If you’re the type who spends days doing research to find the perfect headphones, buy from a shop that lists the level of cannabinoids and terpenes in each strain. Cannabinoids are the active compound in cannabis, and terpenes are the chemicals responsible for that dank aroma. Some people will tell you that a strain is strong because of its high levels of THC, but balancing cannabinoids and terpenes is more useful for measuring the type of high.
Now that you’ve acquired the weed, it’s time to smoke it. Both Greenhand and Wyatt stress that it’s best to pick a familiar, private location for your first time. “Don’t be somewhere that’s going to cause you paranoia,” says Wyatt. Surround yourself with people you know and feel comfortable around. Going to concerts, theme parks, and festivals stoned can be fun, but best to avoid the first go around. The same goes for mixing alcohol, cigs, and other drugs with weed. Let yourself learn what a cannabis high feels like on its own.
If you’ve just been offered a hit of something by a friend, ask what strain you’re dealing with. If it’s an indica, take it easy unless you’re comfortable turning into a puddle where you stand. If it’s a sativa, make sure you don’t need to operate heavy machinery or sign any legal documents for a few hours.
Learning to use cannabis well is an underrated life skill. Smoking circles are a fast and easy way to make friends, and they’re way more intimate than dollar beer night at the trashy local bar. It’s no wonder 22 million or so American adults use cannabis monthly, according to a 2015 study, and a June survey found that daily use is on the rise. It’s the third most popular mind-altering substance in the country, after booze and nicotine.
You’ve just smoked weed for the first time. You’re stoked—and then you remember your future employer/probation officer/welfare provider expects you to pass a drug test soon. What do you do?
Greenhand says vaping the flower is also a good method for first-timers. It’s more expensive and may require ordering the rig online, but the experience is gentler since the cannabis doesn’t combust. Others argue that the humble joint is the best way to smoke, but if you’re inexperienced it can be difficult to roll one.
As with any legally ambiguous activity, it’s important to understand the law of the land before potentially breaking it. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be if something goes wrong. “Even states where weed is legal have strict rules about how it’s bought, sold, grown, and consumed,” says Tim Johnson, veteran law enforcement officer and the founder of Ohio-based security firm Cannabis Safety First.
US weed prohibition laws have changed in spurts since Oregon first decriminalized the plant in 1973, so they’re inconsistent state-by-state, Johnson explains. The federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule 1 drug, even though eight states and Washington D.C. say it’s legal for recreation and 30 for medical use. Legalization doesn’t mean everyone can buy, smoke, or grow on a whim. In California, for example, it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy weed. Even those of age can only purchase an ounce per day of flower and eight grams of concentrated oil. Johnson advises looking up whether your state has laws against certain types of paraphernalia, as well.
There are also some techniques that are downright dangerous. Certain off-brand vape pens have been known to explode mid-use, and there have been documented deaths due to “fake weed.” Triple check that your sources are trustworthy.
Don't start with edibles.
Edibles might seem convenient and innocent enough (yay brownies!), but you need to be very careful with dosing. When you buy an edible at a dispensary, more than likely the dose is going to be 10 milligrams of THC. Which can be too much for a beginner.
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Smoking or vaping weed is a bit easier to dose because the effects are much quicker and milder. Newbies might want to take a hit and wait 10 minutes or so and repeat as needed. Again, this isn’t a race.
So follow the most important rule for cannabis, and for edibles in particular: Start low and go slow. You probably want to begin with a dose closer to 2 or 3 milligrams. You might not feel anything from it, but you’re going to prefer that to overdoing it and descending into paranoia. Wait an hour, if not longer to be safe (we metabolize things differently on different days, after all), and try a bit more. Low and slow.
It may be “just” a plant, but cannabis is an extraordinarily complicated drug that science is just beginning to understand. It demands respect and takes practice. The first thing to know when helping your relative decide between edibles or the smoking route is that the human body processes THC—the psychoactive compound in cannabis—differently for each. Smoke (or vape) cannabis and it goes to your bloodstream and makes its way immediately into your brain. Eat it, and the liver gets first dibs at processing the THC, turning it into 11-hydroxy-THC, which is five times as potent. The high will be delayed, but the effects last much longer.
Whether your relative decides to smoke or do edibles, I’ll give you a little secret to pass along: Before doing either, start with a CBD tincture. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. And it is insanely popular right now: Manufacturers have been putting it in face creams and claiming it can cure pretty much any ailment a human can suffer. Science has yet to confirm almost every single one of those claims, though CBD does seem to at least have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties.
A: Ah, the joys and terrors of exploring cannabis. We’ve all heard tales about overdoing it—maybe like me you once stood in line at an ice cream shop dumbfounded by the exchange of goods and services for money. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You can guide your relative as Virgil guided Dante, only without all the nightmares.
Science has also been exploring how CBD interacts with THC. For years, anecdotal evidence has suggested that CBD dampens the psychoactive high of THC. And increasingly, researchers are putting hard data to this. Patients taking the synthetic THC drug Marinol for nausea, for instance, often report nasty psychoactive side effects like paranoia. But they tend to handle the drug Sativex, which combines CBD and THC, much better.
Q: One of my relatives wants to get into cannabis (which is legal in their home state, of course). Should I tell them to smoke weed or do edibles?
Make sure they know the difference between THC and CDB, and remember: Low and slow