After a long period of prohibition and a trillion-dollar “war on drugs,” marijuana use is rapidly normalizing. Nine states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational use and 29 states have legalized medicinal use with a doctor’s prescription. In many of these states, cannabis is big business; Colorado now has more dispensaries than Starbucks and McDonald’s locations combined.
What does that mean for the future of work in these states? Will more companies scrub marijuana from required drug testing? Will employees who use cannabis for mood regulation feel comfortable using it at work? And will cannabis increasingly be introduced into after-hours work functions, replacing the go-to happy hour?
In Los Angeles, where cannabis was legalized for recreational use in January, these questions are top of mind. Girlboss spoke with three 420-friendly #girlbosses here to see how they’re adjusting to life post-legalization and to get their advice on balancing cannabis with work and play.
“There’s a rampant amount of PTSD that we’re being exposed to all the time. Cannabis helps me deal with that stress and secondhand trauma.”
ForJen Byers, a cancer survivor who works as an art director and conflict journalist, cannabis plays several roles. In her work as an artist, she uses cannabis as you might expect—to assist with brainstorming, focus, and inspiration. But in work as a videographer covering domestic, environmental, and human rights abuses, cannabis acts as an unexpected bonding tool.
“A lot of the people we encounter are suspicious of strangers being affiliated with law enforcement,” she explains. “Consuming cannabis together reassures people that everyone in their circle is safe.”
Byers has covered recent historical moments such as water cannon night at Standing Rock and the Water is Life march in Washington D.C. And while she’s grateful to have captured these powerful events on camera, it takes a toll.
“There’s a rampant amount of PTSD that we’re being exposed to all the time. Cannabis helps me deal with that stress and secondhand trauma,” she says. Edibles,like Buddy Boy chocolate bars, “produce a cheerful, productive high that’s good for work.” And while Byers generally smokes sativa-dominant strains, she says a heavy indica can be nice in the field.
For those who aren’t in the know, most cannabis strains fall into one of three categories: sativa, indica, or hybrid. Sativa strains are usually described as energizing and preferable for work and creativity. Indica strains have sedative qualities and promote relaxation. Hybrids are a blend of sativa and indica, offering the effects of both. Cannabinoid is another word you should know; it describes chemical compounds like THC and CBD. THC is what produces a psychoactive effect and CBD is a non-intoxicating substance that promotes relaxation. These chemicals can be isolated to treat different ailments—that’s where THC- or CBD-dominant strains and products come in.
If you’re overwhelmed by all of that information, don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. As the industry grows with legalization, dispensaries are staffing up cannabis educators—and those in the know are informally sharing their knowledge with their peers.
“To me, weed is almost like a diet.”
“You get that same horror story from everyone about how they took an edible once, got really messed up and never tried it again. It’s such a bummer because no one taught them,” Siera Shrout, an art director turned cannabis curator, says. After hearing a bunch of stories like that, Shrout held an event to familiarize her girlfriends with cannabis.
For Shrout, cannabis and work are intrinsically linked. After getting burnt out in high fashion, she found success as the creator of “Stash Panties,” underwear that comes with a tiny front pocket that allows the wearer to stash paraphernalia undetected at festivals. She’s sincerebrandedas Roze.Volca; herInstagramis a gorgeous gradient of California cannabis culture, with a lens that often lands on chic women and oozes self-care. Shrout, who freelances with a large vape company and provides consulting within the industry, says she’s “constantly surrounded by cannabis.”
But despite her immersion in the culture, Shrout is regimented about her consumption. “To me, weed is almost like a diet,” she says. She microdoses with edibles during the workday. (“Microdosing” refers to ingesting small amounts of cannabis or other substances for more subtle effects.)
“Mondois a powder that dissolves in coffee or sometimes I’ll hit my vape pen right when I wake up, then make coffee. I find that caffeine combined with a small amount of cannabis creates a prolonged wake up that’s really nice,” she says. “I never ingest more than 10mg when I’m microdosing.” Shrout also likesKin Slips, which come in flavor combinations like watermelon basil and turmeric mango and dissolve on your tongue.
While vaping is common practice in her work meetings, she prefers to skip it and stay on task. Shrout only gets high during her nighttime routine or at social occasions.
She once suffered from chronic insomnia and migraines, but credits cannabis for helping her manage both. Before Shrout started using it, she took antidepressants for almost three years; her dose kept creeping up as she sought relief. “I have to wonder, where would I be now or in 10 years if I had continued down that path?” she says.
“Whenever I smoke I get really paranoid and hyper-self-critical and I just want to go home and shut off.”
“I used to smoke weed a lot back in high school because it was a nice escape from reality,” artist Britt Harrison says. “Being teenagers, there was a lot of hysterical laughter and it was just a nice way to bond with friends.”
But when Harrison noticed some of her stoner friends falling behind and eventually dropping out of school, she decided to quit smoking and focus on her studies. More than a decade later, she still equates cannabis with those burnout days.
“Now whenever I smoke I get really paranoid and hyper-self-critical and I just want to go home and shut off, but I can’t because I’m stoned. It’s just not as pleasant any more,” she says.
Harrison doesn’t deny that cannabis works for some, but is hesitant to throw a monkey wrench in her current workflow.
“I’ve seen people who are really functional while high and the benefits they get from it so I’m not against it for anyone else, but I feel like maybe it doesn’t work well with my body chemistry,” she says.
While getting high doesn’t interest Harrison anymore, she’s open to the non-psychoactive benefits that cannabis has to offer. She recently triedPapa & Barkley’s topical releaf ointment and admits it helped relieve significant tension. “I enjoy the body high; it’s the getting in my head part that I don’t like,” she says.
When it comes to boosting creativity, Harrison is happy to stick with her tried-and-true methods of strong cold brew coffee and walking around her Echo Park neighborhood.
If you’re new to cannabis, educate yourself and figure out your limits before introducing it at work.
While there are myriad options for creating your own unique relationship with weed, you may find that it doesn’t work for you—that you don’t need it, that you don’t respond to it, or that you don’t enjoy it. If you’re new to cannabis, it’s a good idea to educate yourself and figure out your limits before introducing it at work.
With so many options for discreet consumption, even seasoned smokers may find their willpower tested. Jen Byers admits it took her a while to find a healthy balance. “After the raids and evictions at Standing Rock, I was medicating all day everyday. Part of it was just self-care and to cope with the PTSD, but I found that my productivity suffered as a result,” she says.
But for some cannabis-curious workers and regular users, toke breaks just might replace smoke breaks as the new norm at work.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Speak to a healthcare professional about any questions you may have.