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Coffee With Blue Dream: How Cannabis & Caffeine Interact

How Cannabis and Caffeine Interact
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Coffee With Blue Dream: How Cannabis & Caffeine Interact

While it might seem counterintuitive, coffee and cannabis can pair wonderfully — but they can also play off each other to create a jittery, anxiety-inducing effect.

For many, the jolt of caffeine and the mellowing effects of cannabis make a perfect combination. When the two meet in the body and mind, they can amplify one another, but research is limited as to how they interact on a chemical level.

Scientific studies on what happens when your morning joe meets your morning joint are scattershot and inconclusive, but they provide a rough map of what to expect of this mental terrain. But culturally, caffeine and cannabis seem like natural bedfellows, with everyone’s favorite (legal) upper most likely to be paired with cannabis from a retail perspective.

Murky Conclusions

For starters, we know caffeine operates in the endocannabinoid system – the same brain region that makes weed do its thing. Both substances have been shown to cause an uptick in dopamine activity, and some report that the kick from caffeine creates a brighter, more euphoric cannabis high.

In many ways, however, the two seem to be awkward dance partners, canceling out certain effects and amplifying others.  Caffeine can have an anxiety-producing effect, while THC can make one mellower in low doses and freaked out at high doses (CBD seems to generally have a calming effect at any dosage). It’s possible for coffee jitters to add to cannabis shakes, paranoia or couchlock for an unpleasant cocktail. But it’s also easy to find individual reports of just the opposite effect, with the two mixing for a relaxed yet upbeat feeling. As always, it is advisable to take it slow when trying new combinations and pay attention to one’s own body.

Though coffee has been shown to enhance one’s cognitive powers, combined with weed, the overall effect may actually be the reverse from coffee alone: Some studies suggest that coffee and cannabis combine to inhibit memory. Others have shown that caffeine can partially protect against the forgetfulness associated with high doses of CBD.

This research, while certainly better than nothing, is hard to synthesize into solid conclusions. The studies tend to be one-offs, with little in the way of confirmation or corroboration, are often conducted on animals and may use chemical compounds that replicate caffeine rather than the real deal. One hopes that looser cannabis laws will bring more research on this topic.

Coffee Shops and “Coffeeshops”

Culturally, coffee and cannabis have been siloed into separate realms by their opposite legal statuses. But as legalization takes shape across North America, the café provides one model for the cannabis lounge, with their proclivity for comfy seating, art on the walls and maybe the occasional open mic or music performance.

For many a Netherlands resident and cannabis tourist, their first experience with social cannabis consumption came at a “coffeeshop,” the go-to euphemism for a place to smoke pot in Amsterdam. While some are more like bars or dispensaries, others capture the cozy ambience one associates with a café. Many do in fact serve coffee.

Though states have been slow to legalize and permit cannabis sales and cities have been slow to allow lounges, this new sort of cultural space is gradually making its way into North America. This expansion has been further helped along by coffee shops savvy enough to exploit CBD’s gray area legality and offer a little boost to your morning brew — for a few extra bucks, of course.

Despite the issues noted above, the combination of the substances is less discombobulating (more… combobulating?) than alcohol and cannabis. Furthermore, some states, such as California, don’t allow alcohol and cannabis to be sold by the same establishment — but there are no similar restrictions on caffeinated drinks. Inevitably, cannabis consumption will chart its own course, but as legal, public consumption becomes more prevalent in the U.S., our spaces built around coffee and tea provide the most obvious jumping off point.

Though the research on caffeine and cannabis provides some warning signs, the gaps in our understanding of their interaction are larger than the parts of the picture that are filled in. For instance, we have no research comparing how cannabis interacts with different caffeinated beverages: coffee, tea, energy drinks, etc.

Zooming out, coffee and tea houses provide the clearest model for what social consumption might look like in the U.S. Given how popular coffee and cannabis are, their meeting is inevitable. What remains to be seen is to what degree coffee and tea mores slip into the cannabis culture bloodstream.

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