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Dear Potanist: I am a 34-year-old female who loves getting stoned, but only in the privacy of my home. At home I feel completely calm and relaxed. With good weed, I have amazing body highs and just bliss out for hours. The problems and discomfort arise when I am high around other people. I always become paranoid in social situations. When sober, I am completely at ease in social settings. Why does cannabis make me feel like people are talking about me behind my back and plotting bizarre conspiracies? —Stoned Alone

Dear Stoned Alone: Weed paranoia will not destroy you, but it can be a buzzkill. It is very common for cannabis users to experience a sense of paranoia. Most everyone comes to the immediate conclusion that, because it only happens when they’re stoned, it’s the weed that’s causing it. I credit cannabis with many mysterious properties, but it’s not the weed that makes people imagine that their friends have turned against them and that the DEA is outside ready to storm the building.

These insecurities are present before the cannabis enters the equation. When sober, we can readily block and repress these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. When high, our normal suppression process is interrupted and our stored fears and anxieties tend to come flooding into our psyches. Cannabis does not cause paranoia, it just reveals it.

Next time this happens, don’t run away from it. Face your demons. When used in the proper setting and dosage, cannabis can be a great tool for self-evaluation and introspection. Take the opportunity presented in your altered state of consciousness to acknowledge and confront your insecurities. Most of these things do not serve us and, if unreleased, become the roots of all types of “dis-ease.” Cannabis can help recognize and release all sorts of unwanted baggage.

While we all naturally have different levels of anxiety, new users are more prone to experience episodes of discomfort and paranoia. If that’s the case, try adjusting your dosage. Start small and work your way up as you gain confidence. If that’s not effective, then try a different strain.

Another alternative is to try observing the effects that different strains may have on your anxiety. Certain strains that are lower in THC and/or high in CBD will generally not trigger paranoia. Sativas can have a racier effect on your brain while Indicas tend to deliver a more sedative high.

If all else fails, stick with a glass of wine in social settings and blaze when you get home. —The Potanist

Dear Potanist: This is my first summer growing marijuana outside, and the growing process has been quite smooth with the exception that recently the alley behind my house is getting a rather strong smell. I’m starting to freak out about these plants. Is there any way to make the smell less potent? What happens if you pull the plants early? Should I add security lights? —Paranoid Pot Sniffer

Dear Paranoid Pot Sniffer: Regarding the smell, we hope your plants are in containers. You could try moving the plants closer to your place and away from the alley, but if we’re going to be honest with you, there’s not much more you can do at this point. Burning some incense or sage may help keep away the evil spirits, but the pot smell will come through just about anything you try to use to cover it up.

Pulling the plants early will ruin your weed. We recommend you try to hold off for a few more weeks until the plants are done and you are ready move your operations inside for the winter. If you’re worried about security, consider paying a security company to install motion detection lights or wiring around the yard. Peace of mind equals premium herbs.

A good rule for outdoor D.C. growers is always to use containers for your plants. You may need to move them due to unforeseen rain, early frost, pests, or curious passersby, and digging them out after the plants are developed would ruin the plants. Don’t give up! Most growers make these types of mistakes for the first few years. We certainly made our fair share in our early days. —The Potanist

Email your burning questions to potanist@washingtoncitypaper.com.