Recently, my partner and I celebrated our anniversary the way we spend most of our days, with our cats and cannabis. If I am being completely honest with myself, there haven’t been more than a handful of days in our nine-year relationship where one of us wasn’t high. This hasn’t bothered me in the past, but lately, with every bong hit, I wonder if our partnership is really love or if we’ve just spent the course of our relationship in a lavender-kush haze.
Mary Jane has begun to feel like a third wheel in our marriage. Cannabis is a constant in our daily lives and sometimes I wonder whether that’s healthy. We both consume cannabis for medical reasons (and sometimes just for fun) and don’t have any sort of cannabis use disorder. Despite this I find my whole body tensing up when I hear my partner cough, counting bong hits in a way I haven’t since we first started dating.
On my brightest days, I know in my soul that cannabis is a life-saving medicine for me. I’ve spent the last ten years as a medical marijuana patient and the last five years as a cannabis journalist. To say that weed has permeated every aspect of my daily life is an understatement. I’ve made huge health and career strides “under the influence” of this plant.
But on my darkest days, there is still that voice in my head nagging that these accomplishments as nothing more than self-delusion; a way to justify the fact that our partnership doesn’t look like everyone else’s. I strongly believe there is no problem with consuming cannabis—either medically or because you like the effects. I’ve even made my career out of it. Am I a hypocrite for feeling shame that our friends view us as the “cannabis couple”?
A Batman bong almost tanked our first date
Red flags were going off in my head on our first date. I had known him for years, we went through grade school together. He had a crush on me but I had my sights set on city life, eager to leave the small town I grew up in. Just over a decade later we found ourselves both single at the same time and decided to give it a shot.
Right before we were going to leave for dinner, he pulled out a glow-in-the-dark Batman bong and asked if I minded if he hit it before we left (and offered me a toke of course, he’s a gentleman). I hadn’t had weed in years; I dabbled in high school and would partake at university parties. But I was hardly the loud and proud professional pothead that I am now.
The cannabis itself didn’t make me uncomfortable but I was concerned that he needed to get high to get through a date with me. We had hardly just begun the night and he already wanted to escape? In my mind, having a bowl before dinner felt the same as a date taking a few shots—totally fine but something “respectable” people did only after 9 pm.
He was consuming cannabis for his anxiety and stomach (in addition to just enjoying it). The poor guy was all worked up about our first date, wanting it to be perfect, the one who got away and all of that. But in the moment, I found myself counting bowls and correlating them to how much fun (or lack thereof) he was having. I eventually had some myself and we went to an unreal pyro-circus performance. The date was a success but I couldn’t help feeling conflicted about how much weed he consumed.
The surprising side-effect of Sober Sundays
In the beginning, I decreed that we would have one day a week without cannabis, deemed Sober Sundays. Everything we did had to be weed-free; I think he went with it willingly because he knew it wouldn’t last. It snuck back in a little at a time; we were doing something fun and wanted to enhance it or I was having a bad pain day and needed it.
Sober Sundays were actually how I realized that cannabis wasn’t just fun for me—it was medicine. When we abstained I noticed a chain reaction in my body; my joints hurt more, my muscles were tense and painful, and my ADHD symptoms were amplified. I didn’t understand the therapeutic effects of the plant yet and dismissed what I felt, thinking I just didn’t notice these symptoms as much when I was stoned.
It wasn’t until a pain specialist asked if I had ever tried cannabis to manage my symptoms that my whole life changed. He had exhausted pharmaceutical medications, injections, physiotherapy and other conventional options. I was 30 years old and barely able to walk for more than 10 minutes without debilitating pain. Some days even walking to the bathroom took planning, mobility aids, and a ton of curse words.
I sheepishly admitted that I had used cannabis in the past (it wasn’t legal in Canada yet and I didn’t have a medical authorization so I was scared to say yes). He wasn’t comfortable prescribing it himself, most physicians still won’t in Canada, so he referred me to an MD who specialized in cannabinoid medicine.
In reality, cannabis created a unique bond in our budding relationship
Cannabis-enthusiast couples are more common than my prohibitionist mindset likes to think. I’ve even interviewed successful partnerships where one consumes and the other doesn’t. If I woke up tomorrow and said I was never consuming cannabis again, logically I know our relationship wouldn’t fall apart. But there would be so many little moments that I would miss.
Daily 4:20 tokes: Every day when my partner gets home from work, he packs our 4:20 bowls. After a long day alone plugging away on my computer and his processing scrap metal at a recycling plant, we are both exhausted. When the 4:20 alarm goes off on his phone we both light up—literally and figuratively. It’s a wonderful way to reset from work, a fun little daily tradition to help us transition into the evening, and gives us both something to look forward to when afternoons are dragging.
The middle-of-a-fight toke: This habit has been a lifesaver, especially in the beginning when things get extra spicy. For us, it keeps the argument from escalating. I know non-consumers will scoff at this concept (I used to!) but walking away, taking a breath and allowing the moment to let emotions settle is super helpful. Whether it was a hot-headed argument about nothing or a make-or-break relationship fight, we’re on year 9 because of this habit.
Sesh before sex (IYKYK): There’s sex…and there’s stoned sex. Cannabis before any activity can elevate the experience but there is something transcendent about this one. Enjoying a smoke together before getting it on can be bonding in itself, plus there’s the amplification of everything from the effects of cannabis. The intensity of the connection, increase of sensation and way-more-explosive-than-usual finale.
Stigma is a powerful thing and I don’t know if I will ever be fully free from its grasp
“You know you’ll have to smoke less pot if you want to start a family,” my best friend said to me recently. The comment made me uncomfortable, not because she was wrong, but because no one ever brings up the medications I take that would be unsafe during pregnancy (except my doctor).
Although it’s unconscious, even my closest friends assume that weed is an integral part of my personality and partnership. People always joke that they think of me when they smell cannabis or envy how my partner and I can indulge on a Sunday afternoon while doing menial tasks like meal prep.
Despite cannabis helping the chronic pain I have from a genetic condition, I still feel guilt and shame for building a relationship while under the influence, especially one that was going to be for the long haul. I often wonder what our relationship would look like without Mary Jane. If we had toasted our engagement with booze instead of bud, would we be more relatable? More worthy of our love story in some way?
Are we the cannabis couple? The childless couple? The still-figuring-it-out couple? I can’t control what people think of our so-called lifestyle but I also don’t have to gaslight myself about it either. We aren’t a “cannabis couple”; we’re just a pair of married folk who enjoy the medicinal and recreational aspects of the plant. And for now, that’s enough.