Teens who Toke for Health: Defying Stoner Stereotypes


Teens who Toke for Health: Defying Stoner Stereotypes

(*special note: this article does not condone teen cannabis use, but encourages teens and adults to take a moment to listen, reflect, research and have sincere conversations around pot)

For many teens, getting high is a rite of passage into adulthood. It satisfies some inherent adolescent curiosity, a curiosity that captures repeated interest in only 20% of teens. For the other 80% who try pot and quit, it may be the lazy, pothead stigma they are trying to avoid or the fact that it is still a Schedule 1 Drug that drives teens to other forms of self exploration.

Legitimately buying cannabis products as a minor, even in states where it is recreationally legal, is pretty much impossible.

Yes, smoking weed still comes with a decent jab or thrill of guilt. It is definitely not as easy or accepted as buying a hot dog, a pumpkin spice latte or aspirin, all of which could have prolonged negative health impacts, and even be down right dangerous for teens.


You don’t judge people for taking aspirin when they have a headache, so don’t judge people for using cannabis in the same manner. .” ~ grasscity.com


While science is slowly reeling in some of the negative talk about teen toking, lots of caution is taken around the unresolved effects of dope on the developing teenage brain.

The first longitudinal study to look specifically at this question won’t yield results until 2028. So what are parents, law makers, and educators going to do until then? Get educated, and listen to what teens have to say. Mindful self-medication with pot may be a viable alternative to antidepressants, painkillers (which are a gateway to heroin) and alcohol. Please do some research and talk to an open-minded healthcare provider.

Coming of age is undeniably an exciting and stressful time, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So why not consider allowing teens to medicate openly and responsibly? Like technology, you can either use it to escape or as a tool to educate and enhance your life.

Without endorsing the indiscriminate use of cannabis, especially as some of the current strains and delivery methods like dabbing and hash oil are able to blow brains clear past Andromeda, let us reflect on what the following two teenagers have to say about their use, the negative stigmas and how cannabis can actually change lives in beneficial ways that defies the outdated stereotyping.

Photo by Elli Ho

Pictured above:

Current Age: 18 (male)

Age at which first started using marijuana: 17

Where do you live: Oregon (2018-recreational legal).

Reason for starting marijuana? The main reason was curiosity. I just wanted to see what it felt like. I wasn’t trying to cure my headaches, but afterwards I realized what a tool it was.

Consumption choice? At first (I got high) smoking and tried various ways: bong, joints, and I carved pipes out of carrots. The first edibles I had were not very strong so they didn’t do much. Then I tried a brownie with pure THC oil and bud butter.

I’d rather have edibles because smoking made me cough, even when I wasn’t smoking. I like the feeling of the smoking high, but I didn’t like smoking. Vaping wasn’t very strong for me. Smoking out of a freshly carved carrot was the juiciest smoke.

My favorite strain was Gorilla Glue which is really high in CBD (non-psychoactive cannabidiol). I consumed for about 6 months total, but stopped 2 months ago, more on that later.

Why did you have headaches? I had multiple concussions. I got 3 while skateboarding even though I was wearing a helmet- thankfully, plus various trampoline incidences.

Describe your headaches? I mostly felt it when I was sitting in school, but also when I dried my hair. I wash my hair every night and when I rubbed my head with my towel, it felt like my brain was jiggling around inside my head. I had a dull pain afterwards. Abrupt movements and bending over also triggered it – my head was very sensitive. It was just always there. I’d go through my day doing things even if it hurt. I never realized how uncomfortable I was until it finally healed.

So what did you do to make the headaches go away? I didn’t know I was going to treat my headaches with smoking cannabis! I kept smoking because I felt other self improvements, I realized things about myself ~ insights about life. So I kept doing it not because of headaches, but because of the changes that smoking helped me make in my life.

What changes and life insights did you have? Cannabis helped me reset everything I believed in. I was in a rut of having the same reactions to things, and cannabis helped me have a new perspective on life. It (marijuana) helped me see things in a new way that allowed me to move on in a beneficial way.

Are you still consuming? No. I chose to stop because I didn’t like smoke in my lungs. My respiratory system was dry, and it gave me a dry cough for week which was annoying. It is also expensive if you don’t grow.

I also missed dreaming, I did some research and you stop dreaming when you use cannabis regularly. When you stop having cannabis and the dreams finally back, you can have really crazy dreams. I didn’t realize my night time dreams were gone until I stopped. I like my dreams more than I like cannabis, but it did get me curious about other psychedelics.

The only other (psychedelic) I have tried is salvia. I do a lot of research. I am also using the Wimhof breathing technique now, which can also give you a natural high, especially if you have cannabis in your system. My headaches are completely gone now, so I don’t feel like I need it therapeutically anymore.

Did you have any negative side effects? The respiratory dryness made it difficult to fall asleep sometimes. I was a little more “forgetful”. It felt like I had 75% brain power, but then again I was also tapping into things beyond the mind, so its not really fair to say that. (After 2 months of no cannabis) It feels like my mind is clearer, back to 100%.

What is the teen stoner stereo-type? During the hour lunch they (stoners) leave to smoke. I used to think those kids are the dumbest kids in school because they always showed up late. I thought it was addicting, something that homeless people do. Regular people don’t smoke cannabis and I was kind of scared of it.

I had a negative image of it, probably because of the context I had with it (ie. school that promotes a drug free zone). I think research and finding out the difference between addictive and non-addictive drugs was really important to me. You can’t believe what people say or make assumptions about drugs or people who use. The most powerful thing you can do is research and find out for yourself, and what things are stigmatized by society that aren’t based on real science.

   Photo by Elli Ho

Do you fit the teen stereotype: I don’t think so.

The reason why people have stereotypes is because some people who are drawn to marijuana may already be “negative” people. If you continue to lead your life or even improve it while using cannabis, it doesn’t create a stereotype. I told my friends (that I was using it) and they saw that I’m still same person. It didn’t make me lazy or want to play video games and eat all night. Some are more affected by it more than others.

It is the same thing like a phone. I can improve my life with it, or use it casually. Many teens are actually really addicted to their phones. When I was still curious about it (cannabis), I didn’t know what I could do with it. A lot of people just use it recreationally because it makes them feel good, but after I realized what I can do with it, I used it as a tool.

I read that some people take magic mushrooms and go to loud concert to amplify the effect. To me that doesn’t sound really good. Sit in dark silence darkness to really feel yourself. It is the same as cannabis, you can take it mindfully or casually.

What are you doing now? I Work full time (10 hours/day outside in the forest). I eat a lot because of all the physical work I do. I also take cold showers every day to make my immune system feel stronger. I take 40 breaths 5 times a day and follow the Wimhof method. After taking 20-30 breaths I hold my breath and do strenuous exercise. Holding breath in this way while exercising feels really really good. Occasionally (1x month) I smoke a tiny bit of salvia.

What is your vision for the world?

I would like to see all psychedelic plants legalized and tobacco, coffee, alcohol and SUGAR become Schedule 1 Drugs. I want people to wake up and do what they love doing. I love being around trees.

Do you have any other advice for other teens around cannabis? If you are depressed and start using drugs, don’t use them as an escape. Do you research and maximize the positive effects of the drugs. It is really good for self help, and I think it is really stupid that many parents think that all drugs are bad. They (parents) are fine with antidepressants.

Knowledge is power in this situation. If you can tell or even educate your parents then you can change the perspective one mind at a time. If you just say I smoke because it “makes me feel good” then you sound like you are addicted.

Last bit of advice? I think it is also important to focus on your third eye.

Many people think this is some kind of hippy or meditation thing, (and maybe it is) but it really does focus your energy. It’s the gateway to personal improvement. Even if you just try it it will open up something. If you want to have the most visuals, close your eyes and focus on your third eye. You can also close your eyes and look at the sun. If you are stoned and eat food, you may not see many improvements in your life.

When you get high, do things that give you a different perspective, anything that changes your reality will help you in many ways. I don’t believe that there is a bad trip. “Scary” experiences on psychedelic substances can be the best time to deal with personal problems.

(editorial note: these are the opinions of teens not health care providers, please see your cannabis savvy healthcare provider for further guidance on any topic that comes up in this article).

Teen #2

Current Age: 17

Age at which first started using marijuana: 15

Where do you live: North Carolina (2018 – illegal medicinal and recreational)

Reason for starting marijuana? When I first started it was for health purposes. I was really sick with mono. I was in the hospital, and no normal prescription drugs were helping me. I couldn’t eat and felt awful taking all these medicines in the hospital. When I got home, I still had trouble eating and sleeping. I lost 15 lbs.

My mom and my acupuncturist said I should take some cannabis oil infused in coconut oil. Almost immediately, I could eat a whole bowl of pasta. I had no more pain. It was life changing. When you are in misery and pain and you suddenly feel better, it feels like an awakening. It really sparked my mood.

Cannabis had a huge impact on why I am still here and still so well today. I don’t know what would have happened had I continued using the harsh medicines.

What is your current relationship with cannabis? When I was younger I was on anxiety meds, they were helpful but cannabis is a great alternative. At 16 years old I started smoking once per week or every other week, usually just to chill. But I do take CBD 3mg, 3x per day for anxiety. 

When do you smoke ? I tend to smoke more with friends, on days when I have a huge workload or just when I feel more anxious. When I get together with friends I think it is a much better substitute for alcohol. When I drank before, I felt sick, gross, and out of control. Marijuana is something you can really chill with. Alcohol is much harder on your system. People get really messed up when they drink but I’ve never seen that with marijuana. We don’t mix the two.

With pot, people tend to know their limits better, people can stay relaxed and have a good time.

Have you had any negative side effects? When I was sick and took a dayquil and then smoked pot and I found myself very high very fast. This only happened once. I’ve been very stoned but I have never felt paranoid, out of control or scared. I’ve always had really good experiences.

(Note* this teen takes a significant daily dose of CBD which counters the possible paranoia that comes with high THC use)

Does your environment change your experience of marijuana? The experience is usually the same. I just feel calmer, more relaxed and more grounded. I don’t smoke to get high, I smoke to relax. I tend to just get to that point.

What happens when you get really high? When I get really buzzed I tend to focus on myself internally. I don’t worry about anything around me. In the times when I’ve gotten really high, I find some sort of inner peace and balance. I take that (peaceful) feeling and remember it when I am sober. I’ve also meditated before then I’m put in an elevated space. I am more open to receiving when I am high and the cool thing about this is that you take in a lot of good energy.

What is the teen stoner stereotype? Someone who is lazy and smokes all day. Someone who doesn’t care about school or anything. It is a bad stereotype.

But stereotypes depend on people’s knowledge and exposure to it. To people familiar with it (cannabis), stereotype it as being chill and funny, but others, like the types who drink (alcohol) they see cannabis in a negative way. People are definitely learning and becoming more open to what it (cannabis) can do for you. But of course there are still people who think it is a drug like heroin or cocaine.

I think people should research, and talk to friends and family to see what good it can do for you. I don’t think alcohol is used medicinally. If I am deathly ill, I am not going to drink vodka or smoke a cigarette to feel better. People die from smoking tobacco (nicotine) and drinking alcohol everyday even though it is legal. You can’t die from ingesting cannabis. It is crazy, it boggles my mind that it is still illegal.

Do you fit the teen stereotype: I don’t think I fit that stereotype. People think that people who smoke are dirty hippies that don’t care. Yeah, I don’t fit that stereotype. In fact, most people don’t fit that stereotype. Yes there are total hippies in the world, who don’t give a care in the world but that is not the majority of people who use marijuana.

What is your vision for (yourself or ) the world?

My vision is an artistic path, I see my self acting and dancing (I already teach dance at a local dance school), but I am also interested in personal health and health science.

Do you have any advice for other teens or parents around cannabis? Be more open to the idea of what cannabis can do for you or a loved. It could be life changing and good for you. If you are having problems (side effects) with drugs or medicine you take right now, marijuana may be a really good natural substitute.

Any last bit of advice?

Cannabis isn’t legal in the state where I live. It is frustrating that people who want it have to go through shady process. There is no quality control and it may be sprayed. With legalization it would be magical for people to have access to it (cannabis) and not worry about it being moldy or spiked. Because it is illegal there is a bit of shame in it, that shame would disappear. That background voice (or family member) that tells you that it is illegal would go away. Legalization would take pressure off those who use it and minimize that guilt.

Though not a teen, ex-NFL football player Ricky Williams has some words that may resonate, “The Buddha said, everything is medicine if you use it right.”

About the author:

Ellie Ho

Elli Ho

Elli Ho MPH, a late-flowering cannabis convert, is dismantling the 420 stigma. As a researcher/nutritionist, mother and digital nomad, she explores the world, food and consciousness with humor, love and gratitude. See where in the world she is taking her next breath of fresh air @elliAloha or elliho.com


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