For the first time cannabis consumer, choosing your first few products can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of unique strains of cannabis and a plethora of different ways to consume them. In order to play it safe and set yourself up for success, there are a few simple things you should know and remember.
1. KNOWING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INDICA AND SATIVA
Cannabis is typically classified into two genera: Indica and Sativa. Cannabis indica plants tend to be short, bushy and contain higher concentrations of THC. Dried indica flowers are usually larger, denser and darker in color. Cannabis sativa plants are usually taller, lankier and take longer to grow than their indica counterparts. Their dried flowers tend to be smaller and less dense.
In general, indica genetics are known for their sedating effects. This makes them preferable for consumers looking to relax during a summer day or unwind at home after a long working day. The high that comes with a pure indica weed is usually described as a body high, as it can be very physical. This is also the reason why indicas are preferred for treating pain and insomnia.
Sativa genetics are the opposite and are known for their energizing qualities; making them better suited to exercising or outdoor activities. The typical high from sativa weed is usually described as a more cerebral and uplifting high.
Most strains on the market nowadays are hybrid strains, which are a blend of indica and sativa genetics. The physical appearance of their buds and their effects tend to lean to one genetic (either indica or sativa). For this reason, expect to see terminology such as “70/30 indica dominant” meaning that said cannabis genetic would be approximately 70% indica and 30% sativa.
2. TRY TO GET AHOLD OF GOOD QUALITY CANNABIS
With legal cannabis jurisdictions mandating analytical product testing, it’s getting more and more easy for consumers to verify the quality of their purchase. Growing cannabis isn’t rocket-science, but just like in the production of fruits and vegetables, pesticides are being used. And certain pesticides can be toxic if consumed. When buying cannabis from a trusted dispensary, you should never feel shy to ask for a record of any products you’re considering purchasing and verify their quality with regards to bacteria, residual solvents, etc…
If you are able to buy your weed from a good dispensary, they might be able to help you properly assess the THC potency of cannabis products via analytical lab data. This would of course be the safest way for first-time cannabis consumers to make responsible decisions so as to not induce a negative experience by consuming too much cannabis.
If you don’t have access to such detailed information, you should just remember that good quality cannabis should smell fragrant and still have some moisture content even when dried. Cannabis that is extremely “sticky” tends to be more resinous meaning that it contains a higher concentration of the trichome heads on the plant where THC is most concentrated. This usually means that the weed is stronger, so be aware.
3. UNDERSTANDING EDIBLES
When you smoke or vaporize cannabis you’re causing the decarboxylation of THC in its acidic form (minutely psychoactive) to convert to non-acidic THC before entering your bloodstream. The non-acidic form of THC is what causes the well-known euphoric effects of cannabis. When you consume cannabis this way, the onset of those effects can occur within seconds and can last upwards of 4 hours.
When you ingest cannabis, the carrier agent (pastry, candy, liquid, etc…) typically has been exposed to heat throughout some part of its manufacturing. This heat exposure converts any acidic THC to non-acidic THC, similar to the process of combustion or vaporization.
When consuming cannabis trough edibles or liquids, the onset of effects can take as long as several hours and last upwards of 12 hours. If you’re not feeling any effects after consuming cannabis orally it is better to wait several hours before even considering consuming more. It might that the effect just didn’t kick in yet and you don’t want to get surprised and become uncomfortably high.
Consuming excessive amounts of THC can be extremely unpleasant for first-time users not used to the psychoactive effects of cannabis. It is good to know that you should be extra cautious when consuming edibles, because when we orally ingest non-acidic THC, our liver converts the non-acidic THC into a metabolite that is 5 times more psychoactive than non-acidic THC.
Make sure you read about how to calculate dosages and consider a low single-digit milligram dose of THC the first time you consume cannabis orally.
4. DON’T START WITH CONCENTRATES
Cannabis concentrates are as the name suggests, more concentrated forms of cannabis. They are basically products that are made by extracting resin from the flowers (and the rest of the plant) in order to isolate as much cannabinoids as possible.
Concentrates come in different varieties and with different names, such as shatter, wax, honeycomb, BHO, rosin and a couple more. Some concentrates are created via manual mechanical separation with the use of different grades of mesh screens (unpressed kief and water hash), while others by using chemical solvents (butane, carbon dioxide, etc…) and processes such as fractional distillation.
Dried cannabis’ potency levels typically range from 5 to 25% in total cannabinoid levels (THC, CBD, CBG, etc…). Concentrates can range in potency from 30% to almost complete purity. Given the increased potency with concentrates, they are not advisable for first-time users and increased caution should be paid when they are used.
5. NO SEEDS OR STEMS
All the desired constituents in cannabis (cannabinoids, terpenes, etc…) are concentrated into the budding flowers of the plant. While there are numerous ways to consume dried cannabis, it’s important to get the most out of one’s experience regardless. Separating whole dried flowers from their stem prior to grinding your cannabis will reduce the overall matter while increasing the potency of what is being consumed.
There is still some potency left in cannabis stems so consider collecting them for later use in a cannabis tea.
While it can be enjoyable, our respiratory systems were not designed to inhale anything except air. High-temperature smoke from joints, spliffs or bongs can damage the lining of our throats. Vaporizing is a safer alternative to smoking that involves only heating cannabis to the point that the active compounds (THC, terpenes, etc…) are vaporized instead of the plant matter. Vaporization temperatures range anywhere from 157 to 220℃
Vaporizers come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll want to consider portability, ease of use/cleaning and battery life when determining which vaporizer is right for you.
The effects of cannabis can range from energizing to sedating. Cannabis has intoxicating properties, which should be respected as the reason for refraining from driving and/or the operation of heavy machinery. Some people develop a curiosity towards cannabis after having seen the comedic stereotype of the “giggling” cannabis user in film culture. While certain parts of this stereotype ring true, it’s important to be safe when consuming cannabis by moderating one’s intake and using the plant in a responsible way.
Cannabis can make you feel fine with being bored. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the everyday woes of life, it’s when you’re bored that you could also be spending time developing a new skill. Consider taking advantage of the creativity boost that cannabis can sometimes give you and improve your overall experience by taking the initiative to better yourself with exercise, art or whatever engaging activity you might prefer.
8. DUDE WHERE ARE MY NACHOS?
Cannabis tricks your brain’s central feeding system by inducing hunger. This effect is known as “the munchies”. Should the psychoactive effects of cannabis be too strong, eating will help calm said effects. That doesn’t mean you have to grab a bag of Doritos though! Treat your body to something healthy and ensure you’ll be around as long as possible.
Famous musician Neil Young has suggested that chewing a few black peppercorns can help counteract any unwanted paranoia experienced from using cannabis. The opposite has been purported by the legendary cannabis aficionado Ed Rosenthal; he suggested the consumption of mangoes, which has been thought to extend the effects of cannabis due to their high concentration of myrcene (a terpene found in heavily sedating cannabis indica strains).
9. BE COMFORTABLE
For regular cannabis users, the act of consuming cannabis is an enjoyable practice in and of itself. Case in point: The act of taking out your “stash”, enjoying cannabis’ varying aromas, having pride in one’s own functional glass, informing yourself about the latest technology or even just simply playing your favorite music.
Even though it may take some time to find your preference in consuming cannabis, you should prepare appropriately. Nobody goes to play football in a suit and tie, so dress comfortably for your first experience. Remember to hydrate yourself with lots of water (especially if you’re outdoors on a sunny day going for a walk) and don’t be afraid to take breaks whenever needed.
10. BE SAFE
With the recent changes in cannabis laws all over the world, one of the bigger questions that is being raised is about how and if marijuana influences the ability to drive a car (and operate heavy machinery for that matter). Our advice is to never drive after smoking or using cannabis. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Another tip is to make sure you are around friends or family when you decide to consume cannabis for the first time. This will help you to always feel safe and comfortable.
But mostly: Sit back, relax and enjoy your first few experiences with cannabis.