Is Microdosing Marijuana the Next New Thing?

Microdosing—ingesting tiny amounts of LSD or other psychedelics to experience almost subliminal effects—has been a thing for a while now (AlterNet wrote about in mid-2015, and we certainly weren't the first). It's been getting a modicum of renewed attention thanks to the recent publication of Ayelet Waldman's memoir, A Really Good Day, which extols the benefits of the practice.

But when it comes to microdosing mania, there's a new kid on the block: marijuana. Beginning about mid-2016, references to microdosing weed began popping up in the pot press. Consuming very small amounts of marijuana, or more precisely, its main psychoactive ingredient, THC, can give one the benefits of weed without the drawbacks sometimes associated with actually being stoned, such as paranoia, anxiety, or lethargy, enthusiasts claim. As one purveyor of products designed for microdosing put it, one can be "body functional and mind free."

How Much is a Microdose of Marijuana?

Ten milligrams of THC is considered a safe dose for a novice, but also appears to be considered something like an upper limit for microdosing. How much is 10 milligrams? Consider that a high-potency marijuana flower could be 25% THC, so one gram of that good bud would contain 250 milligrams. A nice fat joint is about half a gram, or 125 milligrams, so 10 milligrams would be the rough equivalent of one medium-sized toke of strong weed.

But even many veteran pot smokers will tell you that they can get high off a single hit of good weed, so perhaps that 10 milligram level is too generous to be considered real microdosing. Maybe 1 milligram? The goal is to obtain an effect somewhere on the spectrum between undetectable and stoned; the amount that does the trick will undoubtedly vary, but it would seem if the desire is to really enjoy the benefits without the conscious high, one would start on the low end and go from there.

How to Microdose  

As mentioned above, you can do it by smoking or vaping the buds, and taking only a single tiny hit. But it's difficult to be precise with joints or bowls, and it's hard to tell how much you're sucking in with each toke. And it goes against that whole "mind free" thing to try to precisely weigh out measured mini-hits of bud fragments.

Edibles would appear to be much more suited for microdosing, mainly because (thanks to legalization and regulation) they are labeled with precise dosage amounts. Still, it's likely going to require some slicing and dicing. For instance, Kiva Confections' mildest single dose chocolate bar boasts 15 milligrams of THC, so you'd have to cut it in thirds (5 mg), fifths (3 mg), of even fifteenths (1 mg), if you want to go really micro.

Kiva offers espresso coffee beans or blueberries coated in marijuana-infused chocolate, each containing only 5 milligrams of THC. One, or better yet, half of one of a similar low-dose product could be a convenient way to go.

There are a couple of caveats with edibles, though. Many edible products contain a whole lot more than that Kiva chocolate, so really pay attention to the labeling and make sure you do your division properly, otherwise you may end up far from "body functional" and instead suffering a severe case of couch lock. And edibles take time to have an effect, the standard admonition being to wait at least half an hour after ingesting before deciding it isn't working. You can end up macrodosing instead of microdosing if you get too impatient.

Mass Phenomenon or Marketing Ploy?

Microdosing weed is "reportedly favored by everyone from Silicon Valley coders to SoCal creatives," Mashable gushed, but that hipster cachet may reflect marketing dreams more than any actual trend. Most of the talk about microdosing seems to be coming from people who want to sell the products with which to do it.

"In the same way we take vitamin C and zinc to avoid getting sick, we will be taking cannabis to stay healthy and safely manage stress and anxiety," Kiva Confections spokesperson Christie Strong told Mashable as she talked up a new product, Petra, a blend of California cannabis, green tea, and "zesty, exciting flavors."

"Petra really embodies the concept of responsible, healthy cannabis usage," she enthused. "We believe that in a couple years microdosing is going to be the most popular way people use cannabis."

A Kiva competitor, To Whom It May Chocolates, came up with that "body functional and mind free" microdosing mantra. It is peddling products with doses as low as 2.5 milligrams.

"It was very important to have a chocolate that would fit a person who had never tried cannabis before, and would allow them to have a pleasant experience and not have to take only a small bite," the company's Tomer Grassiany told Mashable.

And then there's Défoncé Chocolatier, which also offers low-dose edibles, but with an eye toward the high-end market.

"When we explored branding and packaging, one of the requirements was that the end-product would be something that you would see at Whole Foods," he said. "Though, realistically, we will likely not see cannabis (in any form) at major grocery outlets for quite some time." 

There may well be real benefits to microdosing marijuana—and who would argue that using less of a psychoactive substance is a bad thing?—but from here, microdosing looks mainly like a way for pot companies to sell people on low-dose weed products. 

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