of Maine.
Thank you, cannabis, for the many blessings, lessons, and gifts you share.
* I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. Research on the efficacy of cannabis in treating mental health disorders is mixed. For some people, using cannabis may exacerbate anxiety and depression. Please do your own research, talk to your doctor, and stay informed about treatment options for your particular condition.