Marijuana has always been a source of fear for me. The very mention of marijuana online dispensary Canada up memories of older boys in high school who were always trying to get me into trouble, as well as a slew of stoner ex-boyfriends, one of whom I had to take to the ER because he became *too* high. (It was a good time.) Despite the fact that many people have suggested I try cannabis to help with my chronic sleeplessness, I’ve never been able to get comfortable with it, even if it is for medicinal purposes.
However, now that it’s legal in Los Angeles, I’m beginning to see the plant in a different light. I couldn’t believe how user-friendly the sector had become on my first visit to MedMen, which bills itself as “the Apple store of dispensaries.” The store’s minimalist shelves are loaded with cannabis-based items like tinctures, balms, and edibles, as well as clearly labeled plants advertised for specific conditions (like my aforementioned insomnia) or purposes (like increased creativity).
Despite this increasing accessibility, I am still hesitant to try items without first learning about the plant. How much THC is in 2.5 mg? Will I feel pleasantly at ease or suspicious? So, to answer this and other pressing questions, I’ve enlisted the help of a few heavy hitters in the cannabis world: Sean Akhavan, MedMen’s head research scientist; Jessica Asaf, The Cannabis Feminist; Jeff Chen, Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative; and Hamp J. Atkinson, MD, co-director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR). If you live in a legalized state, please share your acquired knowledge in the comments section below.
Not all marijuana has the same impact.
You know how red wine makes you tired, while rosé makes you feel as if you could drink it all day? (Of course, you’d never do such a thing.) This is an idea that is related to the previous one. Varied strains of cannabis have different affects on the mind and body, and so can be used for various purposes, such as sleeping vs creating. “The cannabis plant has two major strains,” Akhavan explains. Indica strains are known for promoting profound relaxation and are commonly used to unwind after a long day or before going to bed. Sativa strains, on the other hand, are recognized for their uplifting and energetic effects.
While this concept may appear to be black and white, Akhavan assures me that these are not two completely different plant types. (I’ll go into more detail about this later.) “Every cannabis plant developed in North America is a hybrid of both strains,” he continues, “with some showing more sativa or indica qualities, or a mix of both.”
Do you have trouble remembering which is which? Use this charming mnemonic to help you remember: “It’s simple to conceive of it as ‘in-di-couch,'” adds Akhavan. (Indicas make you mellow, quiet, and even sleepy, which means you’ll be glued to your sofa.)
Cannabis has a number of different components.
A lot of the current cannabis hype revolves around the distinction between CBD and THC, which might be confusing for a novice (*raises hand slowly*). These are not various forms of cannabis, but different components of cannabis, according to Akhavan. “The cannabis plant contains over 100 different chemical components known as cannabinoids,” he explains. “Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most well-known cannabinoids.” THC is the psychoactive component of the plant that gives you a “high” or euphoric experience, whereas CBD is linked to some of the whole plant’s putative medicinal effects—pain relief, anxiety reduction, better sleep, and reduced inflammation—without the high.
You can get the advantages of cannabis without the “high” using CBD.
However, keep in mind that the majority of these healing properties are based on anecdotal evidence. This is due to the fact that research proving (or disproving) these benefits is still in its early stages. “Preliminary animal studies reveal that both THC and CBD have anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and sleep-inducing characteristics,” says Jeff Chen, MD/MBA, Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, though he cautions that animal studies may not always translate to humans. “CBD was found to reduce anxiety symptoms in patients with social anxiety in one exploratory human trial. And there’s some evidence [in human research] that cannabis or cannabinoids can improve short-term sleep outcomes in people with sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis.”
What role do these cannabinoids play in determining which cannabis strain is best for your needs? Indicas are known for having higher CBD levels, whilst sativas are known for having higher THC levels. If you want to try cannabis but are worried about the euphoric effects, Cannabis Feminist founder Jessica Assaf suggests starting with CBD exclusively. “You’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of cannabis without getting high,” she explains. “CBD tinctures, topicals, edibles, and even flower to smoke are all available.”
Cannabis is currently available in a variety of forms.
I don’t like smoking anything, and with good reason: it’s bad for your health. However, it turns out that resistance to smoking is no longer a problem among cannabis users. I’ve tried vape pens as an alternative. They’re incredibly simple for a newcomer compared to the old-school rolling and burning of a joint: Simply place a cannabis oil cartridge into the device. Dosist (previously hmbldt) makes it even easier by not requiring cartridges in its pens. Instead, they’re pre-loaded with a set number of cannabis doses that have been specially designed for a variety of uses (e.g. sleep, calm, relief). The pen buzzes to let you know when you’ve inhaled one dose.
Cannabis-infused items, on the other hand, are all the rage right now. You can eat the plant in modern sweets like gummies or chocolates, apply it to your skin in a balm or oil to relieve muscular aches and pains, take a tincture, or even put it in a suppository to relieve muscle aches and pains (a company called Foria markets its products for PMS-related cramping).
Cannabis Club’s first rule is to start small.
You don’t want to overdo it when testing out cannabis products or plants that contain THC, as the aforementioned ex-boyfriend who ended up with an embarrassing emergency room cost will tell you. “Starting with too high of a dose is the biggest error you can make in your cannabis journey,” Assaf explains. “Begin with one puff and wait five minutes before assessing how you feel. A 5 milligram dose is a good place to start whether you’re attempting a tincture or edible.” (Don’t worry, the amount will be prominently stated at the dispensary you buy from, such as MedMen.)
“Starting with too high a dose is the biggest error you can make in your cannabis trip.” —Cannabis Feminist Jessica Assaf
Akhavan agrees, advising novices to take a more cautious approach. “To measure one’s tolerance level, a consumer should start with the least amount feasible,” he says. “Some treats have as little as 2.5mg of THC in them.” He recommends taking one “hit,” which is a one-to-two-second inhale, and then waiting 10 minutes before trying another either vaporizing or smoking. “Micro-dosing” is defined as “ingesting, inhaling, or smoking cannabis in small increments, and it is suggested for all new users,” he explains.
When it comes to CBD-specific products, though, Akhavan argues that monitoring intake isn’t as important. He adds, “Users can also micro-dose CBD.” “However, because CBD has no intoxicating effects, adverse effects from using too much CBD-only products aren’t as serious.”
It’s possible that hydration is important.
You undoubtedly know that after each glass of wine, you should drink a glass of water, but hydration may not be something you think about when it comes to cannabis. Assaf, on the other hand, believes it should be. “Because cannabis is an enhancer, if you’re not adequately hydrated to begin with, it might cause dehydration,” she explains. “Industry experts have also informed me that dehydration can increase anxiety following cannabis consumption, so drink plenty of water before and after.”
When I question Dr. Atkinson (of the University of San Diego’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research) about it, he says he’s not aware of any proof that dehydration affects the quality of a high, although he does add a caution. He continues, “Cannabis can affect blood pressure and heart rate, which can be affected by dehydration.” “As a result, dehydration may exacerbate anxious sensations in an indirect way—for example, a high pulse rate may cause anxiety.” In my opinion, it’s best to be safe than sorry on this one; here’s how to figure out how much water you should drink per day.
Expect a lot of trial and error.
While, as previously stated, sativas will keep you awake and indicas will put you to sleep, it’s not quite that straightforward. When it comes to strain selection, this is a useful rule of thumb to keep in mind, although cannabis affects everyone differently. “Whether you’re trying edibles, flower, or topicals, keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to cannabis and cannabis-infused products depending on their metabolism, tolerance levels, and even what they ate before,” adds Akhavan.
Assaf concurs, citing her own personal experience as proof. “Sativa strains, which are meant to give you energy,” she explains, “make me uneasy.” “Indicas, on the other hand, make some people sleepy, but these strains give me energy.” “With trial and error, you will start to figure out the ideal personal routine that works for you,” she says, recommending tasting at least five strains (one at a time!) including a sativa, an indica, and a hybrid.
Use cannabis with caution, and keep in mind that it isn’t for everyone.
“If you don’t know why you’re using cannabis, cannabis may start to utilize you,” Assaf cautions. “The tendency to use cannabis frequently without a clear reason or desired effect accounts for much of the’stoner stereotype’ lazy.” She claims that the key is to set an intention before using. “Believe in the plant’s ability to heal,” she advises.
Even though marijuana is legal in your state, it doesn’t imply it’s right for you. “Before utilizing any supplement or medicine, including cannabis, you should always consult with your doctor,” advises Akhavan. Dr. Atkinson agrees: “I would further caution that cannabis not be taken by women who are pregnant, lactating, or have a past history of heart attack,” he says. There is simply not enough research at this, shall we say, infancy stage to know the long-term benefits and potential hazards.