What kinds of pot use are healthy, appropriate, and respectful?
September 10, 2016 9:15 AM   Subscribe

I have a really hard time knowing what types of pot use are "normal". Help me!

I will fully admit that I dislike pot. I don't like the smell, I don't like the culture, I don't like being around stoned people. However, people can do whatever they want, so no skin off my nose.

However, I have a good friend, who in my opinion smokes way too much. Some examples:

1) We went to an amusement park for a couple hours and stopped to get something to eat on the way back. He and his boyfriend were vaping in the parking lot.

2) I went over to help him move some things out of his apartment at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and it was obvious that he had just smoked pot--it reeked in his bedroom.

3) Whenever he comes over, it's obvious that he's vaped on his way here from the bus.

To me, I think about this like: what if this was a flask of whiskey? If someone was carrying around a flask and taking swigs from it in the middle of the day, I would think they have a problem, right? But because I don't like pot, I second guess myself and think "well, maybe this is normal, I don't know, I don't smoke or like pot."

I understand pot smokers who treat it like I treat a beer or a glass of wine: as something to enjoy at the end of a long day, or to share with friends. But this volume and frequency seems like a problem to me. Is marijuana so qualitatively different from alcohol that their usage can't be compared like this?
posted by Automocar to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Sorry, and I forgot to add: my friend does suffer from depression, so some of this is probably self-medicating (he's also on antidepressants.) Maybe that changes things? I don't know.
posted by Automocar at 9:17 AM on September 10, 2016

Best answer: Addiction (which I know this likely isn't, but bear with me) isn't about how much a person drinks/smokes/vapes/whatevers, it's about the effect that drinking/smoking/vaping/whatevering has on the rest of that person's life.

Does he not do things because he'd rather be vaping?
Are you in a place that doesn't allow marijuana use, so he might end up spending a night in jail or lose his job if he does it in front of the wrong people?
Does he drive under the influence or otherwise endanger himself or others?

If the answers to all those (or any other similar questions you can come up with) are "No", then it's no big deal.
posted by Etrigan at 9:26 AM on September 10, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your friend is going through a difficult time and is using pot to function. He's being social and functioning. If you could not smell it or see him doing it, would you care so much?

He's using it as medication, which is a highly effective strategy for some people. Please be compassionate. You don't know what it's like to walk in his shoes.

It's OK if you want to pull back from this person over this, btw. I'm just telling you he's clearly having a hard time and marijuana is demonstrably making it possible for him to go places and do things. Be compassionate.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 AM on September 10, 2016 [14 favorites]

Is marijuana so qualitatively different from alcohol that their usage can't be compared like this?

posted by melissasaurus at 9:39 AM on September 10, 2016 [57 favorites]

Best answer: I don't consider what you've described excessive or out of the ordinary. I mean, yes it probably on the high end of the frequency scale, but each of the three scenarios you listed were him indulging during his leisure time.. so as long as it's not behaving irresponsibly and it's not affecting his work, livelihood, relationships etc, I would not personally think it's a problem.

I also think that the effects of alcohol intoxication are vastly different than those of cannabis, and I don't think the two can be compared in a meaningful way in terms of how/when they are used, and what is considered excessive.

If you don't want to be around him or anyone else when they are smoking or just finished getting high, that is perfectly fine and reasonable, but that is something you would need to communicate to him and follow through with.. it's more your issue than it is his.
posted by wats at 9:40 AM on September 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: That seems like a lot to me, based on knowing someone who also self-medicates for chronic pain in this manner.

However! I think that you're going to be better off if you set some boundaries about how his smoking affects your relationship, rather than if it's too much or not. If he smoked once every two weeks but inexorably called you up for a stoned, paranoid rant about your failings, it would still be a problem, right?

So basically, is he meaningfully different when he's just smoked? In what ways? Does this affect your friendship? If he's always loopy when you're trying to talk, or if he does unsafe stuff, or if he makes commitments and forgets them, or if he's constantly acting inappropriate when you're in public, I think you can set a boundary around that - that you don't want to be around him when he does those things, and you feel like those things only happen when he's just smoked, and so you don't want to be around him when he's smoked/smoking. And see what happens from there.

I think that if one basically doesn't like pot, one tends not to realize how just a little doesn't affect people that much behavior-wise if they smoke regularly. Some people can just smoke enough to, for instance, relax their muscles so that things don't hurt so much, and that's not really enough to affect their judgement and ability to be present. (although of course no one should smoke and drive/operate machinery/etc.)
posted by Frowner at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2016 [16 favorites]

He seems to be getting out a lot, so I would suspect that for him this level of use is not especially problematic, but I suppose the question for you is: is he stoned to the point of diminished interaction with you? That's disrespectful, and it's fine for you to either explicitly set a boundary with him or just fade if you don't think he's not going to care.

I have known people who were functional pot users very similarly to how I was a functional nicotine user for half my life. They just had the right habit, strain, and biology that it was making a real or imagined improvement in their mental/physical state without being especially stoney. That might be true for your friend. (It's also entirely possible that his strains of choice are lower THC/higher CBD, which is popular with users with anxiety because it doesn't produce much or any discernable high.) Unless you're prepared to end the friendship if necessary to intervene in what you think is a Needs To Get Help Before Something Bad Happens problem, this is all really his business and not yours.

One of the side effects of today's Science Weed seems to be that it all smells like burning trash, though, if it's lit on actual fire. People who have no choice but to smoke inside really ought to make a point to mitigate the stank, especially as it'll stick to fabric and upholstery, but I can see someone's room smelling like freshly burned tire to you without that being indicative of much.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:49 AM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, he has complained to me that his boyfriend gets upset because all he wants to do is be home playing videogames and smoking pot, not that that's my problem, really.

I appreciate all the answers! I fully realize that my dislike of pot is partially irrational, and if it's not affecting me, then I should just leave it alone.
posted by Automocar at 10:14 AM on September 10, 2016

I don't use marijuana, and judge its use like cigarettes, not alcohol. Those are all times I could imagine a friend whose company I could tolerate smoking cigarettes. I wouldn't feel bad about opting out of helping such a friend move though, or only helping in well-ventilated areas, if the smell really bothered me or they were being exceptionally dopey.
posted by teremala at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd go against the trend & say it's a problem, mainly because you say he's on meds for depression AND self medicating unless his doctor is aware of this they will have no way to make sure he gets the right meds or combination of meds he needs, so he'll keep self medicating because the prescription meds "aren't working".

I don't like being around people that are cognitively impaired be it from drinking or pot. I have no problem with people drinking or smoking but due to a family history with drug & alcohol abuse I am very uncomfortable around people that are doing either. So I don't hang around people doing those things. I have friends I have told this to so we only meet during the day for a coffee say & have a great time, they have no problems not drinking or smoking around me. They then go out & party with their partying friends. We are however close enough friends that they knew this about me before we asked.

Seriously if he hasn't got a problem he'd have no problem not vaping before hanging out with you for an hour or so, if he is unable to go out or function without vaping because of mental health issues then he has a problem so severe he should not be self medicating but talking to his doctor about it.

Your dislike of pot is not irrational, you are allowed to like or not like whatever you want. You aren't forcing your preference on your friend, it is OK to not like being around people that are smoking/drinking/vaping.
posted by wwax at 10:19 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's not considerate to come over to someone's house carrying an odor. It's also not considerate to come over to someone's house having dulled one's conversation.
posted by amtho at 10:25 AM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't like pot, and he's what in the common parlance we'd call a pothead. So you don't have to hang out with him so much if you don't want to. I don't see the point of trying to pathologize a friend, and I don't think you need any "proof" that he's crossing some pot norms in order to justify your discomfort.

You can ease back on the friendship. You can even tell him why (talking about your own discomfort, not accusing him of wrongdoing.) But you can't change his pot behavior, and you don't have to change how you feel about it. Neither of you are wrong here.
posted by kapers at 10:28 AM on September 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

To me, nothing you describe indicates a person with an unhealthy relationship with pot.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:52 AM on September 10, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's interfering with two relationships - you and the boyfriend. It's some kind of problem. And there are far more effective and targeted anti-depressants. If drugs are interfering with your life or if you have to use them, there is a problem.
posted by kerf at 11:19 AM on September 10, 2016

Best answer: To me, there are actually several questions embedded in your question:

1) Is this a healthy level of usage for your friend
2) Is this friend being considerate toward you regarding his usage
3) Are you going to be facing any repurcussions for his usage

I think other users have spoken to the complexity of question one, and I certainly agree that this particular question is really up to him and his doctor.

But I think 2 and 3 are more complicated, and have more to do with you. I think pot should be legal (and anyone ever convicted of a pot-related crime should be released from incarceration), but I still HAAAAAATE the smell of it, and one thing that bugs me with working in DC is how many people have taken its legalization as an excuse to smoke it in public, all the time. Walking through clouds of it as I head home for my evening commute makes me VERY annoyed, so I feel you there. I am equally infuriated by vape culture and people who vape all the time, everywhere, as if clouds of vapor (whether containing pot or just watermelon flavor) are somehow innocuous. Vaping is gross, and it stinks, and it just rubs me the wrong way to constantly get facefuls of other people's exhaled chemical/smoke clouds.

You didn't mention 3 explicitly, but the fact that your friend was vaping on a trip with you concerns me, assuming you live in a place where it hasn't been legalized yet. If cops had gotten interested in what was going on, I don't think "oh no officer I was way over here, but yes we are traveling together in the same vehicle" would have afforded you any legal protection. Your friend may consider possession and use to be reasonable risks for himself to take, but I think it is unfair for him to put that burden on you. (None of this applies if you live in a place where it is legal).
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:21 AM on September 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: 3) Whenever he comes over, it's obvious that he's vaped on his way here from the bus.

If it's obvious that you're high and the situation is not a party or a concert or your own home (or whatever), I think you're edging into the realm of the inappropriate.

Though I do agree with ...

marijuana so qualitatively different from alcohol that their usage can't be compared

... I do think there is a qualitative similarity to the experience of being with anyone who's chosen to alter their consciousness in such a way that it's affecting your experience of not just them but the situation in general. Happened to me the other night. I'm down at the waterfront enjoying a rather fabulous sunset and along comes a guy smoking a joint and imposing on me with his cosmic interpretation of the glorious moment in question. Bottom line, he wasn't "reading the room" very well.
posted by philip-random at 11:24 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

The only social context in which it is permissible to show up having had anything to drink or smoke before hand is something like a 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. dinner where you reasonably could have had cocktails beforehand, or maybe an afternoon weekend barbecue or pool party where some mid-day drinking or smoking at a prior engagement made sense.

It is NEVER appropriate to show up anywhere obviously drunk or high. Once you're drunk or high, you are DONE for the day. Play out your current social string, and home and to bed with you.
posted by MattD at 11:35 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just say "I don't like hanging out with you when you're high." It's true, and it's not clear from your description that he has any kind of serious problem (which would be hard to show with pot use).

You don't have to say it in a judgey way, just say "it's not fun to hang out when you're clearly high and I'm sober." If it does affect your relationship, hey, maybe he does have a problem, but good luck talking him out of it.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2016 [5 favorites]

Instead of comparing it to carrying a flask of whiskey, think of it more like having a cup of coffee; if someone feels tired or run down, it's totally normal to have a coffee to wake up a bit. But, there are also a lot of people who have the opposite problem - they get too tense and anxious, and a bit of vaping can help them feel more relaxed and ready to get things done. Too much unfocused energy can be just as much a problem as not enough. You wouldn't think twice if a friend showed up at your house drinking a coffee, would you?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2016 [13 favorites]

This question is a lot like the various "my friend has a drinking problem, right?" questions that have been asked before. This isn't a thing we can really answer. Having a substance abuse problem isn't something you can get backup for online and then declare "You're A Drug Addict" and your friend stops being a drug addict and everything is fixed.

I stopped smoking weed a while back, mostly just because it's not interesting to me anymore. Living in California, where it's basically legal, your friend's behavior with weed sounds fairly typical of my friends who smoke a lot. None of it sounds explicitly problematic, but, yeah, your friend smokes a lot.

If you have a problem with this, you should ask your friend not to smoke so much around you or come over to your place high anymore. I would not accuse your friend of being a Marijuana Fiend or whatever you're imagining, no.

It's also worth noting that marijuana isn't addictive in the way that alcohol is, and marijuana use doesn't have the dangerous consequences that abuse of other substances often does. This is sort of like feeling like your friend might be a sex addict or an over-eater. You can judge your friend for it, but it likely won't lead to anything productive.

(FWIW only #3 would come even remotely close to being a symptom of alcohol abuse, in my book.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

Pot isn't really comparable to alcohol. Alcohol can kill someone in a single night's binge, and will destroy their liver if they drink regularly. Pot is not nearly as physically dangerous(you cannot OD on pot alone). Hell, as far as we know it's much less dangerous than cigarettes. Doubly so if he's vaping vs smoking.

For me, the big thing is that he doesn't seem to be isolating himself, or otherwise showing destructive behaviour. He may be self medicating his depression. Pot might be what actually allows him to get out of the house and enjoy himself(and antidepressants don't work for everyone).

My question is, have you asked him not to show up smelling of weed? Because that's really all you can do without being judgemental or reducing him to the stereotype of "addict". Just say you don't like the smell, and move on. If you start playing counsellor/savior with him, you will probably lose that friendship.

Also, I don't know why smelling it in his bedroom is a big deal, that's his private space and it's not exactly your business.
posted by InkDrinker at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Marijuana is, in my opinion, a much less harmful drug than either cigarettes or alcohol. The addiction potential is much lower (arguably nonexistent), overdoses are not a concern, and it's questionable whether there are any long-term negative health effects at all. Despite the fact that marijuana is illegal and tobacco and alcohol are not, the latter are much more harmful and dangerous drugs—that one is prohibited and the others are permitted is more of a political and historical artifact, rather than reflecting the relative risks associated with the use of those drugs.

So I wouldn't think of your friend's marijuana use as if it were an equivalent amount of alcohol use. If I were to mentally replace "drinking" with "vaping" in your question, I would be much more concerned. As it is, it's kind of hard for me to make the call. I mean, maybe it's interfering with his life, but I know lots of people with perfectly successful and normal lives who smoke pot as much as it sounds like your friend is doing, and who do lots of fun and interesting things, often while stoned.

I myself sometimes like to get stoned before I eat, or before hanging out with friends, or before doing a stressful and boring task, or in lots of other situations. It can make tedious things bearable, and make fun things more fun. Not necessarily every time, but certainly sometimes.

The main problem really is if he knows it bothers you but does it around you anyway. That's between you and him, and may mean that you can't hang out anymore, or as much anyway, if you can't come to some kind of agreement.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

He and his boyfriend were vaping in the parking lot.

Was this your car? You're 100% entitled to tell them to cut it out in your vehicle or on your property. What's normal for pot users isn't normal for everyone else.

I personally would stop hanging out with this guy because I don't want to incur the legal risk in my jurisdiction (it's my understanding that you can be held responsible for illegal items found on your property even if they're not yours). If I was in Colorado or something I probably still wouldn't hang out with him because I find drug users to be tiresome. But that's your call - you get to set your own boundaries, regardless of whether his behavior falls under "socially acceptable" or not. If you decided not to be friends because he wore socks with sandals, it's your right, even though he's well inside social norms.
posted by AFABulous at 3:37 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think pot *is* comparable to alcohol insofar as it alters your experience of the world. If your friend cannot (regularly) enjoy the world in an unaltered state, then, yes, I think he has an unhealthy relationship with weed. However, were I in your shoes, I would not feel entitled to say anything to him about it beyond a single comment expressing my mild concern.

On a tangent -- those who think weed cannot be physiologically harmful have been fortunate never to know someone chronically dependent on it. Now that it's legal in more and more places (which I think is fabulous, btw), this broad tendency to downplay its potential negatives seems more troubling to me. Using a recreational substance responsibly requires knowing all the risks inherent to usage.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 7:36 PM on September 10, 2016 [7 favorites]

It sounds like there's a gap between what he's getting from his antidepressants and what he needs for mental health. I wouldn't ask if this is too much any more than I'd ask if he's taking too high a dosage of the antidepressants. It sounds like this is letting him go out, be in public, and interact with other people, which is a legitimate medical use.

You don't have to be around it and it's your business if you don't like it, but that doesn't translate to it being a problem.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:19 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I will fully admit that I dislike pot. I don't like the smell, I don't like the culture, I don't like being around stoned people.

If you think so poorly of your friend's pot habit, just end the friendship without beating around the bush. You don't have to maintain the friendship under the pretense of coolness.
posted by Kwadeng at 11:18 PM on September 10, 2016 [3 favorites]

It seems to me you just don't like hanging out with your friend when he is high. I think that's fine and you say that. I don't think pot is really like alcohol, but to use that analogy, it's not fun being around drunk people when you're sober.

Whether his pot smoking is a "problem" depends on whether it interferes with his life. If he spends all his money on weed and can't make rent, if he is too stoned to do his job and gets fired, if he drives after smoking weed and gets confused, then yeah, maybe he has a problem. I don't think these scenarios are that common for pot smokers, especially compared to alcoholics -- I think think driving drunk is a million times (not exact) more dangerous than driving stoned and drinking affects people in more dangerous ways (lowering inhibitions, wrecking hand-eye coordination, potentially poisoning someone to death) than pot does. So could his pot use be a problem? Maybe But the issue here seems to be that he gets high a lot and you don't like it.

Talk to him and don't try to stage an invention, don't try to tell him what is going on with him, just let him know how you feel.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:39 AM on September 11, 2016

Seriously if he hasn't got a problem he'd have no problem not vaping before hanging out with you for an hour or so, if he is unable to go out or function without vaping because of mental health issues then he has a problem so severe he should not be self medicating but talking to his doctor about it.

Eh, there are reasons one might want a hit before hanging out with someone that are not indicative of needing a doctor's intervention; being shy or socially awkward, for example. You need to sort out whether you're just bugged by pot smoking in general or if your friend acts in annoying ways when he's had a puff. And who knows, maybe his doctor is fine with his use. That's none of anyone else's business.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:07 PM on September 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

oneirodynia. If the only way he is able to go & do those things is to have a hit then he has problems. He may need therapy, but if I were to say the only way I can go do those things is to have a drink you'd say I had a problem, just because the substance has changed does not change the problem. One of the signs of addiction is inability to function without the substance. If you need a hit to make living life less boring then maybe the problem is with you & you need to change your life but it is still a problem.

Also pot can be addictive to certain personalities, over 10 years I watched my brother go from recreational to heavy continual use, unable to even get up in the morning without substantial use, to self medicating with meth when it stopped being enough so please don't feed me the "it's" harmless bs. You have a right to put what you like in your body, but don't tell me what the side effects can be I'm still dealing with their side effects on my family. I have the information on the misinformation out there about the addiction possibilities of pot from the addiction specialist treating my brother as a condition of his parole for attempting to set his then girlfriend on fire after dousing her with petrol while after they'd just had a little bit to take the edge off. Psychotic breaks caused by pot are fun for the whole family.
posted by wwax at 8:30 AM on September 12, 2016

Ithink pot *is* comparable to alcohol insofar as it alters your experience of the world. If your friend cannot (regularly) enjoy the world in an unaltered state, then, yes, I think he has an unhealthy relationship with weed.

This is not at all true if marijuana helps you function, such as my close friend who uses for anxiety and social anxiety. Pot use makes HER brain normal, and she's much healthier when she's had some than not. So the mileage varies greatly between persons.
posted by agregoli at 12:26 PM on September 12, 2016

It sounds pretty normal to me. He's both self-medicating and using marijuana to make those situations more fun/interesting. In the first case, he's making a fun situation more fun and interesting. In the second, he's making a boring situation fun and in the 3rd he's either taking the edge off anxiety or ensuring he's a more interesting conversationalist.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:57 PM on September 12, 2016

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