Before you roll: 4 more tips for the cannacurious

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This is the second part of “Tips for the Cannacurious”. Catch up with part 1.

8. What’s a dispensary?
There are a handful of legal medical dispensaries around Sonoma County and many more in San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area. Some are very fancy, some are pretty plain and others are downright grungy. It’s good to ask around. Inside, you’ll find “flowers” (the green marijuana buds), “concentrates” (skip these for now, unless you’re going to use a vape pen), “edibles” and “tinctures”, and probably a few other things like CBD oils and small plant starts.

There’s a lot of information, and it can be very overwhelming even for experienced users. Budtenders (kinda like a bartender) can offer help and suggestions for particular strains that may help with pain, sleep aid, concentration, etc. Dispensaries take cash or debit cards only. You can’t smoke it onsite, and it’s a smart idea to leave it in the bag, unopened, possibly somewhere away from the driver’s seat until you get home.

9. So what should a new or returning cannabis user try first?
If you’ve gone through all the hoops to become a medical patient, you’ll have questions about where to start. Flowers are a great way into cannabis, whether it’s a pre-rolled joint or using a pipe. Folks who don’t like combusting things might try vape pens with micro-dosed oils (for example hmbldt brand pens). You’ll be able to quickly see how cannabis affects you, and you won’t be saddled with a 6 hour high. Pre-rolls and buds are flowers.

Go with a strain that has a lower THC percentage (THC is the stuff that gets you high) and try an uplifting strain. Sativas tend to be a more cerebral high. Indicas are a more physical high that will lock you into your couch. Everyone reacts differently, so ask your budtender what they recommend, but strains like ACDC tend to be under 15%. Anything over 20% is going to get you pretty high.

Other forms of concentrates–bubble hash, shatter, budder, wax, “dabs”–are much higher in THC typically, ranging up to 90 percent or more, and are best left to more experienced users.

Edibles can be a good alternative to inhaling smoke, but many novice users make the mistake of eating too much and having a rough six hours of being uncomfortably high, which can include paranoia, hallucinations and generally feeling terrible. Unlike other drugs, it’s pretty much impossible to die from an overdose, but it feels pretty yucky, and just about every stoner can tell you a horror story.  Edibles will soon be more regulated, better tested and available in micro-doses (5mg is a starter dose). Overall, it’s good to get a little more familiar with herb before you dive into edibles. For long-term use, however, edibles are a superb bet.

Topicals are good for pain, and generally won’t get you high at all.

10. Ready to roll?
Smoking marijuana is illegal in just about all public spaces, and can be anxiety-inducing in a crowd of people. Instead it’s recommended to find a quiet, safe, comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed for a little while. Eat something first, make sure you don’t have to drive anywhere, invite over a friend, and generally be a responsible adult about the whole thing. Don’t: Forget snacks and a hydration. Hunger and cotton-mouth will likely be part of the cannabis experience, and walking a mile to the nearest 7-11 can be a buzzkill. Don’t leave cannabis anywhere where kids or pets can get into it. A locked box is a good idea.

11. So what are the downsides?
Using cannabis isn’t without risks. For one, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level. Many industry folks worry that there’s a dog-fight brewing between the current administration and legalized states, but that will likely end up playing out in the court systems. The DEA has stated it is not interested in individual patients.

You can be arrested if you are under the influence while driving, or fired from your job if you work in a drug-free office.  There are legal ramifications even in a legal state, so you should know what they are and use good judgement.

You are putting your personal information in a database of medical cannabis patients. If that freaks you out, you should probably steer clear of getting a card.

You are using a substance that could harm you. Pesticides are a real problem in the industry, though they are becoming increasingly regulated. Combusting and smoking marijuana may have health effects both short and long term. You also don’t know how you’ll react, and could have a bad experience.

Kids or pets could ingest your marijuana. THC may it may be detrimental to developing brains, especially long term, and small children can get sick if they ingest large amounts of edibles. Cannabis can also make pets very sick. Tell your doctor immediately if you suspect a pet or child ingested cannabis, because there are a number of ways to counteract the effects.

Legitimate, proven science about marijuana’s health benefits is sketchy, mostly because it’s nearly impossible to legally do studies. It’s been anecdotally shown over many years that cannabis can reduce pain and suffering for many, but it’s also probably not the panacea that the industry is touting.

New here? Ganjiste is a new column that investigates cannabis culture and lifestyle from the inside.