Whether you haven’t toked since the 70’s, or you’re entirely new to the experience — here’s the starting place.
By Jeremy Daw
I distinctly remember the first time I bought weed. Nervous out of my mind, I dialed the beeper (this was 2003 in New York City – every step required discretion). Two minutes later, someone called me back. I gave them my address, then waited two hours (I didn’t yet have the experience necessary to appreciate how fast that was). Then I answered the knock on the door and opened up my home to a complete stranger who never gave his name. He opened up a briefcase full of five different strains, ranging, he explained, from $50 to $80 per eighth. “What’s an eighth?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. Noob.
Determined that the God-knows-how-many curious tourists flocking to Colorado to purchase legal cannabis today should never suffer the same indignities as I did over a decade ago, I present here the sum total of my experience as a pot smoker, distilled into 6 easy maxims. You can thank me later.
1. Stay on the grass.
New tokers, or anyone who hasn’t lit up since the 70’s, will likely find the dizzying array of pot products for sale at the package store a little confusing. BHO (butane hash oil), ice water, something called ‘shatter’ – the wide selection of products on offer stand testament to just how far the industry has come in 40 years. If you have no tolerance built up already, take my advice and steer well clear of all of these. Just the grass – dried flowers – by itself will be plenty potent enough to get you high, believe me. The main exceptions to this principle, however, are the edibles. Today’s edible products have evolved far beyond mere brownies; many chocolate infusers mold their products to break off easily into precisely measured ‘doses’, so the newbie who doesn’t want to irritate her throat can break off a small square and feel a moderate effect. Just be careful – sugar can trick your brain into thinking it needs more sugar, so you must stalwartly resist the urge to take that extra bite until you’ve given the first dose time to work – up to 1.5 hours for most people.
2. Vaping is healthier.
Another development which has taken the cannabis industry by storm lately is the proliferation of portable vaporizers. While the reliable Volcano still remains the equipment of choice for the home-bound aficionado, new portable models have opened up possibilities to take one’s vape on the go. These handy devices can drastically reduce any potentially harmful chemicals in marijuana smoke and can avoid irritating the throat (they still will make you cough, however, because of the expectorant properties of cannabinoids). But make sure you pair the right vape with the right product. Some are designed to handle ‘shake’ (dried flowers, ground up), some only work with hashish and some only work with the highest-grade extracts. Perhaps the best choice for the new marijuana user is the O.pen or similar model, because they come with pre-mixed extracts in glycerin, providing an experience familiar to anyone who has tried an e-cigarette. In any case, remember to take just 1-2 puffs at first, then wait at least five minutes to measure the effects before vaping again. It’s easy to get too high on this stuff.
3. Train your brain.
As strange as this may sound, everyone has to learn how to get high before they can experience it; this is why many marijuana newbies report feeling no effects the first time they smoke pot. Marijuana intoxication is unlike any other feeling in the world, and until your brain knows what to expect it can be difficult to get there. If, after taking a couple hits, you don’t feel any different, try this meditation to deepen the experience. First, relax; close your eyes. Listen to the sounds to your left. Listen to the sounds to your right. Pay attention to how your body feels – is there tightness anywhere? If so, don’t judge – just breathe into the parts of your body which hold the tension, and allow your breath to exhale out. Let go of all judgmental thoughts, all questions of “am I doing it right?” Just float downstream instead.
After a few minutes of mindful breathing, don’t be surprised to suddenly feel noticeably different. Your body may feel lighter; colors may appear more fascinating. Music will open up with more depth than you have ever felt before. And pretty soon, you may start to feel pretty hungry.
4. Come down with CBD.
There are many wonderful reasons why marijuana intoxication is more pleasant than, say, alcohol (no hangover, for one). Even so, the experience isn’t enjoyable for everyone. If you find yourself feeling paranoid, anxious or nauseous – first of all, relax. Remind yourself that no one in history has ever had a fatal overdose of marijuana, and that everything will pass. Breathe deeply.
Just in case that isn’t enough, make sure to keep some special marijuana handy, called “high-CBD.” Such bud is so called because it contains unusually high levels of cannabidiol, or CBD for short, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid which has been shown to mitigate the effects of THC. Many first-time users who found they accidentally took too much have found relief by smoking (or vaping) a few hits of high-CBD bud; within minutes, the CBD will “bring them back down.” If you’re new to cannabis, or you haven’t ever had anything truly high-grade, asking your vendor for a gram of high-CBD bud can be a good idea, just in case.
5. Savor the flavors.
For everyone who has never tried it, or anyone who has relied on the same bud from the same dealer for years, the myriad diversity of scents and flavors on selection in Denver will be a revelation. Some taste like pine; others, mango; still others, lavender. Take the time to sample the scents on offer before making your selection.
When you’re ready to consume, use practices which preserve the flavor. Vape, if possible; the low-temp sublimation process preserves the maximum amount of terpenes – the organic chemicals which provide the pot’s flavors. If you’re smoking instead, use a hemp wick. These beeswax-coated twines are wound with hemp fiber, so they neither add to nor take away from the bud’s exotic flavors. Lighters cover up too much with the taste of butane.
6. Get a grinder.
Regardless of whether you’re rolling joints, packing bowls or loading vapes, a good grinder makes everything easier. Even many experienced tokers often forget to grind up their cannabis before consuming; stuffing whole nugs in pipes can lead to a frustrating experience. But when the bud is ground up ahead of time, it allows smooth airflow which in turn leads to smoother, more flavorful hits.
This is not an exhaustive list, but it will get you started. Apply these principles, and the new year will bring more than just new laws – it will also deliver a healthier way to recreationally relax.
Jeremy Daw is the editor of TheLeafOnline.com and Cannabis Now Magazine, and the author of Weed the People: From Founding Fiber to Forbidden Fruit (2012).