Cannabis affects people differentlyCannabis, in its various forms, elicits a wide range of responses among users. While one person may feel energized and happy after consuming cannabis, it may make someone else feel anxious and tired. So why does cannabis seem to affect people so differently?

As it turns out, a number of key factors influence an individual’s response to cannabis compounds like THC and CBD. Read on to learn more about why cannabis affects people differently.

Table of Contents

Genetic Variations

One major reason for variable reactions to cannabis is genetic differences in how people’s bodies process the compounds.

For example, researchers have identified variations in the gene that codes for the enzyme AKT1, which is involved in the activation of cannabinoids like THC [1]. Those variations make cannabis more potent for some and less potent for others.

Differences in cell receptors that interact with cannabis compounds also change individual reactions. One study found variants of the CB1 gene impacted memory and appetite effects from cannabis [2].

Endocannabinoid System Differences

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates key processes in the body like appetite, mood, sleep, and pain perception. Since cannabis compounds like THC and CBD work by interacting with the ECS, differences in ECS signaling from person to person play a key role in their varying cannabis experiences [3].

For example, some have naturally higher or lower levels of the body’s own endocannabinoids. Those with naturally elevated endocannabinoid levels may experience more intense effects from cannabis.

User Experience and Tolerance

The simple factor of how much experience someone has using cannabis products significantly impacts their reaction.

First-time or occasional cannabis users tend to experience more intense effects compared to seasoned users. With repeated exposure, the ECS and other biological systems adapt, causing a tolerant effect where more cannabis is needed to achieve results.

A frequent user who takes a prolonged break from cannabis will often have a much stronger experience when resuming use.


Aside from genetics, individual biochemistry also influences cannabis reactivity. Differences in hormone levels, medications, health conditions, hydration, and more lead to highly variable responses among users.

Someone in a deficient or unbalanced biochemical state may experience stronger effects from cannabis’ ability to restore homeostasis or equilibrium [4]. In contrast, those in optimal health may not perceive the effects as intensely.

Cannabis Source and Composition

Another key factor affecting individual reactions is differences in the cannabis or hemp source itself:

  • Cultivar genetics – Diverse strains have varying terpene and cannabinoid contents that impact effects [5].
  • Growth conditions – Pesticide use, lighting, soil quality, etc affect cannabis chemical makeup.
  • Production methods – Factors like curing, extraction methods, and processing create divergent products.

So even when two people use the same cannabis product, differences in the plant or hemp source itself can lead to disparate experiences.

Placebo and Expectation Effects

The placebo effect likely contributes to some degree of variability in cannabis experiences. If a person expects it will relax them, they’re more likely to feel relaxed. The reverse holds true as well.

First-time users are also more prone to psychosomatic effects based on preconceived notions of what cannabis “should” feel like for them.

Set and Setting

Where you are and what you are doing when using cannabis also significantly impacts your experience. The same dosage may feel completely different:

  • In a calm setting versus a stressful environment.
  • While active versus while relaxing at home.
  • Taken during the day versus in the evening.
  • With other substances in your system versus on its own.

Mood, activities, time of day, and other situational variables shape your cannabis experience.

So in summary, cannabis can elicit widely varying responses due to the complex interplay between your genetics, biochemistry, past experiences, mental state, and product itself. But understanding the science behind personalized cannabis experiences allows users to better predict and control the effects.