Why Does Cannabis Affect Everyone Differently?

If you’ve spent any time in the cannabis community, you’ve probably heard a variety of different cannabis experiences from fellow users. Not only are there vast numbers of different strains that produce different effects, each individual strain can have widely different effects across different patients, even at the same dose. How can this be? Fortunately, scientific analysis of the effects of cannabis yields some potential reasons for these differing levels and types of experiences among users.

To begin, it is important to note that many pharmaceutical drugs, each carefully manufactured, dosed, and administered, can still produce widely different effects across patients. From opioid painkillers to psychotropic drugs to sleep aids, everyone reacts to medications differently. This does not preclude these drugs from being widely used and prescribed by physicians for a variety of conditions, and we accept that we may have to work with our physician to find the right dosage and medication, or combination of medications, to make us well.

Cannabis is no different in that we should not expect it to act uniformly across our varied, complex, vastly intricate systems. As with any substance with medicinal properties, different people with different biology will respond to it in different ways. This knowledge naturally leads us to the conclusion that different people should consume cannabis differently, if they elect to consume it at all; however, it does not demonstrate that cannabis is inherently dangerous in any way. 

Here, we’ll discuss several factors that can influence the way cannabis is processed by the body, thereby changing the effects it produces. While some of them are a little high-tech (I don’t expect most of us will run out and have ourselves genotyped, after all), we hope that they’ll provide some potential insight into your own cannabis experience.

Cannabis Response: It’s In Your Genes

According to a study conducted in 2013, the long-term effects of cannabis are determined in part by your genes. The study took 83 cannabis smokers and 58 people who did not use any drugs, genotyped each subject (essentially, coming up with each subject’s genetic “blueprint” in order to determine genetic differences between subjects) and tested them in a variety of cognitive functions.

Interestingly, the study found no statistically significant correlation between lifetime cannabis consumption and long-term decline of executive function (the action that takes place in the frontal lobe of your brain and helps you make decisions), counter to the expectations of the researchers. However, it did find some genetic differences in the way cannabis affects us in the long term.

Researchers analyzed the effects of two genes, COMTval158met and 5-HTTLPR, on sustained attention (a measure of your ability to maintain focus over an extended period) and monitoring/shifting (your ability to keep track of moving objects or components simultaneously). This requires a bit of background science to explain, but don’t glaze over just yet: we’ll get to the interesting stuff shortly.

There are two alleles, or possible different expressions of the same gene, that you can carry for the COMTval158met gene:  val or met.  Since you carry two alleles per gene (one inherited from each parent), your genotype, or personal genetic makeup, can either be val/valmet/met, or val/met. Each of these three combinations of alleles produces a different expression of this gene, which influences how cannabis affects us in the long term.

Researchers found that val/val carriers who smoked scored lower in sustained attention than val/val carriers who didn’t smoke, suggesting that val/val carriers might be more susceptible to negative effects of cannabis on the ability to sustain focus.

The study also found that cannabis smokers who carried the val allele (meaning their genotype is val/val or val/met) made more errors in the shifting/monitoring test than did met/met carriers who also smoked. This is interesting because among non-drug users, met/metcarriers tend to do worse in shifting/monitoring than val/val carriers. Cannabis use appears to reverse this trend in the presence of this particular gene expression.

Concerning the 5-HTTLPR gene, the study concluded that “there is also evidence that the proposed link between cannabis use and depression is only present in cannabis users carrying the s/s genotype.” People carrying the s/s expression of this gene, which affects the production of a protein related to the transport of serotonin in the brain, have been shown to have a predisposition toward depression. In these people, cannabis use appears to exacerbate this risk.

Cannabinoid Content: Why It Matters

There is scientific evidence to show what cannabis users have been saying for decades: all strains are not created equal. A study conducted in 2010 examined the combined effects of THC and CBD, the two most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis. They found that CBD has the ability to act as a “blocker” for some of the negative effects of cannabis that can be produced by THC in some users, such as feelings of anxiety.

If you’re someone prone to anxiety or paranoia when you smoke, it may be helpful to try a strain with a relatively high CBD content and lower THC concentration, or to dose with a CBD concentrate before consuming THC. By increasing the amount of CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, that you consume, you may be able to mitigate or eliminate some of the negative effects of cannabis. Conversely, you should avoid high-THC, low-CBD strains, as these are more likely to produce unwanted side-effects or bring about that uncomfortable, “too high” feeling.

Cannabis and Environment:  Setting the Mood

As far back as 1971, researchers have suggested that the effects experienced by cannabis users is in part dependent on the environment in which it is consumed.  This isn’t to say that a cannabis high is “all in your head.” However, consuming cannabis in an environment in which you feel comfortable and at ease, while you are in a good mood, can help you experience more of its positive aspects. Cannabis can act as an amplifier for what you’re feeling, meaning that while a joint or puff off a vape can make a good day even better, you may find yourself going down a “rabbit hole” of negativity or consumed with anxiety if you smoke at the wrong time.

Consuming cannabis at a crowded event may help calm you, but it can also induce paranoia and fear in some users. If you’re new to cannabis, skip that joint at a festival or party and opt for a quiet toke at home with a friend or two (there’s evidence that we have more positive experiences with cannabis when we consume it with others, especially loved ones). Once you’ve gained a bit more experience and have a better idea how cannabis interacts with your system, you can begin to experiment with using it in different situations. Be cautious of dabs and other concentrates, as you may find yourself higher than you intended on relatively little product.


There is no single reason that cannabis affects any one person differently from another. Scientists have found over 113 compounds within the cannabis plant, and due to the difficulty involved in performing research (thanks to the continued Schedule I status of cannabis at the federal level), our understanding of its effects and the mechanisms behind them remains sorely limited. Much more research is necessary to fully account for the subtle differences in the ways our bodies process cannabinoids, but this article helps give you a starting point.

CBD Effects: Does CBD Get You High?

You’ve probably heard of CBD in the news, due to its wide range of medical applications – especially for children and adults suffering from chronic conditions. While academic research is still preliminary, CBD has developed a huge following:  people clearly get relief from their ailments with the use of high-quality CBD extracts and tinctures.

CBD acts as a therapeutic agent in your endocannabinoid system, constantly working to get your body into a place of homeostasis. Regardless of obvious benefits like this, there still remains a lot of misinformation out there about CBD, which leads us to the question everyone wants to know – are CBD consumers getting high?  Here, we’ll conclusively answer this question in concrete detail.

Does CBD Get You High?

No! CBD is 100% non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t negatively impact your mind or mental processes. In other words, CBD does not get you ‘high,’ stoned, faded, or any other term you care to use. There is no mental fog or haziness caused by CBD – seriously, none whatsoever.

You might be wondering how this is possible. This is likely because you associate the term “cannabis” with the marijuana plants bred for high THC content.  For the uninitiated, THC is the specific cannabinoid (cannabis-derived compound) that gets you high.

Cannabis, however, is a complex plant family that contains many other cannabinoids – most of which do not get you high, like CBD. Some cannabis plants are bred for high CBD content exclusively – these plants are known as ‘hemp’ – and only contain trace amounts of THC (below 0.3% to be exact, according to federal regulations). The combination of high CBD content and extremely low levels of THC is what makes the products derived from hemp plants non-psychoactive.

To reiterate, the cannabis plant family contains multiple cannabinoids, however, only THC provides the traditional high associated with cannabis. Marijuana plants provide high THC concentrations, while hemp produces high levels of CBD. CBD, the second most prevalent cannabinoid, is non-psychoactive and doesn’t induce any ‘high” at all.

What does CBD feel like?

Now you’re probably wondering if CBD is not going to get me ‘high,’ then what is going to happen? That’s a valid question.

Without going too deep into the science, which you can do here, CBD affects multiple sets of receptors all throughout the body. Rather than binding to your cannabinoid receptors directly (like THC), CBD exerts indirect influence on these receptors, increasing the levels of endocannabinoids produced naturally by your body (or reference, endocannabinoids are produced naturally in the body and phytocannabinoids, like THC and CBD, come from plants).

The result is described by many as a wave of relief or relaxation that can be felt throughout the whole body when CBD is ingested orally, smoked, or vaporized. Topical application also provides relief, resulting in a near instantaneous reduction in swelling, pain, and discomfort.

To be clear, the effects are typically pretty mild, but that’s the point – CBD targets the source of your problem while limiting symptoms – without interfering with day-to-day life or impairing consumers in any way.

Many first time CBD consumers look down at their watch 30 minutes after ingesting tinctures and think, “I don’t feel anything, is it even working?” An hour later, they realize they totally forgot about their depressionanxietypain, inflammation – you name it. This example serves to illustrate the subtle, yet highly effective healing properties of CBD.

You won’t feel anything weird or out of the ordinary, but after 90 minutes you’ll likely realize that your pain has totally melted away. The effects take time to set in when ingested orally, but they build over time.

You may feel:

  • Relieved
  • Calm
  • Relaxed
  • Reduction or elimination of pain, especially chronic pain
  • Comfortable
  • ‘Normal’
  • ‘Better’

We realize that some of these positive feelings are hard to quantify, but that’s absolutely within the nature of CBD. Your body’s endocannabinoid system serves to maintain equilibrium, scientifically called homeostasis, in the body’s different systems. In layman’s terms, this means its function is to fix what is wrong with you if you are ill and optimize your health if you are already well.

CBD Oil:  What Exactly Is In the Product?

Any CBD oil should consist of a very short list of ingredients:  a carrier oil (such as MCT oil, hemp oil, grapeseed oil, or coconut oil) and CBD or hemp extract (depending on how the company labels its CBD concentrate), with a possible ingredient or two, added for flavoring, whether it be a proprietary terpene blend or a natural or artificial flavoring.

Another possible addition is vegetable glycerin, a common thinning agent that has not been shown to be harmful when vaporized. That’s it, though. Anything else should raise an eyebrow and, frankly, should likely be avoided because it may not be safe. Buying pure, potent, safe CBD can be a challenge, which is why we did the research to find brands you can trust.

What does CBD do?

Great question! CBD interacts with your body’s natural endocannabinoid system (the part of your body that maintains equilibrium). We’ve actually dedicated an entire article explaining how the endocannabinoid system works.

Is CBD Right for You?

It depends! If you are trying to decide if CBD is right for you, here are some questions to think about when weighing the pros and the cons.

  • Do you want a calming effect with fewer side effects and sensations? CBD is right for you!
  • Do you need to remain mentally clear? CBD is right for you!
  • Do you want something that does little to alter your daily routine? CBD is right for you!
  • Have you ever used CBD before? How did it make you feel?
  • Do you understand the legal status of hemp and CBD-products in your state?

CBD’s legal status is similar to that of a dietary supplement, meaning that it isn’t regulated by the FDA like other food and drugs. This can make the world of CBD products feel like the Wild West.

From a consumer standpoint, this means it’s essential you know everything about the products you buy before you trust a company with your health. See our trusted CBD reviews.

A Quick Note About CBD & Drug Testing

If drug testing is a part of the conditions of your employment, you might be concerned about the potential of CBD to cause you to test positive for THC. This isn’t an unfounded concern — however, there isn’t exactly a cut-and-dry way to answer it.

Much of the data we have about CBD is anecdotal, and its potential impact on drug testing is no exception.  There are very few peer-reviewed studies on the subject, but there appears to be a small risk of a false positive for some users. Avoiding full-spectrum products containing traces of THC can reduce your risk of a false positive, but that may not eliminate the risk entirely.

If you are concerned about passing a drug test, you should consider this potential risk when deciding whether CBD is right for you. To learn more about the science of CBD and drug testing, check out our article for a more thorough discussion of how to minimize your risk of a false positive.

Who Do We Trust?

Joy Organics is our number one source for CBD tinctures and softgels. We’ve reviewed their test results and have personally reviewed their products, which are available in different dosage strengths and flavors according to your needs and tastes. If you’re interested in truly high-quality, organic, plant-based medicine, we highly recommend Joy Organics.