BY JESSICA CASTILLO
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
It’s hard to stay focused: a recent New York Times article cited a 2010 Harvard University study that found most people’s minds will wander 47% of the time. And with most of us working from home, it’s not a surprise. At any given moment you’re juggling the responsibilities of your job with your home life. So, how can you buckle down and get things done? Some people say cannabis can help.
While many people who use cannabis are looking to chill out, chances are you have a friend who swears they achieve peak clarity and focus while on a high. (Maybe you are that friend.) It’s the stuff of anecdotal legend: The last-minute term paper that couldn’t have been possible without a hit outside the library, or the burst of clarity on a presentation that a colleague couldn’t quite crack until they microdosed.
But what is it about weed that produces the head high so many people associate with focus, clarity, and productivity? And what should you keep in mind about picking the right strain to help you achieve your most task-oriented self? Here’s everything you need to know about the science behind the stories.
What does science say about how weed makes you more productive?
Because cannabis is classified as a schedule-1 drug in the United States, it’s pretty difficult for scientists to study its effects on the human body in a controlled way. While a few case studies have looked at how marijuana helps people with ADHD, there has been scant formal research about how it may help neurotypical people power through their daily tasks.
But from what we do know about the way cannabinoids and terpenes interact in the body, as well as the different levels of these compounds in sativa, indica, and hybrid strains, we can take some pretty good guesses as to why some people believe cannabis is the key to checking off their to-do lists.
“A lot of people will say indica strains will produce a couch lock or make you more relaxed, whereas a sativa strain will kind of get you energized,” Dr. Tory Spindle, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University, previously told Ember. “But there's never been a scientific study that has given someone an indica strain and given someone a sativa strain and say, ‘How does this make you feel?’”
He adds that because there haven’t been any studies to confirm or deny your best friend’s assertions, that doesn’t mean those feelings may not be valid. “It's really hard without a controlled study to say that there's not some expectancy effects going on. What that means is if I were to tell you, ‘Hey, smoke this cannabis strain, this is going to give you a real head high,’ you're going to feel energetic.” Basically, if you believe you’re going to be more productive after smoking a hit of your favorite flower, chances are you just might.
There’s also the possibility that cannabis can help you feel more focused because it diminishes your preoccupation with whatever else is going on in your body. As Andrei Derbenev, an associate professor of physiology at Tulane University's School of Medicine, told Mashable, if a person feels less physical or mental pain because of their cannabis consumption, they might feel more adept at focusing on a given task. Even so, he warns that “most of the research on cannabis and motivation shows no effect, or if anything, reduced motivation.”
Which weed strain is best for productivity?
That all depends on your preferences, and how you get work done. Generally, productivity is associated with having energy to complete your tasks, so aiming for a strain associated with head highs may be better than a strain with a lot of relaxing CBD.
Plenty of people believe that sativa strains will help them feel more alert and focused. There’s also the matter of the entourage effect, which refers to the ways in which cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids may combine to result in a different kind of high, ranging from euphoria to relaxation. Think of how lemon scents will wake you up, while lavender is really relaxing — the same theory applies to your bud.
It’s also worth considering how you will achieve your high, given that inhaling cannabis through pipes, vapes, and similar setups will result in a more immediate high, while edibles like gummies require more time to take effect. “When you eat cannabis in an edible, there's a huge delay until you feel the effects,” Dr. Spindle says. “You might not actually start feeling the effects until about 45 minutes to an hour later and peak effects don’t hit until about two hours later at times.” For some people, a delay like that might cause them to procrastinate even more than they already have, so choose your product wisely.
How much cannabis should I consume for my productivity?
Because sativa strains especially are linked to alertness, it’s easy to feel like you’ve overdone it — that suddenly you’re “too” high and can't get anything done at all. If that’s the case for you, microdosing weed might be the better way to start using cannabis as a productivity aid. Calibrated pens and regulated tablets or drops offer metered-out doses of cannabis, meaning you’ll be rest assured that you’ve taken just enough for a soothing and mind-clearing hit without the full psychoactive side effects.
If you’re new to microdosing, it may benefit you to stack your doses, which means to wait between hits so you can gauge how each dose makes you feel. Aim for no more than 5 milligrams of CBD and/or THC per dose, and wait two hours after you take your first portion before taking more. All of the products at MedMen are carefully regulated so you’ll feel confident knowing you’re getting exactly the amount of cannabinoids that you want — which means you’ll have all the more peace of mind to focus on that work deadline or your cleaning project.
Curious about using cannabis for focus? Here are some suggestions from MedMen experts:
For flower fans, this strain is a sativa-dominant cross of Jack Herer and G13 Haze. Not only does the strain have an impressive flavor profile of sweet candy and fresh pine, it’s also known to produce a very pronounced head high that sets the stage for intense focus and creativity.
Featuring matcha and refreshing mint, each of these edibles has 2.5mg of THC and is ideal for microdosing before a monotonous task like cleaning out your closet or scrubbing down the bathroom.
Each mint-flavored dose features 10mg of THC, ideal if you need a little more than a microdose for focus.
New to cannabis and microdosing? Try this chocolate which has 2mg of THC and 2mg of CBD for a balanced effect.