All sorts of people are becoming cannabis users later in life. Some are people who have never used, with legalization and the moral blessing of local government stoking their curiosity. Others are people who used to enjoy cannabis but Did The Right Thing and grew out of such a childish and silly habit.
Baby boomers are part of the biggest wave of new users using for medical purposes, be it serious terminal illness, arthritis, insomnia, or a wide variety of other ailments that people claim are helped or cured with cannabis use.
Helping people with the medical and legal aspects of accessing and using cannabis is an industry in and of itself now, so this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide for new medical users, especially those dealing with serious conditions. These are just a few observations that might save some of your budtender’s time and hopefully give you a healthier perspective if you’re apprehensive or feeling guilty about it. Some of these things might help more experienced users as well.
I love cannabis being a part of my life, and I know it could help a lot of people who are avoiding it for all the wrong reasons. But I have a great deal of sympathy for people who don’t actually like cannabis or being high but are basically forced to use it because it’s so much more effective than the alternatives, or the side effects of the alternatives are such that cannabis use becomes the only logical option.
However, you ended up here, it can be a little confusing. Spend some time managing a dispensary and you’ll end up dealing with hundreds of first-time or inexperienced users. Many people are frightened and confused about using cannabis, usually driven to action by a report of fantastic success with cannabis from someone in their lives. Others have been struggling to find the right combination of dosage, delivery method, lifestyle, etc. But they all share one thing in common—they have questions, and aren’t sure who or what to believe.
Don’t take my word as gospel. In fact, in regard to cannabis at this stage of our understanding, I wouldn’t take anyone’s word or science as gospel. I’d be wary of anyone speaking in absolute terms; they’re almost certainly trying to sell you something, be it a product or an idea. Still, I’ll try and address a few of the most common questions.
How should I consume cannabis? What is the “best” method?
This is highly dependent on individual circumstances and can’t be answered easily. Everyone is different, and even those with the same ailment or desired outcome find different methods the most effective or palatable. It will take a bit of experimentation.
The variety of ways people can consume cannabis is exploding, but I’ll give a few basic points on the most common methods:
The most common and well known method, obviously. Can be with a joint, or with a pipe or bong. Controlling dosage can be difficult if you’re inexperienced, especially if you’re trying to consume a specific amount like 20mg or something. Also by far the most wasteful way of consuming, as much as half of the THC in what you’re rolling up won’t make it into your bloodstream. Not recommended by most health professionals, but there’s some conflicting science surrounding how harmful it may or may not be. However, most people, including myself, still find it to be the most enjoyable way of using.
For inexperienced users, most cannabis these days will likely be so strong for you that I recommend not even directly inhaling any smoke at first. Simply lighting it like incense somewhere near you will probably do the trick. The rise of cannabis concentrates like shatter has also changed smoking for the better, but for new users, the risk of overdose is probably too great to make it worth it. Concentrates are fantastic, but are generally better suited for more experienced users.
Much more efficient than smoking in terms of waste. Also considered healthier than smoking, and because you’re not actually burning anything, there’s virtually no smell.
Some vaporizers can be a little tricky to load, clean and maintain. You should also be aware that a lot of devices called “vaporizers” are not actually vaporizers, especially those used for concentrates like shatter or rosin. These have some form of heating element that’s actually combusting the material. A true vaporizer works by hitting a temperature hot enough that THC and other compounds boil into vapor but low enough that plant matter doesn’t burn.
Vaporizers tend to give a more cerebral high, so it’s usually not the best method for pain issues.
Very different from other delivery methods. Most effective for body pain. But you must start small; something in the 5mg range is a good starting point for new users. This is the method most likely to cause a serious overdose, usually due to bad advice from a friend or budtender or failing to follow instructions regarding dosage.
There also seems to be less stigma attached to edibles, so it’s often a good place to start for people with moral concerns.
If you consume edibles at night, you’re likely to have a bit of a cannabis hangover the next morning.
The best way to choose a delivery method is to pick based on your lifestyle and what you need to get out of cannabis use. For someone with kids who uses casually, some sort of small, non-intrusive vaporizer would be best. For recreational use with friends, a joint or doing dabs is probably the most enjoyable. If you’re older or dealing with pain or serious insomnia, edibles might be best.
What strain should I use?
Again, this varies from person to person. Information on strains is plentiful now, so I won’t get into it here. (Leafly is a good place to start if you need to know the basics or information about a specific strain.) However, take what you read when it comes to what strain does what with a grain of salt. As with anything to do with our bodies, people react differently to different cannabis strains. To imply that a strain causes the same effect in everyone is a stretch, especially considering the effects are by nature self-reported and subject to interpretation.
This is even true with the basic division of indica and sativa. I know myself and many others who only use indica and have high energy levels. Yes, heavy kushes tend to make most people tired, and yes, most people describe limonene-heavy strains as making them feel energetic, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to hold true for you. Like with your diet, you’ll have to play around a bit to find the right mix.
Also, the accuracy of strain identification and lineage is dubious. Random testing, even at high profile industry competitions, can reveal all sorts of inaccuracies in regard to genetic heritage and makeup. This is even more true at your local dispensary, where it’s not uncommon for something to be labelled as something it’s not to sell better.
Aside from just listening to your body, I would use your personality to choose your strains. If you’re naturally high energy or prone to anxiety, stick to heavier strains. If you’re usually more reserved or prone to depression, sativas will probably help you more. Experiment a bit and trust your gut when you think you’ve found something that works.
How do I use cannabis on a budget?
In this situation, I would stay away from smoking joints or blunts. As I mentioned, they’re by far the least efficient form of consumption, and the bigger they are, the more you lose. Use a vaporizer or small amounts of concentrates. Edibles also guarantee 100% of the THC you paid for will actually get into your system, though you’ll have to make them at home if you’re on a budget, as the markup on cannabis edibles is usually very high.
If you do smoke flower, buy the largest amount you can afford. Keep your cost per gram in mind; an eighth a week from a dispensary would cost you around $2000 a year. Purchased in ounces, around $1500. If you’re able to access wholesale, around $1000.
If legally possible, learn how to grow your own cannabis immediately. It will take some time to get the hang of, but it’s extremely cheap to do once things are running smoothly. There are fantastic resources now for beginner growers.
Be wary of cheap options presented by dispensary staff. Like a server in a restaurant, they’re often under pressure to move certain strains that aren’t selling or are getting old. There’s often better value hiding somewhere on the shelf, so trust your instincts if you see something you suspect is a better deal. If you have no cannabis instincts, Leafly and similar websites have vast resources for helping beginners find their bearings.
However, if an expensive strain or product is being pushed, take note; it’s possible the price might be dropping soon and you might be able to snag it at a bargain next time you’re in.
These are just a few ideas; you’ll need to get creative and find the best way based on your unique circumstances.
What do I do if I get burnt out or overdose?
Prevention is key, but we’ll assume it’s too late for that.
In the case of a full blown, panic attack/paralysis overdose, there’s not much you can do. These usually come from edibles, and as the infinitely wise Snoop Dogg once said, the problem with edibles is that there’s no “off” button. You’re pretty much screwed at that point, so do your best to stay calm and remember that you’re not going to die or suffer any long-term consequences. If it’s really bad, time for a trip to the emergency room.
If it’s a less serious case, ranging from general fatigue to feeling like absolute shit, there’s a few things you can do. This stuff is also beneficial for most habitual users as well.
Try to get some exercise. I know it’s hard when you’re feeling sluggish from overindulging, but once you get over that initial barrier and start moving, you’ll be fine. A good sweat and getting your heart rate going will help snap you out of it.
Don’t eat anything, especially anything heavy or with a lot of sugar. Most long-time users will tell you that getting high just feels better on a full stomach, so if you’re loaded up with too much cannabis, the last thing you want to be doing is something that enhances the effects of cannabis. Try not to eat until your energy levels are back to normal.
And for me, the biggest one is getting your core temperature down. It sounds a little odd, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we discover a physical mechanism one day that shows cooling down somehow helps minimize the effects of cannabis. Anecdotally, many veteran users report that you don’t seem to get as high from cannabis in cold temperatures as you do otherwise. I have no explanation for it, but it’s always been true for myself, and you can use this to your advantage if you’ve gone overboard. Take the coldest shower you can handle, and try to keep cool afterwards. Drink lots of water (more valuable as a preventative measure), and if it’s cold out, go for a brisk walk. A nice cold shower will also be a great help in the morning if you tend to use a lot at night and feel hungover when you wake up.
I don’t know if this works with the many studies I’ve seen that say that cannabis itself lowers your body temperature, but even if it does, you’re still going to be in trouble if it’s hot outside or inside your place and you ingest way too much.
Should I even use cannabis?
You’d be surprised how often people on the fence would ask this question of a total stranger.
Obviously, this is something only you can answer, and I think it’s wrong for anyone to try and sway you one way or the other. Cannabis has helped a lot of people with a lot of different things, but there’s also people who say it did absolutely nothing for them or that it was not a pleasant experience. But the potential negative outcomes are not very serious, so as long as the dosage is controlled, it’s probably worth a shot.
If you’re being loaded up with opiates to control pain, it’s worth a shot. Same if you’re looking for an alternative to drinking alcohol all the time, taking addictive sleeping pills every night, or even if you just hate your life and need a fresh perspective. If your life is in shambles or you’re in serious pain, what do you have to lose? Cannabis is probably not going to make things worse.
Regardless, no one can make that call for you. Whether it’s thrust upon you or just a lifestyle change, cannabis use will be a bit of an adjustment. But as long as you’re leading a healthy lifestyle, most rumored side effects won’t be an issue. Still, keep the placebo effect in mind. If you go into cannabis use thinking it’s going to make you tired or lazy, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Cannabis can be a crucial element in a healthy, happy, and motivated life, and this is true for myself and millions of others. Best of luck.