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Sunday March 20, 2022

By Trevor Ross

The corner of a laptop with a joint resting on top of a green nug on the space below the keyboard while someone is trying to be productive and high 420 Culture

For decades, cannabis users have been mocked as “lazy stoners,” even going back to the earliest days of cannabis prohibition when it was used to stigmatize Mexican immigrants. But modern science disagrees; weed does not inherently make users less productive, and in many cases it can help consumers overcome the challenges hindering their work. Fatigue, depression, or plain lack of interest can make even beneficial tasks like cleaning seem insurmountable, but cannabis offers an alternative to the usual coffee and resentment.

In this article we review some tips on how to be productive while high, and some common pitfalls to avoid, to help you be a productive stoner.

The Do's of Being Productive While High

DO State Your Goals

Clearly identify your goals, and preferably write them out someplace before you even imbibe. Cannabis temporarily impairs short-term memory in many consumers which can make it difficult to track and manage your time or move from one task to another. Stating how you intend to use your time, be it with a detailed schedule or simple to-do list, will give you directions to turn to if you feel lost.

DO Choose the Right Strain for You

Finding the right strain for your kind of productivity may involve some trial and error. Until researchers learn more about the fundamental workings of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), cannabis should be expected to interact with each individual a little differently. Consider also what, precisely, is hindering productivity. Fatigue or lack of interest may be remedied by more energizing sativas, while crippling anxiety may benefit from an indica strain.

DO Consider Microdosing

How can you be more productive while high? Be less high. It sounds like contradictory advice, but microdosing is an increasingly popular way to use marijuana. Microdosing is the practice of taking smaller doses of cannabis, like around 2-5g THC (for comparison, a standard edible is 10mg). “A quarter of my patients are taking less than 3 mg of THC a day,” says Dr. Allen Frankel, a physician in Los Angeles and cannabis patient himself.

Dr. Ethan Russo standing in front of a row of robust marijuana plants, with a black suit on.
Dr. Ethan Russo standing in front of his main study: cannabis. photo credit

Neurologist Ethan Russo agrees, arguing, “Use of high doses of THC-predominant cannabis above 5 g per day are probably unjustified” (though he acknowledges exceptions for cancer, seizures, etc.).

DO Pace Yourself

Cannabis will not inherently make you more or less productive, though it will change your perspective toward the work, perhaps making you more optimistic than you would be without it. But when working with cannabis, be sure to pace yourself.

Don’t expect to get more done than you would without it. Leave room for breaks in your schedule and take them to prevent burnout. If you want to reward yourself with extra cannabis throughout the day, all the better.

DO Enjoy Yourself

Cannabis can cause anxiety or distracting thoughts, which can lead to overthinking and paranoia, which will further interrupt productivity. Grappling with distracting anxiety only feeds it, so if you feel this spiral forming, try to just chuckle at it, and remember that you included weed in the workday for a reason. Reset, relax, remember what you love about the sensation, and remember what the weed — and you — are there to do.

The Don'ts of Being Productive While High

DON’T Work in a Mess

In many cases, focus is only a matter of eliminating distractions. Cannabis can help you sustain focus, but you may end up focusing on whatever your eyes land on. Help yourself by making sure your workspace is clean, and if you can, leave your phone in another room. Lowered inhibitions also mean it will be more tempting to use more cannabis, so probably store that in another room as well, and motivate yourself with weed breaks instead of coffee breaks.

DON’T Get Too High

This sounds obvious, but as was illustrated in the previous section, an effective therapeutic dose of cannabis is less than many users think. If you are turning to cannabis to relieve pain or anxiety that is obstructing your work, then lower doses may achieve desired results without the mental fog.

Someone with a pile of books in front of them and looks overwhelmed with the amount of work
Some indica strains can be far too sedative to focus on the work at hand. photo credit

Some strains with sedative indica genetics may also make work feel less approachable. Too much of these will make you far less productive.

DON’T Stand in Your Own Way

To paraphrase Gautama Buddha, “Know well what leads you forward, and what holds you back.” One way cannabis can help us work is by stripping the familiarity from our routines, leaving a fresh perspective toward our own patterns of behavior. If, in that state, you suspect something may not be working, or is hindering your progress, don’t ignore that voice! Consider any distractions that arise as an opportunity to review that distraction and its role in your life. Is it helping or hurting?

DON’T Overload Yourself

Another way to set yourself up for failure (and probably a lot of self-criticism) is to overload yourself. As stated previously, cannabis will change your perspective or attitude toward work, but it probably won’t make you inherently more productive. If you couldn’t complete a half dozen tasks without cannabis, you probably won’t with it either, insofar as the weed won’t make you faster, stronger, or smarter. Set realistic goals about what you can accomplish, and how the weed will help.

DON’T Judge Yourself

The stigma of the “lazy stoner” has no grounding in scientific evidence, but it can cause individuals to be more critical of themselves when they feel they have stumbled into this maligned caricature. Whether you used cannabis once for productivity or use it every day, there’s no reason to be hard on yourself. In fact, there is no reason to have an opinion on the matter any more than you would for drinking a cup of coffee.


Since 2016, most of the conversations regarding cannabis and productivity have referenced a study out of University College London which some say proved that cannabis made users less productive. But the title of that study was actually, “Cannabis reduces short-term motivation to work for money.”

Someone, looking tired, with a pile of books on either of them with his hand forward, writing notes next to a calculator with bunched up pieces of paper surrounding his workspace.
Cannabis could make your everyday tasks at work more enjoyable. photo credit

Participants were offered cannabis, then chose from a selection of remedial tasks for sums of change. The study reported that cannabis users chose simpler tasks for less money slightly more than the control group. Perhaps those participants could be forgiven for not wanting to saddle their buzz for the sake of a few dollars, but creative productivity, or personal productivity like cleaning house were not measured.

Cannabis writer and neurologist, Joshua Kaplan, sees, “no good evidence one way or the other on cannabis’ effect on productivity,” though he does acknowledge, “THC itself is sedative.” But for users suffering from anxiety, ADHD, or PTSD, an uplifting sedative may be exactly what they need to clear their mind and get working.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Stoners Stay Productive?

The short answer is: practice. Cannabis can impart a kind of hyperfocus that helps users stay on track, but too much can easily send attention spiraling like a bottle rocket. Users who use and work have often found, through trial and error, what amounts of which strains help them, and which don’t.

Can Being High Make You Productive?

Yes, sometimes. Many classic sativa strains like Durban Poison or Super Lemon Haze are energizing, and help some users focus. And other strains that reduce anxiety or relieve pain help come users overcome distractions that otherwise hinder their productivity.

How Can I Concentrate While High?

There is no singular strain or phenotype that will improve concentration in everyone. Instead, users are urged to identify exactly what is blocking their productivity, such as fatigue or ADHD, and find a strain that treats those symptoms.

Does Being High Help Productivity?

Cannabis does not inherently improve productivity in all users, but energizing sativa strains can help workers overcome fatigue, while relaxing indicas may relieve pain or anxiety.

Do you fancy yourself a high-functioning stoner? Share your secrets in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Trevor Ross Trevor Ross

Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.

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