Lessons Learned from Colorado -- The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Marijuana and Mental Health: Interview with Ben Cort | Episode 37

A recent Scientific American article entitled is “Cannabis Good or Bad for Mental Health?” suggested that if you think you understand cannabis and its impact on our well-being, you probably don’t. With over 500 chemical constituents, interacting at different doses and ingested by different means, there are endless permutations of complexity for the ways cannabis can impact our emotional health. We can’t slap one label on it as either “all helpful” or “all harmful” when it comes to the impact on depression, anxiety, trauma and psychosis. Cannabis and all of the spin-off substances continue to evolve faster than rigorous science can keep up. The truth is — at the level of randomized control trials — we know very little.

Generally speaking, the psychoactive agent THC can produce anxiety and psychotic features like paranoia at high doses, and CBD tends to counteract these. On one hand, addiction to cannabis does happen, but only to a minority (1 in 10) of users (still, a lot of people). On the other hand, cannabis is being used to help people with opioid addiction with their withdrawal and cravings.

For the causal adult user — just like with alcohol — there are few issues. In this episode, I interview Ben Cort — a man who literally wrote the book on weed (Weed Inc, Health Communications Inc 2018). We cover the evolution of marijuana and what has happened since Colorado Amendment 64, which was passed by voters on November 6, 2012 and led to legalization in January 2014. We talk about the factors that lead to addiction, what we are learning about youth use, and the risks of overdose and THC facilitated mortality (e.g, drugged driving). Finally, we discuss the social justice issues and community well-being when profit is king in the marijuana industry.

We also discuss the “responsible use” guidelines for cannabis use:

  1. Use before the brain is fully myelinated (age 25 for males, 23 for females) is not recommended.

  2. Less than 10% THC (better 8% THC) WITH 4% CBD will often get people the experience they are hoping for — stronger than that and it might be very intense for the user without tolerance.

  3. Buy local or grow it yourself. Corporate weed comes with many social justice issues.

  4. Don’t get high and drive or engage in behavior that requires swift reactions for safety.

  5. Don’t use in front of kids.

  6. If weed is your go-to solution for problems, you probably have a problem. As Ben reminds us, “Even Snoop takes reset no-use periods to adjust tolerance.” If the idea of a 60-day abstinence period makes you squirm, consider 30 days. Try stopping and see what comes up.

About Ben Cort

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Sober since 6/15/96 Ben Cort has walked the road of addiction and recovery. A co-founder of the non-profit Phoenix Multisport, a “sober active” community that provides peer-based athletic and adventure activities to hep people sustain their recovery.

He worked on public policy related to Colorado’s Amendment 64, the constitutional amendment that would ultimately allow for the commercialization of marijuana in Colorado and is the founder of Addiction Treatment Marketers Organization (ATMO), an organization that educates marketers and admissions professionals working in the field with a strong foundation of ethics.

His first book, Weed, Inc published in 2017 and his TEDx Talk “What Commercialization is Doing to Cannabis” has over 2 million views.

Show Notes

Ben Cort TEDx Talk

Ben Cort TEDx Talk


Stea, J. (2019). Is Cannabis Good or Bad for Mental Health? The evidence says it can go either way. Scientific American. Retrieved on June 22, 2019 from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/is-cannabis-good-or-bad-for-mental-health/

Lowe, D.J.E., Sasiadek, J.D., Coles, A.S. et al. (2019). Cannabis and mental illness: a review. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 269: 107. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00406-018-0970-7

Zaske, S. (2018). Can marijuana ease mental health conditions? New studies seek to deliver a better understanding of how cannabis may help reduce pain, PTSD and anxiety. Monitor on Psychology, 49 (11). Retrieved on June 22, 2019 from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/12/marijuana.

Teen cannabis use is not without risk to cognitive development. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003090325.htm

Jean-François G. Morin, Mohammad H. Afzali, Josiane Bourque, Sherry H. Stewart, Jean R. Séguin, Maeve O’Leary-Barrett, Patricia J. Conrod. A Population-Based Analysis of the Relationship Between Substance Use and Adolescent Cognitive Development. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2018; appi.ajp.2018.1 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2018.18020202

CDC (2017) What You Need to Know About Marijuana Use and Driving https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/pdf/marijuana-driving-508.pdf

National Institute on Drug Abuse (2018). Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders? https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders

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