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Set and Setting: How they affect your cannabis experience

December 9, 2019

10 min read

Set and setting are terms circulating around the cannabis industry lately. Researchers, budtenders, brands, and consumers are all talking about it. We’re all beginning to recognize the role that set and setting play in our cannabis experience. The factors that they consist of, such as your mood, personality, daily schedule, food consumption, as well as your own biology play a part in how effective and enjoyable your cannabis experience is.

Understanding set and setting can help you choose the right cannabis product for you, and consume consciously so that you can have the best possible cannabis experience. 

Set is comprised of internal factors. It’s what you as an individual bring to the experience. Your mood and mindset fall under this category, as does your tolerance level and physiology, including your endocannabinoid system. Setting, on the other hand, is all about the external factors. Setting is things like where you are, who you’re with, and what time of day it is. All of these affect how you experience cannabis and cannabis-infused products. 

First, let’s talk about set. Here are a few things to consider:

Mood and Mindset

Cannabis tends to elevate our existing mood and emotions. For instance, at the end of the day we’re typically tired, but we often find that we’re unable to sleep because of all the things running through our mind. A low dose of cannabis can help to quiet those thoughts while signalling to your body that it’s time to sleep. Edibles in particular are great for helping you fall asleep because the effects set in slowly. It takes between 30 and 90 minutes for onset, which allows you to ease into the sensations. 

Cannabis doesn’t just help you realize how tired you are and how much you need sleep. It helps you tune in to a full range of emotions! When you feel happy and relaxed, say, when you’re with people you enjoy being around, cannabis makes these experiences all the better. Research shows that cannabis “dramatically increased” the perception of the emotional significance of a situation. It makes bonds and connections with the people we care about that much deeper.

Four men sitting at the edge of a mountain, laughing
A low dose of cannabis makes us more connected to our relationships and our surroundings.

It’s important to be mindful of the fact that too high a dose of cannabis can take you from feeling happy and relaxed to stressed and anxious. Research shows that too much THC can induce stress and paranoia. A low dose between 2.5mg and 5mg will allow you to enjoy the uplifting benefits of THC while avoiding adverse effects. And, a low dose of THC has actually been proven to decrease anxiety. With all those holiday parties coming up, a low dose of cannabis may be just what you need to get over that social anxiety and actually have a fun time!

Tip: Set an intention before consuming cannabis

Your mindset and intentions for using cannabis can impact the outcome. Your thoughts have the power to create a type of self-fulfilling prophecy – when you believe it will happen, it’s more likely that it will. We hear about it often today as manifestation. Take a look at what Dr. Michele Ross has to say about this:

“I grew up in the D.A.R.E era. All I knew was that weed was bad, weed was dangerous. Even when I started studying cannabis, the social and cultural context made me believe that all it would ever do was make me flop on the couch and not do anything. 

But seeing all kinds of people being creative and feeling energized from cannabis showed me that for them, and for me, cannabis can be the difference between whether or not I see life in 3D.”

Seeing how cannabis helps inspire creativity and energize others allowed Dr.Ross to get out of the negative mindset toward cannabis. It allowed her to see its full potential as a medicine. 

Food: How Much and What Kinds

Diet and food consumption impact how we experience cannabis. Have you ever tried an edible on an empty stomach? You most likely felt the effects much sooner. Edibles pass through our digestive system, and without other food to compete with they can be digested quicker. This results in a slightly shorter onset time. 

This may sound enticing, but we highly recommend having edibles along with other food. Healthy fats, like avocado, coconut oil, and nuts, all work great with cannabis products, especially edibles. Why? Because cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, are fat-soluble. They cling to fat molecules so that they can be broken down and processed by the body, which allows you to feel the effects. It may take a little longer to feel the effects of edibles after a full meal, but you’ll have a more balanced experience.

Salad with eggs and avocado.
A healthy diet helps elevate the healing benefits of cannabis.

Tip: Avoid sugar. It takes away from the benefits of cannabis.

High-sugar diets tend to have negative effects on cannabis experiences. Sugar is inflammatory, whereas THC and CBD are proven to be anti-inflammatory. It’s counterproductive against the medical benefits of cannabis to consume sugar. Avoid consuming processed sugars before or with cannabis, for instance, in an infused brownie or gummy. Opt for a diet that’s low in processed sugar, as well as low-sugar edibles, like 3Leaf, if you want to get the most from your cannabis products.

Individual Biology

Studies show that men consume cannabis for rest and recreation, whereas women consume it for personal care, namely pain management. Eaze Insights 2018 illustrates this below:

Another study of 1,500 Californians shows how women are turning to cannabis to manage pain. “Women outnumbered men in their cannabis use, 68 percent to 58 percent. Fifty-six percent of female cannabis users aged 21-45 use cannabis to treat menstrual cramps, while 31 percent of women aged 45-54 use it to treat symptoms related to menopause.” This is likely due to the fact that women have a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors in their uterus, which makes cannabis particularly effective for treating menstrual cramps or pain from endometriosis.

Tip: Each of us has a system in our body that’s built to work with cannabis.

It’s called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and its purpose is to keep our body in homeostasis, or balance. The ECS is comprised of receptors throughout our body, namely the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which work with our own endocannbinoids. Yes, our body produces its own cannabinoids, similar to the ones found in cannabis. With all the stressors we experience today, our ECS tends to run on a deficiency. Consuming cannabis delivers cannabinoids to your ECS so that it can function properly. 

Because each person’s physiology is unique, cannabis works slightly differently for each of us. We recommend speaking with a specialist to understand how you can incorporate cannabis into your life based on your physiology and personal needs. A great set of doctors to consult is the Knox family. They founded The American Cannabinoid Clinic in order to treat patients with cannabinoid medicine. You can find more about the ECS and their practice in treating its deficiencies with cannabis here.

Dr. Jessica and Dr. Rachel Knox on the TODAY show. Image from The American Cannabinod Clinics website.

Now, let’s take a look at setting, which is all about the external factors.

Who you’re with and where you are:

We mentioned earlier how cannabis makes you more in-tune with your mood. It also elevates your connection to your surroundings. This can be wonderful if you’re in a peaceful setting with people that you enjoy. Experimenting with cannabis for the first time is best when you feel relaxed. We wouldn’t recommend, on the other hand, trying an edible for the first time at a busy mall on Black Friday. Trying cannabis in relaxing situations allows you to be more mindful of how you feel. You can focus on your experience and not be distracted or aggravated by the hustle and bustle around you. 

3Leaf and Cyntivee recently collaborated for an EDIBLES 101 video. Cynthia highlights the fact that you should ABC: Always Be Comfy. Here are her tips on how to ABC:

  • Get a cozy blanket.
  • Turn on your favourite show. 
  • Have lots of water and non-infused snacks close by.

As you experiment with different doses and products you’ll begin to discover what works best for you. From there, you can decide what dose and product works best for particular instances.

Time of day and situation:

Your lifestyle factors in to how you dose with cannabis. Because cannabis is offered in a variety of consumption methods – edibles, tinctures, vapes, flower, oil, bath bombs, for example – as well as doses – micro, low, ratio – you can find something that fits nearly every need and experience. People – singles, parents, couples, young, wise – from all kinds of lifestyles and professions consume cannabis. The key is to consider what your day-to-day looks like, and then determine where cannabis fits in. 

If you’re going to dose during the daytime, consider a micro-dosed edible. A micro-dose, 2.5mg of THC, allows you to enjoy the medical benefits of cannabis with less elevating effects. CBD is also great for decreasing the elevating effects, so another great option to consider is ratio-infused products, which have a mix of both THC and CBD.

At night, after our responsibilities are taken care of and we’re able to unwind, it’s appropriate to increase your dose. An edible with 10mg of THC is perfect for the end of the day. It helps to unwind, and the long-lasting effects, up to eight hours, will help you achieve a restful sleep. Different doses work for different times of day. It’s all about experimenting consciously – low and slow; consume a low dose and wait at least two hours before ingesting more – to find what works best for you.

Tip: Know the laws and cannabis policies before you dose.

Within the United States, cannabis is not yet legal on a federal level. However, some individual states have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis, others have legalized adult-use, and some have both. And yet other states have only decriminalized cannabis. Please take a moment to determine whether or not cannabis is legal in your state. 

If cannabis is legal where you live, you’ll want to take another step to determine your company’s work policy on cannabis. Many places do not tolerate any use of cannabis at work, while others will allow medical-use. In some cases, employers will test for traces of cannabinoids in your system, so you may have to limit how you consume outside of work. Society still has a ways to go before cannabis is accepted, so it’s important that you look out for yourself. Find out where your employer stands before you consume.

Know your employer’s cannabis policy before you consume any cannabis-infused products.

We just shared a ton of information with you, but it really is simple, we promise. Just remember to consider how your mood and intentions play a part in your cannabis experience, as does your diet and your physiology. And the external factors, like who you’re with and where you are matter, too. Take these into account when you’re trying new products. Try keeping track of how you felt from a product in a journal or app, and be sure to consider set and setting as you reflect. This type of conscious cannabis consumption will ultimately help you find the right product and dose. With these considerations and thoughtful experimentation you’ll be able to find products that meet your needs. 

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