First-Time CBD Use: Cannabis Stigmas and the Actual Experience of a First-Time CBD User

When thinking about cannabis, D.A.R.E.’s “This is Your Brain on Drugs” ad campaign and pictures of the leafy green plant are fused into one questionable image.
As someone who grew up hearing about the dangers of smoking weed, I began to wonder how cannabis could offer medicinal benefits when it seemed as though people were hell-bent on keeping the stuff out of my hands.

The stigmas surrounding cannabis have contributed to ambiguity in the realm of…well all things associated with the plant. Is it really the devil’s lettuce? Can it really aid in reducing anxiety and stress? Where is the line between recreational and medicinal?

First-time users have these types of questions swirling in their heads as they try to sort out the science from the stigma, the medicine from the drug. With all of this uncertainty, the process of trying CBD products can feel overwhelming. What will I feel? Will this work for me? It it worth trying when I can just stick to something from a regular pharmacy?

While each person’s path towards health and wellness is unique, there are some important things to know about CBD use. It is my hope that by sharing my own personal experiences, I can help others sift through the herbal smoke cloud and get closer to finding healing clarity.


From recreational to medicinal…

In the past, smoking cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC didn’t really make a lot of sense. As a recreational smoker, I was searching for the “high” feeling and wasn’t so concerned with the medicinal benefits. Getting to know the science of cannabis, I learned that CBD and THC are chemical compounds secreted by cannabis flowers. They provide relief for a variety of physical symptoms including pain, nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. However they have distinct differences. While THC creates a “high” feeling, CBD is non psychoactive. This means if you try a product or strain of cannabis that is high in CBD and low in THC, you get the medicinal benefits without feeling an intoxicated mental state. You can read more about cannabinoids here

I had never needed to prioritize the medicinal benefits of cannabis until events in my life highlighted my daily anxiety and stress. I realized that I had been self-medicating with cannabis for years and that cannabis with higher CBD content might offer further relief. On my own path towards wellness, my relationship with the plant was shifting and I found myself trying CBD edibles, tinctures, and topical products.


So, what’s a CBD experience really like?

I talked with my friends about our first time smoking cannabis that was high in CBD and low in THC. One person shared that it was a little disappointing. They wondered, “Wasn’t I supposed to feel something? Instead of feeling high or stoned…I felt nothing. Was it actually working?”

I knew that CBD is non psychoactive, but from my THC history I realized that this was a whole new genre of cannabis – one that differed tremendously from the D.A.R.E campaigns and apple pipes of my past. I packed a pipe with CBD-rich cannabis, lit the bowl, and took a couple of hits. After fifteen minutes, I hadn’t noticed a difference and so I look a couple more hits from my pipe. I waited another fifteen minutes and began to feel the calming effects. I realized then that I had to experiment with what worked best for my body to find my appropriate dosage.

My first time trying a tincture, I was surprised by how light and tasty it was. It didn’t taste like medicine. The tincture was high in CBD and made me feel relaxed, at ease, and less anxious. Experimenting with tinctures and edibles, I continue to adapt my dosage based on what works for me and it helps me with my anxiety, stress, sleep, pain, and inflammation. Feelings of calm have replaced feelings of being high and I have been happy to find medicine that helps me find peace, naturally.


The perceptions are disjointed.

While my own personal experience has shifted the way I understand cannabis, I also think about how others perceive it. I have many friends who have explored the benefits of CBD products and have experienced life-changing benefits. Those who were living with chronic pain have found relief. Those who were anxious and stressed are relaxed. And, those who relied on handfuls of pharmaceuticals have replaced drugs with herbal tinctures. It has been inspiring to witness, so why the continued stigma?

When I tell people that the cannabis I count on is non psychoactive, I think people are still skeptical. It’s as if they believe that hippies are exploiting a loophole to justify cannabis consumption. (Non psychoactive? Please!) National campaigns and tough-on-drugs policies have created their own version of paranoia that continues to encircle the cannabis industry. On one side, people imagine cops interrogating marijuana-toking hippies in VW buses. On the other side, doctors and scientists continue to test the effects of cannabis and plant medicine, emboldening newcomers to enter cannabis clinics in pursuit of relief.


Choosing CBD products

So, the terrain around cannabis is still unclear. But for CBD users, the non-intoxicating benefits of the plant offer a lot of promise. Just like any other medicine, the proper dosage depends on you and your needs. Medicating with CBD products has positively affected my life and I’m happy to hear others share their experiences. As more and more people turn to plant medicine to enrich their lives, the face of treatment is changing; the future of cannabis embraces freedom, not fear. While this transition is ripe with paradox and individual adaptation, today I celebrate, “This is my brain on CBD.”



Nicola Walters is a freelance writer and website developer for Humboldt Harvest. She spends her time hiking, climbing, and teaching, and as an advocate for cannabis education.