I use medical marijuana to treat my insomnia, and the first time I tried it went terribly wrong

I use medical marijuana to treat my insomnia, and the first time I tried it went terribly wrong

marijuana smoking legal

Matilde Campodonico/AP


I'm not a fan of pot.

I have shared a toke with friends a few times over the years, but I don't like to smoke. And I'm already paranoid, so weed seems superfluous.

But the recent explosion of the marijuana industry, especially in my home state of California, along with countless testimonials about the medical properties of cannabis made me want to give medical marijuana a try.

About three years ago, I decided to get a medical marijuana card to see if cannabis could help my chronic insomnia.


And on my first trip, I got more than I bargained for.

First, I had to get approved for medical marijuana and learn the risks

Recreational cannabis has been legal in California since 2018. But, before that, the bar to get a medical marijuana card was very low. If you could afford the "doctor" visit and the cost of the card - about $60 a year - you were in.

I knew about the risks before I went to get my card. I had read New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's account of her downward spiral after she ate a whole cannabis-infused chocolate bar. The doctor who gave me the prescription added a warning about edibles and dosing, but I shrugged her off. I knew that, all right? I was a savvy and educated cannabis consumer.

Except that I actually didn't know much about marijuana on that first day.

My new medical marijuana ID card was my ticket to entry at a nearby cannabis club (no admittance without the card; all sales in cash). I discussed my situation with the young man behind the counter. He told me there were two types of weed: indica and sativa. He said that indica affected your body and sativa affected your brain, so indica would be the right strain to help me sleep. I bought the high-THC indica tincture he recommended and went on my way.


My experience that night ended in misery

Before I went to bed that night, I took what I thought was a half dose. I didn't feel particularly sleepy, but I was hopeful the tincture would help me stay asleep. I drifted off.

In the middle of the night, I woke up because the bed was tilting. I felt dizzy lying down. I had extreme cotton mouth - there was not a drop of moisture between my lips. I was queasy. I felt just as bad when I got up as I did when I was lying down. There was nothing I could do to make the bad trip stop.

Read more: 8 incredible facts about the booming US marijuana industry

My saving grace that night was a story a friend had told me. She'd gone to a fancy dinner that came with a cannabis pairing. In the middle of the meal, she started to feel like she was falling down a deep well. She had to leave the dinner and she was a wreck the next day, but her only lasting ill effect was embarrassment.

As I lay in bed, queasy and off-balance, I thought, "This will pass." I knew I just had to wait it out. I wasn't going to die from a marijuana overdose.


I slept in fits and starts. By morning, I still felt pretty rotten, so I called in sick to work. By the end of the day, I didn't feel ill anymore, just stupid.

I've moved on to other methods now

I never touched that indica tincture again. After my bad trip, just riding my bike past the dispensaries in Oakland, where the smell of weed hung heavy in the air, made me feel slightly queasy.

But I didn't give up on medical marijuana - I just started trying other methods. Now, CBD ointment can give me instant pain relief when I have an ache. And I found a cannabis mint with a much lower dose of THC that helps me sleep

There's now a cannabis club two blocks from my house. I don't need a medical card to buy cannabis, since it became fully legal in California last year. But three years after my first experience with medical marijuana, I have a healthy respect for the power of a concentrated dose of THC.