By: Sierra Aceto

This is Do You Mind?, a series where I ponder and reflect over many mindfulness practices, what they mean and how to apply them. As the self-care and self-love revolution is on the rise, I hope to make you wonder, do you mind?

Ah, the devil’s lettuce! This past Saturday was 4/20, a day widely acknowledged as a celebration of marijuana. Cannabis has had a tough time gaining recreational legalization nationwide — and general social acceptance — but it has genuine benefits if used safely and intentionally. 

Ever-so-popular tobacco has been smoked and consumed in some manner for at least 2,000 years, according to Cancer Council NSW. Tobacco, like marijuana, is also a plant — but today’s cigarettes seem to be sought out for the head high that comes with them, or as a result of nicotine’s addictive qualities.

While cigarettes are federally legal and more widely accepted than weed, they promote a reliance on a toxic chemical. Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in 2009 placed restrictions on cigarettes.

Meanwhile, medicinal and recreational marijuana are becoming increasingly legalized. But still, many people question the dangers of cannabis.

To ease some worries, here are a couple benefits to having a puff or two of weed, especially as finals season bears down with the usual excess of stress and worry.

Pain, pain, go away

Weed has been shown to relieve different kinds of pain: nociceptive, neuropathic and central pains. This includes any inflammatory pain, as well as pain from shingles, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and fibromyalgia. That’s a lot of pain — and a lot of potential relief.

It’s why marijuana is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients as a treatment for pain from chemotherapy. All of that stress on the body and its cells causes indescribable amounts of pain.

Smoking cannabis can be used as an alternative to other pain killers, such as opioids, which are highly addictive and can be harmful when abused. Weed can provide much-needed pain relief without such a high potential for drug abuse.

Panic no more (or at least less so)

Although research is still underway to confirm the pros and cons of weed consumption, it has been shown to effectively reduce the immediate feelings of anxiety and stress, even at low dosages. However, it has not yet been shown to significantly reduce symptoms like these in the long-term and may lead to worse feelings of depression over time.

For warding off panic attacks or crippling bouts of anxiety, cannabis consumption may be able to help bring you back down to reality.

It can feel incredibly isolating to be in that high-stress zone, but it’s also important to note self-medicating with cannabis should be practiced with care. Just like with any other drug, becoming dependent on its effects can cause a slew of other problems and make it difficult to back down or quit.

That’s why many have referred to it as a “gateway drug.” However, if used intentionally and with all of the right knowledge, weed can be a caring companion in times of trouble.

This isn’t the case for everyone. Some people experience increased anxiety under the influence of marijuana. If that’s you, then maybe Mary Jane can’t be your best friend, but that’s OK. The high we experience is likely to change throughout our lifetimes, though, so don’t be too discouraged to test if your experience with weed changes.

Maybe cannabis isn’t really the devil’s lettuce, as one of its common monikers suggests. I mean, unless the devil is a calming voice rubbing your back, singing a calming tune and reminding you that no suffering is permanent. If that’s the case, then I’d let the devil toss me up a salad any day.

Marijuana’s accessibility has been steadily increasing in the past few years. Many states have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana, and dispensaries are popping up all over the country. Here’s a list of some open or opening soon in the Boston area.

There’s one just a half-hour walk from BU’s campus in Brookline called NETA, if you’re over 21, though keep in mind marijuana is prohibited on campus.

If you’re looking for a way to chill out or relieve pain or stress as finals season approaches, participating in some safe, controlled and legal greenery consumption may be the way to go.