Cannabis Tolerance
4 min

Cannabis Tolerance: What It Is And How To Bring It Down

4 min

Smoking weed all the time can cause a tolerance to build up, requiring more weed to be used to reach the same level of high. Science now understands it a bit, giving us insights into beating it.

For some, cannabis tolerance is an annoyance, while for others, it is a badge of honour. Irrespective of how you feel about it, cannabis tolerance is something every regular cannabis smoker has to deal with to some degree or another. The good news is you can beat it, so let’s take a look at what it is, and how to get rid of it.


Have you ever noticed that you have had to smoke slightly more cannabis as time has passed to reach the same level of high? This is cannabis tolerance. As we use cannabis, the body builds a slight resistance to it, meaning we have to pack our joints that little bit tighter or take an extra dab. Unlike other drugs, cannabis needs to reach extreme levels within the body for it to become toxic – we are talking consuming hundreds of kilograms within the space of 15 minutes.

So cannabis tolerance, and the need to use more, isn’t dangerous, it just puts a bigger dent in your wallet or stash. It is also worth noting that cannabis tolerance doesn’t snowball or get out of control – you can smoke the same amount of weed all your life and still get high, the high just may not be as potent as the first few times you ever smoked.

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Up until very recently, no one really knew for sure what caused a tolerance to marijuana to build up. We know it happens, and there has been some very informed speculation, but the exact mechanics of it have eluded us. Well, Deepak Cyril D’Souza, a cannabis expert from Yale School of Medicine, has changed that, uncovering the cause. By PET scanning the brains of male participants (aged 18-35), Deepak was able to observe how the CB1 receptors in the brain change over time – CB1 receptors being the main thing cannabis interacts with in the body.

It was found that in daily smokers, the availability of CB1 receptors in the brain decreased, making it harder for the cannabinoids to interact with them. It was also found that after just two days of abstinence, the CB1 receptors began to become available again - with them returning to near normal levels after four weeks. It is worth mentioning that due to the size and nature of the sample of participants used more research is required. For one, the small size makes it hard to adequately assess the baseline of CB1 receptor availability. Also, reactions to THC can be different in females, due to a slightly different layout of receptors. As such, the lack of female participants narrows the scope of the findings (an all-male group was used to cut down on variables for this initial study).



As we now know, the tolerance weed enthusiasts build up is caused by CB1 receptors becoming less available in the brain. Although a period of abstinence lasting up to four weeks is a fantastic way to lower your tolerance, it isn’t the only way to make weed hit a bit harder again.

  • Smoke a little less often

There are steps you can take to slow down the tolerance build-up if you can’t quite bring yourself to give up THC entirely. Once again though, it involves cutting down. For example, you can smoke less frequently throughout the day, smoke using smaller rolling papers to reduce the amount you use, or give up concentrates.

The primary focus is frequency—not exposing the receptors in your brain to a constant supply of cannabinoids. As such, smoking a one-hit wonder may be a good option as you will smoke it less often. Who knows, if you drastically cut back, you may be able to bring your tolerance down without actually giving up.

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  • Try going for a run between smoking sessions

It doesn't have to be running, but any form of exercise, either between smoking sessions or after, could help rekindle that lost buzz. Researchers found that THC stored in fat cells is released into the bloodstream during exercise. Instead of having vast THC reserves increasing your tolerance, a quick blast on the treadmill could make your next joint that much sweeter.

Even better, if you happen to hit that super-set a little too hard, a few joints post-workout can help with those aches and pains. That's a win-win scenario in our books.

  • Variety is the spice of life—smoke a different strain

Working along the same lines as smoking a little less often, switching up your strains can also help reduce your tolerance. The famous phrase “a change is as good as a rest” definitely applies to cannabis, as not all strains contain the same amount of THC. If you've become used to the giddy heights of 25% THC strains, why not try something with a little less potency?

Switching up your herb of choice will give the body a chance to enjoy the ride, rather than be overwhelmed by it. Then, when you do decide to cut loose, the euphoria of a 25% THC strain will be the mind-melting experience you’ve been yearning for.

Cannabis is also a melting pot of terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. THC isn’t the only thing that makes marijuana so much fun to smoke. Don’t be afraid to experiment with strains that are rich in flavour or produce an exotic aroma. You’ll be enjoying yourself so much, it won’t even feel like you’re taking a break or reducing how much you smoke.

  • CBD can counteract the effects of THC

While switching up your strain choice, why not try the therapeutic qualities of CBD? The non-psychotropic cannabinoid may actually help counteract the effects of THC. A 2015 study showed that cannabidiol (CBD) can help modulate the CB1 receptors that THC would usually bind to, reducing its effect. CBD can help lower your tolerance without the need to stop smoking—that is, as long as you have a few CBD strains to hand.

CBD Fix Auto is the simple way to have cannabidiol-rich buds on tap. Being an autoflowering strain, it only takes 70 days to mature from seed to harvest. Once dried and cured, her buds contain CBD levels up to 15%, with THC at less than 1%. If you're not afraid to try your hand at a feminized, photoperiod CBD strain, then Dinamed CBD from Dinafem is another fantastic choice. It boasts equally impressive ratios of CBD:THC, with 10–14% CBD easily achievable.

CBD Fix Automatic (Zamnesia Seeds) Feminized

Parents: CBD rich clone x Northern Lights Auto
Genetics: Indica-dominant
Flowering Time: 10-11 weeks from seed to harvest
THC: 0-1%
CBD: 20%
Flowering Type: Autoflowering

  • Going cold turkey with an old-fashioned T-break

At the end of the day, if you are putting in the effort to cut down on your weed intake and lower your tolerance, you might as well just take a break altogether. Reducing intake in a bid to slow the onset of tolerance is a lot of effort for little gain, whereas a full-blown T-break can seriously reset things. Plus, the insane hits and rips you will get after taking a break will make the effort of a short period of abstinence well worth it!

Luke Sholl
Luke Sholl
Luke Sholl has been writing about cannabis, the wellness potential of cannabinoids, and the positive influence of nature for over a decade. Working with several cannabinoid-centric publications, he publishes a variety of digital content, supported by strong technical knowledge and thorough research.
  • (2013/12/01). Exercise increases plasma THC concentrations in regular cannabis users - ScienceDirect -
  • D'Souza DC, Cortes-Briones JA, Ranganathan M, Thurnauer H, Creatura G, Surti T, Planeta B, Neumeister A, Pittman B, Normandin M, Kapinos M, Ropchan J, Huang Y, Carson RE, & Skosnik PD. (01/01/2016). Rapid Changes in CB1 Receptor Availability in Cannabis Dependent Males after Abstinence from Cannabis. - PubMed - NCBI -
  • Laprairie RB, Bagher AM, Kelly ME, & Denovan-Wright EM. (2015 Oct). Cannabidiol is a negative allosteric modulator of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor. - PubMed - NCBI -
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