Cannabis Phenomenology: The High of the Beholder - Cannabis Research by Dr. Emily

in kushsmokers •  last year

Have you ever heard or read a description of a marijuana strain but then went to try it and found it felt quite different to you?

This was a frequent problem for me when I first started using medical cannabis. I would read that a strain was “relaxing and mellow” but after smoking it I felt anxious and full of energy.

Cannabis is an incredibly diverse plant with many genetic varieties. Each variety or strain of cannabis comes with it’s own unique effects. So, it’s important to know how a product is supposed to affect you before you consume it. When you find a product isn’t affecting you the way it was described it is easy to blame the people writing the product descriptions. But it is harder to create accurate product descriptions than you might think. Even when looking at the effects of one cannabis product, there is a fair bit of variety in terms of how individual people experience it.

Researching How People Feel

My doctoral work and academic expertise was focused on methods for gathering data about how people feel. I spent years analysing various scientific methods for assessing subjective factors like happiness, pain, or well-being. When I shifted my focus from this academic work to cannabis research, I began applying the same methods to consumer research problems - like how to write more accurate descriptions of a cannabis products’ effects. Essentially, I began researching how different cannabis products affected how people feel.

As it turns out - even with one product - effects can vary significantly from person to person.

During the course of my consumer research, I was able to survey many cannabis users about the effects of specific products. Here are few things I noticed from the data.

1) Cannabis Product Effects Can Vary Person to Person

One test we used, which illustrates the variety well, was a grid where consumers could indicate how sedative vs energetic a particular product was, as well as how clear-minded vs hazy-minded the product was. In these test, we would frequently see responses in every quadrant of the chart. Depending on the person, the strain might be considered sedative or energetic, hazy or clear, many products had a wide range of variety in reported effects. This means that brands can’t write a perfectly accurate description of their product’s effects; since no description will be true for everyone!

2) The Effects Cluster around Statistical Averages

While there is a fair bit of variety, reported effects still tended to cluster towards one area of the grid for each product. Compare, for example, the results of the Blue Dream rosin with those of the Hindu Kush flower. As is often the case, the sativa-dominant Blue Dream was more likely to be rated as energetic, while the landrace, Hindu Kush tended to be rated as more sedative. The best case scenario for brands looking to write accurate descriptions is to find the most common reactions to their products and describe those. For these products, the brands ended up describing the Blue Dream as energetic and hazy-minded, while the Hindu Kush was said to be sedative with a clear mind. While these descriptions were the one that best fit the data, it is still likely that these descriptions will be inaccurate for some consumers.

3) Some have Consistently Atypical Reactions

If you find that you often disagree with product descriptions, you may (like me) have atypical reactions to cannabis varieties. If this is a challenge for you, it can help to record your own reactions to different strains or products. I notice, for example, that strains don’t seem as sedative to me as they do to most. What can put other people to sleep, is usually relaxing to me in a way that helps me feel more energized. Because of this self-knowledge, I have started looking for strains that are described as sedative, even though sedation is not my goal - energy is. By making this change, I have greatly improved my own success in getting products that do what I want them to. In my online course, and in my consulting work, I share tools for tracking your own experiences with cannabis - so you can better predict how new products and strains will affect you.

More Research is Needed

This research was based on small sample sizes, and products from only a few brands. More research is needed to truly understand the phenomenology of cannabis, and the many factors involved. But this data can give us a glimpse into the way different cannabis products affect people in a variety of ways.

Next time you are wondering about the effects of a cannabis product or strain, remember that the question shouldn’t be “what are the effects of the strain” but “what will the effects of the strain be for me?” And that is a question only one person can answer- you!

-Dr. Emily Earlenbaugh

🔥🔥 Emily is a freelance @KushSmokers author and we hope everyone enjoys her Steem articles. She is new to the Steem community and was introduced to it through the #KushSmokers onboarding program, so please take a second, follow Emily, as she will be posting on her own account as well as under the @KushSmokers handle, alongside many other new high quality authors such as Emily in the near future!🔥🔥

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Very well written. As I read this post it brought back the days of grad school and all the research. I tried to find solid research with very little luck. It is to bad that we do not have the scientific backing for such a wonderful plant. It is coming but slowly I am afraid. Our corporate governments are still not ready for a world of like minded individuals who understand their ability to create and use their own medication. This cuts very deeply into an empire of money that does not wish to be dethroned and so we muddle along in the trenches of mediocracy; at least in terms of peer reviewed research.

I have been self medicating successfully for 3 1/2 years with cannabis and nothing else, thus removing a 25-30 pill a day habit of opioids and the cocktail that I coerced my doctor out of. It is easy to get lost in modern medicine when it becomes your field of study. You feel the need to support the community that supports you, but when your community has been "not so secretly" killing you, it is time for a change.

That is how I began my relationship with cannabis. I have mentored many hospice patients in building a "relationship" with her. I refer to her as a mother gifted to us by this beautiful planet. Most people would laugh at that when I would first tell them, but then after many hours of my stories and ingesting some of my medicine they would start to understand what I meant. Cannabis is a wonderful plant. It helps those suffering transfer into a different light with less burden along the way.

I have enjoyed your posts thus far and look forward to more articles. If you ever wish to pick my brain about cannabis feel free. I have a lot of years of experience with her as a grower as well. She has the most gorgeous flowers of any species in the kingdom! Give me a bouquet of those flowers and you will have found away to my soul.

The Last Sage


Thank you for this insightful comment. I couldn't agree with you more. Cannabis is an incredible plant and such a gift to those of us who have seen the price of so much of modern medicine. What a wonderful thing that you were able to leave opioids behind with her help, and beautiful that you have helped others in return. It is amazing how many people become very altruistically minded after using cannabis - it's hard not to want to spread the word after she has touched your life. I'd love to pick your brain and hear more about your story. Feel free to message me with your best contact information.

This post received a 1.7% upvote from @randowhale thanks to @decentralizd! For more information, click here!

Yes everyone feel different effects then others when consuming cannabis. Nobody should blame cannabis for not having the effect described.

the title the high of the beholder says much, boss title

I think it so complicated to do research on this. a lot of factors

did you eat well?

did you sleep well ?

Anxiety by nature? smoking at day or smoking at night

With or without cigarette smoking.

The amount/dose of weed.

it all affects my high



So true - it is incredibly complicated! There are so many variables, and like with any type of research, you can never account for all the variables. The only absolutely certain way to find out how something will affect an individual is to have them try it and see what happens!


Important note: Try it out in low doses and see what happens. When investigating proper dosage for your own wellness purposes, starting slowly is the best path to finding what works.

Is this high in CBD? ANY THC?? I want low THC.
Need something to help the mind. Heal the mind on a kid with autism.
what's best anyway.?


It can really depend on the individual, what strains and ratios of THC/CBD work best. But if you are interested in finding out what has worked for others with autism, websites like and are great sources to see what others with the same symptoms or conditions have used successfully. is a good site to find medical research on cannabis by condition as well.

HolySmoke! .... i always said there's only one way to put it to the test!! Fire it uP !!! nice post.... More Power !!!!
Following you ... check out my Blog... i am a Cannabis lover to be sure !! Thanks !!

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