Microdosing Weed: The Definitive Guide — How much marijuana you need for a functional, minimal high

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In an era when marijuana is gaining legal status from coast to coast, giant joints and big bong rips are out. Microdosing is in.

Although "microdosing" typically refers to the practice of ingesting small amounts of heavy psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, which can be debilitating in recreationally sized doses, there are a host of reasons pot users should try it out with their drug of choice. Can it change the way you get high? Just one way to find out.

A marijuana plant bud under a magnifying glass
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Microdosing Weed 101: Why microdosing?

The principle behind microdosing is simple: We enjoy many of the more abstract effects of psychedelics — the sense of well-being, harmony and happiness — but tend to take enough of them that we also experience more extreme effects, like hallucinations and giggle fits. Taking a fraction of that ordinary dose, however, keeps most effects "sub-perceptual," or below the threshold where you'd actively notice them.

In other words, you're not really "tripping" on a microdose. You can still go about your day-to-day life, though perhaps with slightly improved focus, mood and emotional balance. It means that microdosing may be the answer for people who want to medicate their anxiety or chronic pain with marijuana but don't love feeling stoned all the time. Some doctors have said that overall, their patients see better results with low doses.  

It's also a good move for anyone whose weed tolerance has gotten a bit too high: You can lower your intake to a manageable level instead of going cold turkey, saving your money (and memory).

Microdosing guide: How much marijuana should you smoke or vape for a microdose?

For some, a single puff on a bowl, joint or vape is a microdose. More experienced smokers and vapers may want two or three. As with the normal ritual of getting high, it depends a lot on your tolerance, the potency of the weed and how deeply you're inhaling. 

What matters most is your awareness of how much weed it takes to tilt your perception. If after three hits in a row all you can do is eat Doritos and watch old episodes of Seinfeld, then you've already had too much. Remember, you're not looking to enter another dimension here.

Inhaling marijuana using a vaporizer pen at a HempCon event
Source: Robyn Beck/Getty Images

Instead of going on autopilot when you light up, take a moment after your first inhale to really process what's happening. If, after a few minutes, it seems you're not quite high but on the verge of being high, stop right there because that's as far as you want to go. Otherwise, go for a second puff and wait again. You may be surprised at how little weed you need. 

For this reason, smoking paraphernalia like pipes, vapes and water bubblers are preferable for microdosing: Unlike, say, a blunt, you can control how much weed is burning and don't have to keep putting it out.

Microdosing tips: Can you microdose with edibles?

Because of their strictly specified amounts of the cannabis compounds THC and CBD (the former gives you marijuana's famed psychoactive effects, while the latter is thought to be better for medicinal purposes), weed edibles can be extremely useful to microdosers.

The only snag? A lot of edibles are really strong, and it takes much longer for your body to metabolize the drug. As with smoking, it's essential to start with the tiniest possible amount and add more as needed. Some products make this easy: Kiva Confections, for example, sells espresso beans or blueberries coated in weed chocolate, and each bite contains only 5 milligrams of THC. Take two and you'll definitely feel high, but if you hold up after one to see what it does — as the packaging recommends — you'll find you're relaxed without being incapacitated.

With the heavier stuff, it's up to you to control intake; many weed edibles are best halved or quartered so as to lessen their impact. And once you have a general idea about how much THC or CBD is overkill, you'll know how to divvy up your edible goodies.

Microdosing guide: How do I know if microdosing is working?

The concept of limiting your cannabis consumption so you're always somewhat less than stoned may sound strange to those who have spent years relying on marijuana to unwind. Isn't the whole point of weed to, you know, feel like you're on weed?

Well, sure — if you're trying to have a wild time. But, as with drinkers who have one glass of wine a night with their dinner, marijuana's benefits and pleasures aren't contingent on full intoxication. Instead of getting baked, you'll simply be calmer, jettison that stress and ideally get a burst of creativity, productivity or sociability. You can even think of it as a spiritual vitamin, something that nourishes the soul.

But the best way to make microdosing work is to keep close track of how it affects you. Which strains have you sampled? Is there an ideal time of day to do it? What's your preferred delivery method? And are you actually still overindulging? If you can be honest and thorough in your self-examination of your weed experiences, you're on the path to understanding how less can be a whole lot more. 

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Miles Klee

Author of the novel Ivyland and the story collection True False. Words in Electric Literature, Lapham's Quarterly, Vanity Fair, The Awl, Guernica, Motherboard, Vulture, McSweeney's and elsewhere. Probably eating tacos right now.

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