Whether you’ve recently tried marijuana for the first time and are still learning or haven’t tried it since your youth, cannabis is quickly becoming the new favoured way to relax and take the stress out of everyday life for many people. And there are many approaches to cannabis consumption.
While the U.S. and Canada have made great strides in legalising marijuana, much of Europe still hangs in the balance between legal medical cannabis use and decriminalisation. Countries like the Netherlands have long allowed its use through special licensing in coffee shops, while others like Germany have held a strict line on its use.
That being said, even these European countries are coming around to the idea that decriminalisation of marijuana makes sense.
With several European countries making moves towards cannabis legalisation, it’s a good time to become educated on the topic of cannabis consumption. Being smart about your consumption of cannabis is the sensible thing to do.
It isn’t rocket science, but there are caveats you need to be aware of as you experiment with different strains and consumption methods.
First and foremost: start slow if you are new to cannabis
If you’re new to cannabis or haven’t enjoyed its effects for some years, it’s best to start with a low dose strain and take it slow. Testing your own limits and tolerance levels systematically is a good way to ensure that you don’t get to a point that you’re not comfortable with.
Obviously, every person’s preferences and body chemistry will create a different effect. As a result, two different people smoking the same strain might have two different experiences.
That said, your first, and best, option, if you’re unsure as to where to start, is to consult a professional and visit a cannabis dispensary.
Deciding on a cannabis consumption method
In days gone by, smoking cannabis was more or less the only consumption method available. However, now, there are a variety of different ways to consume marijuana that provide an array of results for the consumer.
For many people, the idea of smoking is not pleasant or even desired, but, ultimately, the method of consumption you should choose will come down to effects you want to experience.
While smoking creates a direct and almost immediate experience, the delayed qualities of edibles provide a more relaxation-based, pain-relieving effect that a lot of consumers are looking for. For many who are new to cannabis, edibles are a safer, cleaner way to consume it.
In more recent years, new technology has been developed that can isolate the active ingredients of the plant and deliver it in a nanoformulation through your skin — bypassing your digestive system, which is what causes the delay and altered experience of edibles — creating the ability for consumers to benefit from an experience that is like smoking, without actually inhaling anything.
Cannabis can be vaped, smoked, eaten and, now, applied transdermally. How the cannabinoids enter into your bloodstream alters their effects, but, again, it’s a very personal choice.
Different people like different experiences, which require different consumption methods. Finding out what works for you is part of the process.
Ask questions at available cannabis dispensaries
Budtenders, as the staff at legal cannabis dispensaries are known, are experienced and knowledgeable and can walk you through several points as you make your choices. Tell them your current experience level with cannabis, as well as whether you’ve had any negative or even null experiences, so they can better assess and make suggestions.
Some things you might learn from a budtender at a cannabis dispensary:
- Whether an edible or smokable version is best suited to you, your lifestyle and your desired results from consuming cannabis;
- Potency levels and expected reactions;
- State and local regulations regarding compliance in terms of strains, dosages and how much product you can keep at home. While cannabis legalisation is managed federally in Canada, the rules do vary from state to state in the U.S. and country to country in the EU.
A good budtender can help you choose where to start so that the experience best reflects what you are hoping to get out of consuming cannabis.
From that point, experimenting with strains and strength levels will come down to testing yourself out. Over time, you will develop a sense of your own tolerance levels and what you enjoy in the cannabis experience.
One important aspect to remember is that your body will react differently if you are combining tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) with other elements, like alcohol, for example. A true test of the results a certain strain or dosage of THC will provide is best conducted on its own merits!
If you’re concerned about visiting a cannabis dispensary during these times, remember that the same social distancing and cleaning protocols that exist in your local supermarket are being implemented in regulated cannabis shops as well.
Consider it the new normal that everyone is living with and arrive with a mask and all the questions you need answers to.
When it comes to cannabis quality and safety, packaging matters
As you shop for your first smokables or edibles, consider the way they are packaged and presented. Dry buds are still perishable and must retain a level of moisture from cultivation through consumption in order to be viable.
Like a weak cork turning a fine wine into vinegar, poor packaging of cannabis results in too much oxygen affecting the buds. Look for packaging that treats the buds as any other perishable item.
A wonderful innovation in cannabis packaging in the use of nitrogen flashing. This helps to conserve the plant in its natural environment, without oxygen and light.
This suspends the effects of these elements on the plant, resulting in the best possible outcome for the plant so that it can remain stable in the time between cultivation and final consumption.
Are you ready for a more potent strain of cannabis?
If you’ve been testing out different strains for a little while, you might want to branch out at some point to try something new and have a different experience. That’s okay, as long as you follow the same cardinal rule of going slow at first.
A budtender, like a wine sommelier, can describe the properties of a new strain, but whether or not you will personally enjoy it comes down to your own preferences and your body chemistry.
Like with fine wine, your nose has a role to play here: if you are attracted to the smell of the dry buds, you are more likely to have a positive experience consuming them.
Related: The Top 6 Strongest Cannabis Strains
So, while there are strains that are considered as the cream of the crop by many, if you don’t like the smell of it, you probably won’t enjoy it. The aroma is very important, as your olfactory senses are critical in enjoying cannabis.
It also comes down to a little bit of trial and error, which is why it’s important to start low and go slow. Look for potency on the physical bud: the active ingredients appear as crystals on the surface. The more crystals you see, the more potent the strain.
While, again, some trial and error will be needed, talking to the dispensary’s staff to see if they themselves have first-hand knowledge of the strain you’re interested in will give you some insight into what you can expect.
Whether you want pain relief, a relaxation effect or more euphoric qualities, a high-quality cannabis plant is the place to start.
The quality and growth methods of cannabis matter
As you decide on strains to try, one thing you must absolutely look for is high-quality marijuana. How you can distinguish that still comes down to personal tastes, but there is a difference, for example, between organically grown and hydroponically grown marijuana.
The organically grown varieties draw much of their nutrients and even some of the taste elements from the soil they are planted in: the plant decides what to eat and how to grow. Hydroponically grown cannabis has a distinctive flavour, as it does not draw from anything in the environment but is rather force-fed chemicals to encourage growth, almost as if it was tied to an IV.
Both systems work well to produce quality cannabis, so it will come down to personal preference for many, but there is something to be said for a plant that is grown conventionally, in tune with its environment.
By allowing the plant to grow naturally, rather than put it through a process of accelerated, forced growth, a cleaner, more natural, properly defined and, ultimately, tastier product is the result.
For the producer, organic cultivation can be a tougher road, with the risk of blight and other issues that come with this method. The resulting standards of quality, however, are worth the effort; and for the consumer, a full-flavoured product is always the end goal.
With all of this information in mind, becoming a smarter cannabis consumer is really about taking your time, asking questions and a little bit of trial and error. Finding what works for you and what you enjoy will take some testing, but it will be a worthwhile effort in the end.
About the author:
Serge Chistov is a cannabis industry expert and Chief Financial Partner with Honest Marijuana Co. Honest Marijuana has been a leader in cannabis innovation since its inception with an organic approach to the growth, production and packaging of cannabis, the launch of the first-ever organic hemp wrapped machine-rolled blunts, the invention of Nanobidiol Technology, and the first company to bring THC-O-Acetate technology and products to market.