The Buzz on Weed: 5 Facts You Need to Know Before Lighting Up

Marijuana is on the front of many headlines, and social media outlets. Why? Well, because marijuana will be legal on the entire west coast soon. Weed is set to be legal in California in the new year, as in tomorrow. For those of us in recovery and living a sober life, it’s a trigger and will inevitably lead to relapse if we cave into using. Here are 5 facts you need to know about marijuana.

1: Where is recreational marijuana legal?

There are currently 8 states where marijuana use is legal. Recreational use is legal in Alaska, California (starting tomorrow)”, Colorado, Maine (Proposed), Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington DC, and Washington State.

2: Where is medicinal marijuana legal?

Per Normal.Org, all 50 states have some form of medicinal use for marijuana. Each state has different laws and conditions surrounding medicinal use. For example, Texas lists Non-Functional CBD Oil as legal for epileptics, and there are 3 dispensaries, however, in the fine print it reads that a physician must write the prescription for the use. Federally, physicians cannot write a prescription for cannabis. Tricky, tricky, Texas.


3: Is marijuana addictive?

This is perhaps, one of the greatest debates for those out there in the recovery community. Care providers, mental health professionals (such as myself), and counselors know the answer to this, and where it’s found. Unfortunately for the common recovery and sobriety community the answers are often false and misleading.

Let me introduce you to my little friend, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). This book is what Doctors, Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Counselors, and other responsible care providers depend upon to diagnose clients with any substance use disorder.

Marijuana is listed as a cannabis use disorder in this manual. Why you ask? Because Cannabis has two identifying markers of addiction, tolerance and withdrawal. According to the DSM-5 “Individuals who regularly use cannabis can develop all the general diagnostic features of a substance use disorder” (APA, 2012). Furthermore, they state “new to the DSM-5 is the recognition that abrupt cessation of daily or near-daily cannabis use often results in the onset of a cannabis withdrawal syndrome” (APA, 2012).

4: Is marijuana the “gateway drug”? 

The DSM-5 states that “individuals who frequently use cannabis have a greater lifetime probability than nonusers of using more dangerous substances” (APA, 2012). The key here, is to clarify that it is not the drug itself that causes experimentation or dependence on other substances. The problem lies in underlying conditions of the individual using marijuana.


It goes back to the problem of co-occuring disorders of which came first, the addiction or the mental condition? For more on this see The Baggage of Co-Occuring Disorders. Again, per the professionals, “cannabis use and cannabis use disorder are highly co-morbid with other substance use disorders, and co-occuring mental conditions are common in cannabis use disorder” (APA, 2012).

5: Am I still sober if I use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes?

If you use marijuana for recreational purposes, even if legal, you are not sober. Sorry, folks. What you are doing is ingesting a psychoactive substance for the purpose of escape. This means you are no longer sober.

If used medicinally, you may still be sober, but under specific terms. You have to do your research to know whether what version of cannabis you are using is effective on your medicinal diagnosis. Cannabis sativa has more effect on body tremors, where Cannabis indica is more effective for pain and mental stress” (Inaba and Cohen 2014).


Furthermore, you have to know what’s in the weed you want to use for your condition. Its s entirely possible to receive medicinal marijuana treatment without the high. According to recent text I studied, “Cannabinol and Cannabidol are two cannabinoids but they are not thought to have psychoactive properties” (Inaba and Cohen, 2014). Isolating these two cannabinoids is difficult, but possible.

There you have it. The 5 facts you need to know before lighting up. With all the buzz surrounding marijuana these days it’s easy to get lost in the misleading headlines. If you’re working on recovery, if you’re living a sober life, don’t throw it all away due to some miseducation. If you struggle with a co occurring disorder and want to treat it with marijuana instead of prescription medication, it is entirely possible to do so and live a sober life. The key is to do your research, and take the advice of professionals, not headlines.


Stay sober my friends!


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Inaba, D.S., & Cohen, W.E. (2014). Uppers, downers, and all arounders: Physical and mental effects of psychoactive drugs (8th ed.). Melford, OR: CNS Productions Inc. ISBN: 9780926544390




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