Leif explores the dynamic and challenging relationship between cannabis and tobacco.

My name is Leif Harris. I’m a Youth Advisor for Exploring the Link. I used to smoke 30-40 cigarettes a day on average. I also smoked about a quarter pound of weed (114 grams) a month. I’ve struggled with tobacco and cannabis, and it’s been a tough internal battle. I’ve noticed that over the past few years of working towards being smoke free, that I was emotionally linked to using cannabis and tobacco.

At an upcoming conference, the Ottawa Model for Smoking Cessation, I have the opportunity to learn from the professionals. They also have the opportunity to learning from myself and other individuals with lived experience with reducing or quitting smoking cannabis and/or tobacco.

Based on my experience, I’ve noticed how cannabis and tobacco have had an impact on my mental health. Dependency on a substance, in this case cannabis and tobacco, led me to experience higher anxiety, withdrawal symptoms, and lack of meaning and purpose.

Tobacco is often described as hardest substance to quit, but I would argue that it’s what you feel most emotionally linked to. In my case, it was cannabis. The more I reduced my cannabis use, the more my tobacco use increased. And the more I reduced tobacco, I increased cannabis. It felt like an unhealthy marriage between these two substances. When I started to decrease both substances simultaneously with the help of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), it became possible. It took a harm reduction approach to help me get to my goal of reducing my use. Six years ago, I started smoking tobacco to die. Today I quit smoking tobacco to live.

I’ve noticed that quitting tobacco and cannabis has four major components: physical, mental, emotional, and a spiritual component as well. To quit both substances, I’ve had to replace the time I used for smoking with new things. I started running again. I began studying at university and now I’m confident and thankful to say that I do have purpose and I do have a meaning. This led me to have a belief. Spelt incorrectly for a reason. Be-Leif. Thank you for taking your time to read this.

Leif Robert Harris, Youth Advisor, Exploring the Link