my boyfriend smokes too much weed for his ptsd

Normal people have so many biases against me that it’s preternatural. Today let’s talk about cannabis and using a lot of it.

Someone wrote in to Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column with the following concern:

I am in love with my boyfriend. He is communicative and loving. He is willing to put in the work to make me happy and make our relationship a success. He is a good person. The issue is that he smokes marijuana and consumes edibles every day, from sunup to sundown. Marijuana gives me panic attacks, so I never participate.

He has a history of childhood trauma and has a medical marijuana card (it’s legal in our state) to help him with PTSD. He is extremely sensitive and defensive about his use. Apparently, it was a big issue between him and his ex. While I’m not a doctor, I suspect his usage goes well beyond what is medically necessary or advised to deal with PTSD. It is starting to bother me that I haven’t spent much time with him sober—do I even know the “real” him? I’ve started to feel resentful and hurt by all this. Is it in my right to talk to him about this? How do I approach it? We’ve been dating for just four months.
—Stoner’s Girlfriend

Before getting into this, we should remember that the reason there’s anti-cannabis stigma in the first place is to oppress black people.

It runs deep in our society. Once on OkCupid, I was encouraged to message someone because she wrote interesting blog posts about her experiences as a med student and now doctor, and she was about to start doing physical rehab stuff. Her profile was about support for people with disabilities, and I had an interesting book recommendation. She wrote back to say that, despite us actually having things in common, she was rejecting me for talking about cannabis in my profile. In other words, for how I (succesfully!) cope with my disability.

Whatever she was picturing, it wasn’t the mundane reality of it: carrying around a vape pen, eating a little bit of RSO, Volcano bags, a little hash pipe. Whatever she was picturing, it wasn’t that it helps me to be a nicer person, more in touch with my emotions. It wasn’t that it’s helped me perform my job duties, and recover from them.

But let’s talk about the letter writer.

The boyfriend doesn’t appear to be doing anything. It’s all about her own drama and judgment.

Weed gives her panic attacks, so she abstains. It doesn’t say that he’s pressuring her to smoke, just that he does in her presence.

He uses weed for PTSD, which makes scientific sense. He’s sensitive and defensive about it because he’s being forced to choose between something that helps him and the possibility of love, repeatedly and for no good reason. The fact that she cares enough to write an advice columnist means she surely makes her disapproval known to him.

The current girlfriend is definitely not a doctor, although being a doctor doesn’t prevent the attitude she’s displaying by itself. It’s not like there’s an official guide to smoking weed, with recommended dosing regimens for different conditions. How does she know smoking every day is inadvisable at all?

For one thing, an important difference between daily and casual smokers is tolerance. You want to stay functional throughout the day, so the idea isn’t maximum intoxication. It’s a basic level of calm. If you only smoke casually, you never experience how possible it becomes to carry out basically any activity. You never experience how the working memory problems mostly go away. Presumably she imagines he’s in the state that gave her panic attacks, instead of being stoned-with-tolerance.

Why is Stoned Boyfriend not the “real him?” I’ve experienced feeling more like myself on drugs. The whole question is an unresolvable philosophical conundrum. Am I not a real person because I take antidepressants and get high every day, to function more like I want to function in the world? Is someone with epilepsy who takes a barbiturate to prevent seizures ever themselves? She said he’s good to her…

If he were taking antidepressants, it’d be a pill or two in the morning he could take discretely, once a day. The reason is that pharmaceuticals are usually designed for maximum half-life. For reasons that are pretty much an accident of nature, the pharmacokinetics of weed are different. It simply doesn’t last as long as a dose of Zoloft or something, so you have to smoke frequently. This has nothing to do with its effectiveness. What it does in the brain and how it’s broken down by enzymes are two different things. She’s hating on her boyfriend because the drug that brings him relief simply doesn’t last long enough. Some of that is because of the route of administration. Edibles last longer, and she hates on him for that, too.

She’s “resentful and hurt” by it, but why? It’s not like he picked up the habit to annoy her. It has nothing to do with her. Not that that prevents a DTMFA response:

The question here for you to answer, especially at this relatively early stage in a relationship, is whether you want to be in a long-term relationship with a heavy marijuana user, regardless of whether or not you think your boyfriend’s use is justified or sufficiently medically supervised. If you can’t see a way toward accepting it, and he’s made it clear that he’s not interested in cutting back (and that it’s contributed to the end of at least one other relationship), then this may simply be a sign that you two aren’t suited for each other, even though you care very much for each other. That doesn’t mean you two ought to break up tomorrow without having another conversation on the subject, but it’s something you need to consider before things get more serious between you. Is he talking to a therapist or a doctor about this treatment? Does he get high in a way that sometimes makes meaningful conversation difficult or impossible, or is he relatively consistent and aware throughout the day? Does he get defensive because you’ve asked him to stop, or does he get defensive at the mere prospect of a conversation about his use? This doesn’t necessarily have to be a referendum on his choices—it may just be that what works for him doesn’t work for you. But if you can’t find a way to talk about it with one another, and you’re already resentful and burned-out a mere four months into this relationship, it may be a sign that you two aren’t compatible in the long run.

The letter writer’s biases aren’t being challenged or even noted at all. Of course it’s ok to hate on pot smokers!

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