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Why don’t people get high the first time they smoke weed?

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The tale of a friend who has never smoked not feeling anything after puffing on a joint has been passed around stoner circles for generations. This is an herb-an legend that is often told, but why don’t people get high the first time they smoke weed? Honestly, most people do. But for those that keep this tale alive, GreenState consulted with our resident cannabis expert Leigh Vinocur, MD, MS, FACEP.


One surefire way to bypass intoxication is to take a note from Bill Clinton and not inhale. A nervous first-timer may not know how to inhale cannabis, holding smoke in their mouths rather than pulling it into their lungs. Or they could simply draw too little from the joint or pipe. Once these things are checked off of the list, it’s possible the reason someone isn’t feeling anything is more psychological.

What is getting high, anyway?

Not everyone speaks the same language when it comes to cannabis intoxication. The concept of intoxication may be different for people when it comes to cannabis. When people are intoxicated by alcohol, the effects are shared from one person to the next. This isn’t reproducible with weed.

Though the act of being high is called getting stoned, what that looks like differs around the circle. This might be why some don’t perceive their first experience as being high when they probably are.


A sensitization period has sometimes been blamed for the phenomenon of people not getting high on their first puff. The theory implies that unused cannabinoid receptors need a few doses of THC to liven them up before cannabinoids can produce a high feeling. However, no evidence or research supports this claim. There’s no concrete reason why some people don’t get high the first time they smoke weed.

The personalized nature of cannabis effects

Each endocannabinoid system has unique surpluses and deficiencies of cannabinoids like THC and CBD, which is why many call the weed experience highly personal. How a strain impacts each person plays into very individualized biology. Just as the therapeutic effects are personalized, the intoxicating ones are, too. This may be why some people don’t feel high the first time, they might just not have the vocabulary to understand what they’re experiencing.

“We’re all individuals when it comes to cannabis,” Dr. Vinocur concluded.

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