Why you should never pressure your friends into trying cannabis

Published Mar 13, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
iStock / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Most people who enjoy smoking weed knows that it tends to be a social experience more often than not. Even the most introvert stoners love sharing a joint among those they are closest to because it’s a quiet, undemanding interaction that can be made even more comfortable thanks to the intense effects of THC combined with other natural elements such as terpenes.

Smoking circles are a trend that gets highlighted almost everywhere you look, from infamous stoner sayings like “puff puff pass” to wildly popular TV shows that use nostalgia to reel in fans, like That 70’s Show. It’s no secret that cannabis enthusiasts like to share among one another, but unfortunately, some of us are so passionate about our love for the plant that we can take things a bit too far without even realizing it.

What is peer pressure?

When we hear the term peer pressure, it tends to bring to mind a school-type setting. Whether it’s a public school or high school, bullying and peer pressure run rampant most in this environment, but that’s doesn’t mean that as adults, we are impervious to making the very same mistakes that we did in our youth. Peer pressure impacts all ages, and in essence, it is when an individual is made to feel uncomfortable or pressured into doing something.

Now, just to be absolutely clear, being influenced by peer pressure is something that can happen to anyone, and it doesn’t have to be their very first time trying something for an incident to be considered peer pressure. So even if you’re bugging your best friend who used to love smoking weed with you all through high school, if it’s not something that they want to do, then you should probably reconsider your actions.

The difference between peer pressure and positive influence

Peer pressure influences an individual to make a choice that they otherwise might not have made on their own, but there is a significant difference between the real thing and sharing educational content. Peer pressure tends to begin with at least one entirely unwilling participant, whereas sharing information allows them to make a decision on their own time.

So, it’s completely acceptable to share the latest cannabis videos and research that might enlighten your friends or family members, but it is not ok to light up a joint and try to convince them to take it. The same is true with edibles, which can have a much more intense and long-lasting consequence if the experience takes a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

Peer pressure tends to happen most in person, and even if you don’t feel like what you’re doing could be counter-intuitive, the truth is that applying a level of discomfort and influencing an individual to do something that they aren’t comfortable with is never ok, and that is especially true when it comes to mind-altering substances such as cannabis.

What could happen?

When it comes to smoking weed or dappling in other more concentrated cannabis products, each and every person's experience is unique. This is a hard concept for some to accept, but it all comes down to our biology. Some consumers have a well-built tolerance that takes years to achieve, and for them smoking a big fat blunt is typically a walk in the park no matter how potent the product might be, but those who haven't had that chance are much more intensely impacted by the effects.

Another important thing to consider is how quickly the body is able to process cannabinoids like THC, because the faster it is, the more intense a high can be, and since this isn’t something that you can control or predict, it’s one of the biggest reasons that so many report a bad buzz after smoking weed. Some will feel the physical sensations kick in all at once, whereas others might get a much lighter version that stretches out of a longer span of time.

Aside from cannabinoid's reaction, function, and absorption, the final piece of the puzzle tends to rest in the mind. Now, most experienced cannabis consumers feel relief from the very first moment that we press our lips to a joint or unwrap our favourite infused edible. That’s a natural response that comes with time, experience, and, ultimately, a well-established level of comfort with how it impacts you, and it fuels the high in a way that almost ensures that it’s enjoyable, regardless of the quality of the product.

Someone with little to no experience, on the other hand, isn’t going to feel relief. Instead, they are most likely to feel their anxiety levels peak, followed by a variety of natural reactions to an unenjoyable interaction. Now, some think that smoking weed could be enough to soothe this effect, and that is true in some cases, but in others, it exacerbates the uncomfortable sensations even further.

A somewhat fast-beating heart could quickly turn into a full-on panic episode with the help of weed, and fear is an emotional and survival-based reaction that cab also further agitated by the introduction of potent cannabinoids like THC. Imagine feeling like you’re drowning and suffocating with no reason at all that is apparent to the outside world, and you’ll have a good idea of what a situation that went wrong feels like.

Those are just a couple of the most commonly reported symptoms of a bad high which is also referred to as a “green out,” and the chances of a person experiencing this unfortunate side effect are much higher when they choose to partake before they are completely comfortable with the idea of getting stoned. So, while it might not seem like a bad idea to find yourself a new smoking buddy, it’s best to ensure that you go about it the right way.

How to positively influence a potential consumer

Since there is some confusion surrounding what it really means to use peer pressure, rather than information and environment to make your friends or family feel comfortable with the idea of smoking weed, we wanted to arm you with five things that you can do that don’t apply unnecessary and potentially dangerous peer pressure to the mix.

1. Educate

Do you know the old saying ‘knowledge is power’? Well, in this case, it holds true. Folks tend to be more comfortable around things that they understand completely, so it’s not going to hurt to share some of that fantastic stoner knowledge you have stored away. Whether you think that it might help them with an obvious issue such as anxiety, appetite, or sleep, or you think that they might just benefit from the experience, share that with them in a completely neutral tone.

2. Put on a show

You could talk non-stop until you’re blue in the face, spouting every single marijuana fact that you can think of, but for some, the only real way to warm up to the idea of smoking weed is to spend time around others who are doing it. This gives them the ability to monitor your experience, which can help by letting them see that it isn’t nearly as intense as stereotypes might have led them to believe.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you should spark up a doobie in places where such activity is not completely welcome. So, don’t go hotboxing your car or room with them inside, as this might be just enough to spook them off for good. Instead, chillax outside or lounge in a facility that offers air ventilation and get high yourself so that they can watch, study and gain confidence in the surprisingly gentle effects of smoking weed.

3. Answer all of their questions honestly

No one is going to trust something that they can’t completely understand, and as a friend or family member and cannabis enthusiast, it is your responsibility to make this happen. Uncovering common myths like the possibility of hallucinations and giving real facts on things like the endocannabinoid system, health benefits, and potential side effects, are a few good places to start.

4. Remove emotions from the equation

Now, again to be clear, all of this should not be done with a request hanging overhead. Instead, it should just be a friendly educational conversation between two adults. A bit of healthy debate is always great for this kind of case, but it is important that you remove as many negative emotions as you can from the equation. So, if they don’t agree with you, even if you know and can show them, you’re right, beyond sharing that information, it’s safest to try a different angle instead of getting frustrated.

5. Feel free to offer, but one refusal is all it should take for you to stop

This is the most important tip that you need to keep in mind at all times. No matter how passionate you may be about the potential benefits and uses of cannabis, you must respect the boundaries that are laid out before you. That means if your friend or family member seems even the slightest bit uncomfortable with an offer to smoke some of your best green, you should probably make a point of enjoying it on your own, until or unless they ask to partake. Otherwise, you might find that they end up avoiding you.

As we’ve mentioned, every person is different, and each situation is just as unique, so you might have to adjust your expectations and hopes accordingly. Even if you love smoking weed so much that you really want to tell the whole world about it, not everyone is going to feel the same way. Some people truly do have less than ideal reactions to using cannabis, so it’s important to educate, and avoid peer pressure as you spread the good word to all that will listen.

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