Some buzz terms pop up on the radar frequently, while others have been floating around for a while. But “California Sober” was a new one for us. It is more than just Demi Lovato’s hot song from 2021. Some people call themselves California sober because they use marijuana in place of alcohol and other addictive substances. Others define it as using alcohol and marijuana in moderation while avoiding other drugs.
Cannabis and sobriety have had a fraught relationship that now seems to be changing, and possibly even growing into a new concept altogether. Not everyone’s reasons for sobriety are health related, and not all of them are due to an aversion to intoxication—some people just prefer no intoxicants.
The term popped up in a piece by cannabis author and rave queen Michelle Lhooq about taking a breather from one type of hard partying. Says Lhooq:
“The truth is that I will always love drugs and raving—and a future without either would be spiritually unfulfilling. Being Cali sober allows me to keep my feet in both subcultures, while its parameters make it easier not to cave to temptation. I am able to take from these experiences what I’m looking for—mind-expansion, self-exploration, empathetic connection, sensorial amplification—without the addiction and selfishness, and other types of ugliness that I associate with many non-psychedelic drugs.”
As natural as it came across in her description, Reddit users couldn’t come to agreement on the term; this seemed more like a beef over the use of the term “sobriety” rather than the idea that someone can abstain from hard drugs and have a word for it.
Sobriety used to mean one thing: a hardline abstention from all substances. But considering it often doesn’t apply to caffeine and nicotine, it’s starting to make sense to some people that cannabis may fall under the umbrella of sobriety, being that it is only a mild intoxicant when taken in moderation.
It’s true that some may develop an addiction to cannabis, but research is also showing that cannabis might help dramatically reduce side effects and aid withdrawal to opioids and other drugs.
Regardless of motivation and result, it makes sense that someone would label a mostly sober sitch that involves cannabis after the weediest weed friendly state: California.
No matter what someone is “using”, compassion, non-judgement, and care are the much more important ways to approach addictions of all kinds. Humans are imperfect and lowering the stigma of substance reliance, addiction, or assistance is a huge deal— society needs to shift if we’re going to heal the pains of the more damaging addictions. If cannabis is a ‘softer’ way to come down from something, more power to those who use it in such a way.