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‘Cali sober’ versus traditional sobriety: What’s the difference?

When you hear the word sobriety, it usually means abstaining from all alcohol in a person’s life. But now there’s a new term called California sober, aka “Cali sober.” So what does that mean? 

A 2016 listing in the Urban Dictionary defines California sober as abstaining from all drugs except marijuana and alcohol. However, there’s a 2019 listing on that same page stating California sober means no hard drugs or alcohol, only marijuana use is allowed. We’ll go with the updated version of the term. 

It seems Cali sober originated with an essay by Michelle Lhooq on The piece is about getting off drugs and alcohol. She claims in her article to have coined the term Cali sober, and when her essay went viral, she was attributed to the name. 

The origins of Cali sober

According to Michelle, she was living in New York and got a job as a journalist for She admits to using some pretty hard psychedelic drugs, including MDMA, LSD, mushrooms, and also opiates, at that time. She was then laid off from her job and moved to Los Angeles. 

Once in California, the laid-back, healthy lifestyle made her re-evaluate her drug use. So she decided to quit alcohol and all drugs except marijuana. Once she started down that path, she started feeling better physically and mentally. She was able to stop all the hard drugs and alcohol and only use marijuana, which is legal in California. Hence the name, Cali sober. 

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The ravages of alcohol are well-known and can be life-altering. Long-term alcohol abuse takes a massive toll on the body. The damage is extensive as it affects many different body systems, including the brain, liver, heart, and pancreas. Millions of people abuse alcohol every year, as it’s highly addictive. And the dangers of drunk driving are also well-documented. 

On the other hand, marijuana has not been associated with as much damage to the body. Because cannabis is classed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance and is illegal according to federal law, studies on its effects have been scarce. But some say no investigations are necessary since marijuana use has been going on for many years. National Geographic reports human consumption of cannabis goes back thousands of years. 

Cali sober is better than abusing alcohol

Because of that, many cannabis proponents think that’s enough studying, and they conclude it’s not a deadly drug. As cannabis legalization sweeps the country, there are more studies to come regarding this subject. But many experts agree it is not as dangerous as alcohol if a person is choosing between those two substances. 

There are many alcohol poisoning deaths every year. However, marijuana is not considered lethal at any reasonable dose. Even though there are no official studies, many people report positive medicinal effects from cannabis. 

The most common benefits reported are chronic pain relief, help with sleep, lessening of anxiety and depression, and helping with alcohol and drug addiction. In 2018, the FDA approved the drug Epidiolex, which contains cannabidiol or CBD, to treat two severe forms of epilepsy. 

“She was able to stop all the hard drugs and alcohol eventually and only use marijuana, which is legal in California. Hence the name, Cali sober.”

It seems that cannabis use is getting more frequent, or at least more people are admitting it. Though it still has somewhat of a stigma, some are finding medicinal benefits without as many side effects as alcohol or opiates. 

So it all boils down to this: Cali sober is much healthier than abusing alcohol or hard drugs. Using cannabis has not been associated with any of the horrendous side effects of long-term alcohol abuse. 

Many people say not using any mind-altering drugs should be the goal, which is true. But, being Cali sober is definitely the lesser of two evils. Check with your doctor before taking any new drugs, including marijuana. An open dialogue with medical professionals is always a good idea. 

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