The Beginner's Guide to Smoking Medical Marijuana
"You remember how to use a pre-roll, right? If not, we can talk about it again before you go," I said as I rang up a new patient's purchases.
"I light it and breathe in the smoke," she said, checking her notes. "inhale gently, don't hold it in. I put it out after 2 inhalations and wait to see how I feel."
When I was a budtender, I spent most of my work day talking to older patients about how to smoke weed. Experienced patients know what they like, what they want and how to use it. They drop by the dispensary, buy their favorites and leave, no questions asked. Beginner patients, on the other hand, sometimes spend an hour in the lobby of the dispensary, asking questions about the different products and how to use them.
Most of us tried marijuana for the very first time at a party. Maybe a joint was passed to us at a concert. I got high for the first time when I met a hippie in a park.
But for a lot of people, the first time they try marijuana is after a doctor told them to do it, the state gave them permission and a retail store sold it to them.
More than 50% of the cannabis products sold in dispensaries across the country are raw flower. We all know that smoking is not the healthiest choice, but it remains one of the most popular routes of administration because the high - and the pain relief - is almost instantaneous.
If you have never smoked before, walking into a dispensary for the first time can be overwhelming. There are dozens of strains of marijuana to choose from, and each one has slightly different effects. The best thing you can do is trust the budtender, the person behind the counter who is there to help you. Tell them how much experience you have with marijuana and how much experience you have with smoking in general. They will help you find the right medicine and show you how to take it.
Questions To Ask Your Budtender:
1. Indica, Hybrid or Sativa?
Sativa strains are energizing. Indica strains encourage relaxation, and hybrid strains are a little bit of both. For your very first time, ask for an indica. High CBD strains are perfect for beginners because the THC potency is lower. If you are prone to anxiety, stay away from sativa strains until you get used to hybrids. After you've experimented a bit, we can talk about how indica, sativa and hybrid don't mean much. But for now, this classification system is fine.
Marijuana has gotten a lot stronger over the years, so even if you have smoked marijuana before, dispensary weed is going to knock you for a loop. I've seen middle-aged friends fall apart after their first trip to a dispensary, and they have plenty of marijuana experience. Stick to lower potency strains, under 15-20% THC.
Marijuana strains with only THC and no CBD get us really, really high. A lot higher than strains with a balanced amount of THC and CBD. If you are nervous about your first high, ask your budtender for a 1:1 (pronounced "one to one") THC/CBD strain, or a low THC, high CBD strain.
Remember, you can blend marijuana strains when you use them. I like to create my own custom bowls of flower by blending a bit of a high CBD strain with some flower of a sativa haze with a pinch of hash for fun.
3. How Much Should I Buy?
We only smoke the flowers of a female marijuana plant. These flower buds grow on stems that need to be removed before smoking. Leaves should also be removed before grinding and smoking. In dispensaries, flower is sold by the gram and by the ounce, and we order it like the deli counter - "I'll take a quarter ounce of Blue Dream and and an eighth of Granddaddy Purps. And can I get a gram of the Super Lemon Haze? Thank you."
When you try a new strain, buy a single gram. Most people only need a few inhalations at a time to get high and feel better. The average cannabis patient smokes around a gram of flower everyday, and you might find that you need more or less than a whole gram each day to feel your best.
Pre-rolled joints contain anywhere from a half gram to a full gram of marijuana, which means a single pre-roll can last all day. Simply stub it out when you've had enough and relight it when you want more.
4. What Do I Do When I Get Home?
The first thing we do is get comfortable. Change into comfy clothes. Get a glass of water and a snack. Pull out the flower you bought at the dispensary, something to smoke it with, a lighter and an ashtray. Coarsely grind the flower buds, removing any stems or leaves. We can do this with our fingers, but they will get sticky and messy. Get a grinder to do the grinding for you. You want the same texture as loose leaf tea or tobacco, don't grind into a powder.
Marijuana is smoked like cigarettes - we inhale the smoke all the way into our lungs. Cigar smokers don't inhale, they exhale the cigar smoke from their mouths. When you inhale, make sure you pull the smoke all the way down to your lungs.
Lightly pack some of the ground marijuana flower into the bowl of a pipe. You don't have to fill it all the way. Don't pack it too tightly, so the flower burns evenly. When you're ready to take a hit, hold the pipe to your lips, inhale gently and touch the flame from the lighter to the flower until it begins to burn. You only need to hold the flame to the flower for a second or two. Inhale more, until your lungs feel comfortably full. Don't hold the smoke in too long, simply exhale. Take a couple of deep breaths and assess how you feel before taking another hit.
During that first inhale, cannabinoids and terpenes rush into bloodstream and latch onto the endocannbinoid system, getting you high within seconds. It's easy to overdo it with edibles, but because we feel the effects of smoking so fast, it's easier to smoke smoking when you've had enough.
When smoke goes through the lungs and windpipe it creates mucous, which leads to a cough. To keep coughing to a minimum, take small inhalations of smoke and keep your pipe clean. A build up of resin in the pipe creates harsh smoke that causes coughing.
If you are using a clean pipe and taking small to moderate hits but you still can't stop coughing, check the color of the ash of the flower. White ash is a sign that plant was properly flushed during the final weeks of growth. White, clean, flushed ash is a smooth, cough-free smoke.
Black/grey ash means the plant was not flushed. Flushing the plant means the plant food, nutrients, supplements and pesticides have been "rinsed" from the plant's flowers and roots. Black/grey ash is not smooth, and the smoke causes coughing, choking and wheezing.
If you have white ash, a clean pipe, small hits and you still cough, it's time to switch to vaping.
Cannabis Smoking Accessories:
Dispensaries are well stocked with all of the tools and toys you need to get high. Keep an eye out for grinders, pipes, lighters and ashtrays that fit your decor and style.
"Head Shop" is the term we use to describe a certain kind of store that sells marijuana smoking accessories, even when marijuana isn't legal. Your city has at least one. It's the same store that has Grateful Dead posters and tie dye in the windows and incense odors wafting out the door. Don't be afraid to go in. The kids that work in head shops are always nice, and they LOVE helping new marijuana users find the right tools.
Stash Jar - marijuana flower needs to be stored in an airtight glass container to stay fresh and cured. Mason jars are the classic go-to jars for storing and curing marijuana flower, but feel free to use anything you like.
Get a 4 piece grinder. It will collect the light coating of trichomes that falls off the flower. Save this kief and add it to a bowl of flower for a boost of extra potency.
Stay away from cheap plastic grinders, because the plastic will eventually grind into your flowers. Stick to wood or metal or upgrade to a power grinder.
Pipe - may be a one hitter, chillum, pipe or bong. For personal use, find a one hitter or chillum that you love, since these are smaller and more appropriate for one person. Save the bong for parties.
Handblown glass pipes can be simple devices or works of art. Expensive glass is usually hand blown, while inexpensive pieces are manufactured in factories in China. Your dispensary will, most likely, have both hand blown glass pipes and inexpensive knock offs. Spend the extra money for a handblown pipe. Every time you drop it, you'll be glad you did.
One day I bought the most adorable little elephant pipe. I immediately burned my eyebrows because the flame was too close to my face. Make sure you have enough room between your eyebrows and the bowl before you buy any pipe.
My favorite is my coffee mug bowl. Coffee and marijuana are the building blocks of a happy, relaxing morning.
Pipes need a screen. They keep burning chunks of marijuana buds out of your mouth. And screens can be cute, too.
One hitters are tiny pipes that hold just enough marijuana for a single inhalation or two, and they come in different shapes and colors. One hitters that look like cigarettes are a bit more discreet than brightly colored hitters.
Some pipes are more discreet.
Pipes don't have to be expensive to work well. This simple little guy won't break like a glass pipe. The bowl is what you want to think about when buying a pipe. Smaller bowls use less marijuana flower, which is perfect if you just want a hit or two. Get a bigger bowl for sharing with a friend.
Rolling Papers/Cones - joints are the classic way to smoke marijuana, and in the last few years they've become much more sophisticated, elegant and easy to use. "Cones" are joints that are already rolled, with a filter tip. We simply stuff them with our own ground marijuana flower.
Shine makes some great rolling papers and cones for fancy and special occasions.
This little machine perfectly stuffs pre-rolled cones at home.
Lighter and ashtray - Don't use Zippo lighters because the lighter fluid makes marijuana taste awful. Wicks are a natural alternative to butane lighters. And they make great candles.
Pre-rolls and pipes create ash from smoking, just like cigarettes, so keep a pretty ashtray around to contain the mess.
BEGINNER SMOKING TIPS
1. Get high at home. Don't drive a car. Getting high isn't like getting drunk - you won't fall over or slur your words, but you will be impaired.
2. Inhale gently. Don't suck too hard on the pipe until you feel comfortable with a lungful of smoke.
3. Take small inhalations to control your intake and prevent a coughing fit. When you feel enough smoke in your lungs, take your mouth off the joint/pipe and breath in a quick inhalation of fresh air before exhaling the smoke.
4. Count your inhalations. Try just one and see how you feel before you take another inhalation.
5. Keep a glass of water nearby to sooth your throat.
CLEAN UP TOOLS
Smoking is messy and it smells. If you aren't careful you'll get ashes on your couch, floor and coffee table. Your children will smell it, even if they are in the next room. If you have small children at home, don't smoke. Get a vaporizer to avoid second hand smoke problems. If you have adult children, be prepared for them to be very interested in your marijuana use. Especially if you told them not to do it.
The good news is that marijuana smoke does not linger like cigarette smoke, but you still want to open a window and turn on a fan. If the weather is nice, medicate outside.
Rubbing alcohol is necessary for any marijuana household, because marijuana creates a sticky, black resin that must be cleaned from pipes and fingers. Keep a few hand wipes tucked into your stash box to clean up yourself and your supplies.
If you want to maintain a smoke-free home while still smoking cannabis, you need a few things.
Open a jar of Ona gel to clean the marijuana smoke from the room, then light a candle to make your space smell like an Anthropologie store.
Wipe down your hands and pipe to keep everything clean and tidy. You will get ash and resin on your hands and smoking accessories, so keep a few wipes around.
Consuming cannabis medicine by smoking is not the healthiest way, but it is the most popular mode of administration. Smoking gets the medicine into the bloodstream much faster than eating it, which means we get pain relief in seconds. For people in a lot of pain, who want fast relief, smoking is the best way to go.