Dear Morgan: Does my tolerance transfer?

Hi Morgan, 

I’m what you would call a severe creature of habit so once I discovered the joys of smoking flower a few years ago, I never looked back. Like smoke every day but never bothered to try vaping. From this habit, I’ve built up the kind of tolerance that’s starting to make a dent in my budget so I was thinking of making that switch to edibles or vaping for a bit. My question for you is — will the tolerance I’ve built up to flower transfer over too all kinds of cannabis and I should be prepared to consume more of that too? Or will that thinking lead me to doing too much with the edibles and ending up forgetting how language works?


Desperate For That Goldie Locks High


This is a fascinating question, and as more and more cannabis products and consumption methods become increasingly available, I bet a lot of people will soon be wondering the same thing.

As awesome as this question is, it does come with a bit of good news and bad news. Bad news first, right?

We can’t answer this question with 100% scientific accuracy. A big reason for this is because everyone’s body chemistry is different, so everyone reacts to cannabis differently. No two people are going to have the same experience, say, hitting a bowl of Ghost Train Haze or dabbing some Sweet Tangerine crumble. 

Tolerance, too, is a fickle concept. Someone who has been smoking product X three times a day for twenty years might have a lower tolerance than someone who’s been smoking product X three times a week for two years. It’s wild!

Now for the good news: While everyone is different, we do know that in general, tolerance does not transfer. At least, not usually.

More times than not, someone with a high tolerance for, say, flower won’t have that same tolerance for oil, or edibles, or tinctures. So if you’ve smoked flower for your entire life and have built up a high tolerance, don’t expect to be able to jump to vaping shatter and have the same experience. Starting low and going slow isn’t just a rule of thumb for beginners; if you’re a seasoned smoker, it’s wise to follow the same rule when switching to another consumption method. 

As you said, if you’ve been vaping for years and suddenly decide to hit a bong like it owes you money, language might not be the only thing you forget.


There is one exception to the tolerance does not transfer rule (which I am now officially dubbing TDNT): if the product you transition to shares the same compounds as the product you’ve built up a tolerance too (i.e. if they’re the same strain), the tolerance has a better chance of transferring.

In a lot of ways, different strains are like different drugs, so the tolerance won’t carry over. But if you stick with the same strain, it’s sort of like sticking with the same drug. So for example, if you’ve built up a high tolerance to Scooby Snacks flower, and you decide to vape for the first time with Scooby Snacks-extracted oil, that tolerance has a much better chance of transferring.

It’s a pretty neat exception, and can actually be helpful in other ways. If someone is worried about building up too high of a tolerance, the best way to avoid it is by continuously switching between different strains.

I hope that answers your question! 

Answers provided by The Healing Clinic, a medical cannabis patient advocacy group in Chicago.

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