How smoking high-CBD hemp helped me quit smoking tobacco and reduce weed anxiety

It’s no secret that weed can make you anxious and paranoid. That’s why I want to share with you how smoking legal, CBD-rich cannabis (or hemp, as it’s known by most – the UK government included) helped me quit smoking tobacco and reduce my weed anxiety.

It seems that almost every smoker has experienced the negative effects of too much THC at some point in the life. I have smoked weed pretty regularly, and often intensely, for nine years (I’m now 28). And to tell you the truth, the majority of my experiences have been more than pleasant. Smoking weed with friends helped foster deeper connections by allowing us to share a heightened reality, while smoking alone gave me the ability to think differently, ‘outside the box’, so to speak.

But then there are the occasions when I was high and, looking back with hindsight, it really would have been better if I was not high. Awkward encounters (usually with shopkeepers and girls), a speeding heart, and the continuous train of unhelpful thoughts. I’ve spoken to many smokers and these are all common effects of smoking weed, especially the strong stuff. This article by Vice calls it “the fear.”

Mixing weed with tobacco

It’s important to note that I always smoked my weed mixed with tobacco, along with an estimated 90% of weed smokers in Europe. I also smoked tobacco in the form of cigarettes and roll-ups. So, please bear in mind that weed can have a vastly different effect when mixed with tobacco. Studies have even shown that those who mix their weed with tobacco have greater rates of dependency, and mixing the two can cause a higher increase in heart rate and blood pressure than smoking weed alone, which can, in turn, result in anxiety.  

Nicotine also causes spikes of “feel good” chemicals in the brain, instantly relaxing and giving you a pleasant, lightheaded feeling. You also feel these sensations with weed, but with more powerful, psychoactive and muscle relaxing effects.

Despite many attempts to quit tobacco over the years – and weed for that matter – my longest successful stint on the waggon was three weeks, with 10 of those 21 days spent at a meditation retreat where smoking was prohibited.

It’s no surprise people mix their weed with tobacco, though, when you look at the prices of weed in Europe, and especially in the UK where an ounce (28g) can set you back as much as £700, according to Vice. And thanks to Europe’s penchant for smoking joints rather than bongs or pipes – which are most popular in the US and Canada (both of which have legalised weed to some extent), who can afford to smoke their weed pure?

How I quit smoking tobacco

Despite my history of smoking, I take my health seriously – particularly when it comes to diet and exercise – which is why I tried to knock smoking on the head so many times. Deep down, however, I really wanted to continue smoking weed, just not tobacco. This saw me explore some supposedly safer alternatives, such as herbal mixtures and natural tobacco. None were particularly pleasant and, to be honest, I felt like I was 13-years-old again, smoking dry oregano from mum’s herb cupboard (come on, we’ve all been there).

I’ve now been tobacco-free for one year. On a personal note, this year has been transformational and infinitely rewarding. To sum it up, I have discovered my passion; a cause that I believe can help many people.  And that is spreading the word about CBD and hemp, which I believe has helped me no end in my quest to give up tobacco, to reduce my weed anxiety, and to stem general negative thoughts.

That’s right, so-called ‘industrial’ hemp, which is 100% legal in the UK and most of the world. After coming across a news article on cannabidiol (CBD) and sifting through all available research on the matter, I discovered that CBD is naturally present in hemp – which is simply the term given to cannabis with low levels of a naturally occurring chemical called THC. THC is what cannabis is usually grown specifically for, as it is the compound that gets you ‘high’. When a cannabis plant has less than 0.2% THC, as stipulated by the UK government, it’s classed as hemp and is completely legal. Hemp is traditionally grown for industrial purposes such as for rope, paper, and textiles. Its seeds are also very nutritious and are cultivated for food and supplements.

Now that research is expanding and results of studies are widely shared via the Internet, people around the world are realising the potential of CBD, and therefore hemp, for a variety of purposes. I won’t go into all the potential benefits of CBD, but this directory of peer-reviewed, scientifically-sound studies is a good place to start if you want to delve into the subject further.

High-CBD Cannabis is legal in the UK

Cannabis Sativa L. with low levels of THC (hemp) and high levels of CBD is 100% legal in the UK. It is usually sold as hemp tea in the form of whole buds (flowers) or already chopped and with the seeds and stems removed – which are plentiful in most hemp buds. And as there is very little THC in these buds, there is absolutely no ‘high’ should you wish to consume them. You see, CBD is actually antipsychotic, as well as anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) and anti-analgesic (relieves pain). Therefore, CBD does not get you ‘stoned’, ‘baked’, ‘lean’, ‘bombed’, ‘twisted’, or any other term that refers to an altered consciousness. It is, in fact, very safe even in very high doses and has never killed anyone! That is remarkable, especially considering paracetamol overdoses cause over 120 deaths each year in the UK and Wales.

CBD is available in many different forms, from oils to edibles, topicals to suppositories. As a smoker, I personally use high-CBD hemp buds as a substitute tobacco in my joints and roll-ups. I have, therefore, been on the hunt for the very best hemp buds for some time. I’ve tried smoking various teas, like this guy from ismoke.co.uk, and some weren’t too bad. They mixed well, smoked well, and didn’t taste awful – but still barely comparable to regular weed with its abundance of fruity flavours and smooth smoke. It made do, though, and I haven’t used tobacco since that first hemp joint. My weed-induced anxiety and paranoia have also reduced dramatically; a trip to the shops is no longer an embarrassing endeavour and my social skills are noticeably less impaired.

Hemp in Switzerland

Most of the hemp buds I was getting had a lot of seeds and stems and were a bit ‘stringy’. That’s when I expanded my search for high-CBD hemp buds. It didn’t take long until my Googling led me to the mountainous and liberal country of Switzerland. Not literally, unfortunately, but to this press release from Reuters, one of the world’s most respected news agencies. The report explains how Swiss entrepreneurs are cashing in on the surging popularity of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis (hemp), which it has named “marijuana-light”. This high-grade hemp has suddenly taken off in recent months, six years after the country legalised low-potency cannabis. The number of retailers registered to sell low-THC cannabis has risen to over 140 from just a handful in 2016, the agency says.

This high-CBD hemp is cultivated in hydroponic grow warehouses across Switzerland. KannaSwiss is one of the leaders in the industry, with high-quality buds advertised on its website uncannily resembling its illegal and controversial high-THC cousin. It is being sold in pots and pouches, marketed as a tobacco replacement, and is growing in popularity at a fast rate.

My excitement at finding these growers was short-lived, however, as this hemp is still illegal in the UK due to its THC content being above the 0.2% threshold imposed by the UK government – a threshold which is said to be holding back the European hemp industry and hurting the environment, according to this article. I was back on the hunt.

Through much pestering, inquisitive emails and social media messages, I was put in contact with a small organic hemp farm in Spain. The owner told me he was “growing buds similar in appearance and smell to what you might see in the centrefold of High Times Magazine,” yet they were 100% legal as they were EU-certified varieties of hemp and their THC content was below 0.2% I ordered an ounce (28g) and it arrived in the post a few weeks later (see, I told you it was legal!). Upon opening the airtight pouch, the sweet smell of citrus fruit filled my nostrils and stimulated my senses.

Since then, a number of shops, both online and physical, have appeared in the UK selling high-grade hemp flowers. This is what I was looking for! Here’s an updated list of every one of those shops.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this article makes no attempt to diagnose or treat any health condition. This article is in no way intended to offer medical advice. It is merely a report of my own experiences with hemp and of the available research on CBD. CBD is not a ‘cure’, it is a very complex chemical derived from an infinitely more complex plant, that we – mankind – know relatively little about. Please employ your own investigative skills and explore the subject yourself. Here are some reputable sources to start you off:

www.projectcbd.org

www.washingtonpost.com

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/cannabidiol

(Please note, when I say ‘weed’ in this article, I am referring to high-THC cannabis. Most people call it ‘marijuana’, despite this being the original name for a wild Mexican tobacco that was given to cannabis by the US government in the 1930s in order to tarnish and harass immigrants who smoked cannabis. Read about the origin of the word ‘marijuana’ in this informative article.)

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