Making sense of pot: It’s all about our sensual delights when it comes to weed 

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Our five basic senses are the main reason we know anything about anything. Hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, and smelling are the conduits of most information to our brains. Those are also the main ways we experience cannabinoids from marijuana.

Let's start off with hearing. One's ability to hear seems the sense least affected by marijuana use, as discussed on the many websites devoted to how marijuana affects our senses. But the processing of what you hear can be huge. Take music, for instance. One of the main things marijuana seems to affect is our enjoyment of music — regardless of the kind of music that you enjoy. This is great for tapping deeply into our natural proclivities. Part of the reason is probably that music can come close to doing the same things as marijuana on its own. Music was considered magic by early cultures. Over the years, music has been analyzed for different scales or chords that were thought to evoke various human emotions. The drumbeat mirrors the heartbeat, and drumbeats have been used to synchronize many human activities, from rowers and even propelling armies on the march.

Put a drumbeat around folks using marijuana and there is a natural affiliation. Isn't the drum circle a staple of large gatherings where marijuana is used and celebrated? Hello, Hash Bash. Music and marijuana have a natural affinity for each other, and each of them seem to affect humans in similar ways.

Marijuana enhances our sense of taste, too. First of all, we get the munchies. Getting munchies is not a function of taste buds, although seeing some lovely, tempting food can get your salivary juices flowing. Not only do you want to eat —if you fancy a particular dish, it can taste heavenly if eaten while high. Again this taps into something that is basically human — we have to eat to live.

One of the main ways of ingesting marijuana is through edibles. Food is a delight — you get pleasure from looking at it, smelling it, anticipating it, and, ultimately, tasting it.

There is lab research that indicates food tastes better when you're high and that stoned people are attracted to foods high in sugar and fat. It's not going to make you like things that you don't like to eat, but for the stuff that you do like — wow!

Smell and taste are related. Nothing gets you excited about eating a favorite food more than the smell of it wafting through the air. Still, beyond food there is a universe of smell affected by marijuana. First of all, the smell of marijuana itself engenders strong reactions. Marijuana users love it, and marijuana prohibitionists hate it. Until recently, the focus among users was eliminating the pungent odors of marijuana so that you wouldn't get caught. Even with legalization, new laws include provisions about protecting non-users from the smell.

As far as the ability to smell, there was actually a study done in France that found that marijuana enhances the sense of smell. Also, there is a world of terpenes and their application akin to aromatherapy that has emerged around marijuana. The flowers can smell like pine, pepper, lemon, diesel, earthy, lavender, and many other scents due to the aromatic oils they contain. Terpenes have applications in medical use, and they can also be paired with foods to enhance smells and taste in edibles.

When it comes to our eyesight, marijuana is famously useful for reducing pressure on the eyes of glaucoma patients. It also makes the famous red eyes of folks who've recently smoked some, and it dilates your pupils (they get bigger and let in more light). This may also explain the experience of improved night vision and brighter colors some users report.

The things we consume visually can become incredibly evocative — whether that be sunrises, geographic vistas, movies, paintings, sculptures, photographs, or beautiful people. Sometimes you can look at someone's face and read the tiny little lines that you never even noticed were there before, or get lost in a fractal program throwing ever evolving images at you.

And then there's touch. What we experience through our skin is affected in different ways when we use marijuana. The substance might lessen the pain of a burn by changing your thinking about it. Or it might make certain areas of skin super sensitive to touch. And when it comes to erogenous zones, sexual touching can be off the charts. There are many reports of enhanced orgasms among marijuana users. You can explore this aspect at your leisure.

All of this doesn't even try to assess the effect of marijuana on our senses of time and space. It's hard enough to have a go at the senses we think we understand. This is really about what happens when our brains process cannabinoids, and we only know a few of the dozens that are in marijuana.

One last point: Not everyone who uses marijuana will have the same experience as others or the same experience every time you use it. There may be different experiences with different kinds of marijuana or method of ingesting it, not to mention your mood and environment at the time. Some of these described effects are what the anti-marijuana crowd think of as bad or toxic.

That said, there is a cornucopia of sensual effects out there for the intrepid marijuana adventurer to experience. It might take a lifetime to explore.

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