Whether you’ve never tried the “evil weed” or if you are ready to jump back into the bakery after a long absence, here’s the guide to getting started on for today’s cannabis connoisseur. In this series, we’ll cover why you should try weed, how it’s used today (you’ll be surprised), what are some common uses, what you might want to try and how you might want to continue with our favorite plant.

You’re not alone! Many people used pot before are coming back to it along with those who have never tried it and are curious or wanting to find out if all the good things they’re hearing are true. Whatever your reason or reasons, you’re taking the plunge into the world of weed. Most of the time, you go to a store, buy a pre-roll and try it out. You have to be wondering is that all there is? There are boatloads of online articles for new to cannabis users. They’re super easy to find. Some are condescending. Some are funny. This is not a funny thing. OK, in some ways you’ll probably laugh a lot. It’s can be a bit scary if you’re just starting out with cannabis. Cannabis is a very potent drug. Since I don’t want to repeat what hundreds of other sites have written, here’s a link to a google search. And here’s a link to an article of misinformation from our buddies in the US government. Very little is true in this article. It’s called “Marijuana Drug Facts” and in fact is nothing of the sort.

The First Time

Cannaco Dispensary in Trinidad, CO

The first time you walk into a legal dispensary as a newbie (or someone who used to consume cannabis when it was illegal everywhere), it can be more than a bit intimidating. A bit? It can be a lot intimidating. It’s easy to become a deer in the headlights.

The room can look like a forest of different cannabis products and paraphernalia like pipes, bongs, chillums, . grinders, rolling papers, etc., etc., etc. There’s flower, often displayed in jars and there more and more in pre-packaged containers or bags of flower. There are pre-rolls. This is what used to be called joints…and in fact still are. Then there are vape cartridges in their little plastic bubble. And concentrates in their little jars. How were those concentrates made? And edibles. Lots of different edibles. Gummies. Infused chocolate. Cookies. Other foodstuffs. Then there are various oils, salves, potions and lotions. None of that even covers the paraphernalia. Papers, pipes, dab rigs, bongs, trays, grinders, filters, etc., etc., etc. Are you going to roll one? How do you stuff a pipe? Or learn how to dab?

Consuming cannabis can be as easy as lighting up a joint or bud in a bowl or as complex as the plant. Dab rigs can look like engineering marvels. And as we start on research that should have been going on for over 80 years, we’re finding out the plant is pretty darn complex. There are a few things you should be at least conversant about or have some sources to ask about. I’m gong to mix medical and adult use up  since both are the same plant. The only difference is the rate at which the product is taxed.

Cannabis is cannabis and medical cannabis is the same as adult-use (recreational) cannabis. With medical, you might be able to find strains  that are all CBD although the evidence is mounting that CBD needs some THC to be more effective. CBD is the compound that supposedly has therapeutic qualities. So does THC. I will always say supposed about the curative possibilities of cannabis because we just don’t know…yet.

The topics below were selected by several people who wanted to know more about cannabis, how to use it and what it may or may not do for you.

Why Should You Try Cannabis?

It’s a good question. Easy to answer by saying: “Why Not?” and leave it at that. That’s a bit glib and doesn’t really tell why. Let’s define a drug as something that does something to you, whether it is designed to kill pain, bacteria, lower your cholesterol or help your mood all are drugs.  After ingesting in some form or another the drugs we’re dealing with here change your brain somehow. In this definition, we need to include a lot of the everyday drugs like coffee.

For purposes of clarity, let’s divide drugs into several categories: Pharmaceutical and bio-pharmaceutical drugs, food drugs (like caffeine) and natural drugs (like cannabis).  All pharmaceutical drugs have a beneficial and a not-so-beneficial effect. The not-so-beneficial part is called a side effect and all pharmaceutical drugs have some sort of side effect. Side effects go anywhere from benign as in not even knowing there are side effects to cramps, changes in mental state, (sometimes desired, sometimes not), appetite, weight or whatever. Pharmaceutical and biological drugs have helped people immeasurably, but all of them have some sort of a secondary effect, side effect or interaction with another drug.

Food drugs like caffeine in coffee can make you nervous if too much is ingested. Alcohol is a food drug and a natural drug, but has many side effects which can be bad for you. Cannabis has no really bad side effects that have been discovered yet. Cannabis might make  you sleepy or it might alter your consciousness. It might do a lot of things to you, but none of them last longer than a few hours. There are no known dangerous drug interactions.

Cannabis is a natural product that human cultures have used for millennia, as in thousands of years. The historical effects of cannabis go very far back without showing any degenerative or wholly negative qualities. You can overdose on almost all pharmaceutical drugs. You cannot overdose with cannabis. If you consume too much, you might get paranoid for a few hours, but that’s about all. Nobody has ever died from a cannabis overdose. Rather than repeat, I put that in italics. Many pharmaceutical drugs can kill or make you very sick if you take too much. Not cannabis.

What Should You Try?

Perhaps the most important question is “What should you try? If you don’t like or are fearful of feeling ‘high’, perhaps start with CBD rich cannabis. CBD rich flower will not have very much, THC or associated compounds in it. THC compounds are the parts of the plant that get you high. A friend who wants to try sent me the questions going around her brain about cannabis use. She grew up in the era (1990s) when there weren’t very many, if any, experiments about cannabis consumption and what it does to your brain (the answer is not much). There wasn’t a lot of knowledge about the brain and cannabis.There are many ways to consume cannabis as well. Flower, concentrates, tinctures, edibles.

Consider also that the ‘high’ from cannabis you do not like is because you tried too much of it previously. If smoking cannabis seems wrong, remember that cannabis smoke is not carcinogenic. You’ll smoke so little that it won’t affect your lungs at all. If smoking flower still bothers you, there are many other ways to consume; tinctures, but most taste pretty bad. There are also edibles, but I’d caution anyone who is not experienced to stay away from them. Edibles take a long time to have an effect and many first timers think that after 1/2 hour there should be something and when there’s not, they eat more. And more. When it finally begins to have an effect, you’re way past where you’d like to be.

What Are Some Common Uses?

Most frequently cannabis is used to get ‘high’ which is a widely misunderstood effect. It’s usually considered impairment in the same way that alcohol impairs. When we conflate the two drugs (as is often happening) we miss the point. High is not intoxicated the same way as drunk. It does not make you crazy. You just feel … … different topic. Being high in and of itself is a state of mind caused by chemical interactions. Alcohol does that, sometimes in not so nice ways. Alcohol can make you belligerent. Cannabis makes you mellow. It is an intoxicating drug although you just cannot compare the intoxication to alcohol. Many try to compare alcohol with cannabis, but it’s a specious comparison. They are as different as apples and daffodils. Both change your consciousness, but one can make you belligerent and woozy and one might enhance your mental acuity.Here are two studies; Cannabidiol (CBD) and Cannabis for Mental Focus and Acuity and Marijuana May Boost, Rather Than Dull, the Elderly Brain. While the jury is still out because potential research has been impossible because of the Federal classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug along with heroin. This will change soon.

Are There Benefits to Using Cannabis?

There are many benefits possible with cannabis and/or different cannabis strains. Some strains generally work as an analgesic lowering pain in parts of the body. There is evidence in several studies that some strains of cannabis can attenuate or even kill cancer cells. There isn’t much corroboration of this in scientific studies, but we do know and can prove that cannabis can help with the nausea and other issues associated with taking cancer medications. It can decrease anxiety. It might slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It might help with different inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The list can go on. The main thing to remember is that in small doses (and small doses can get you really high too!) it seems to be beneficial and not detrimental. A bit over a year ago, Business Insider published a story about the 23 Health Benefits of Marijuana. While the story outlines many potential health benefits, there’s not much scientific evidence out there. However, there is some and as the evidence builds, we’re finding that cannabis can be very effective treating and alleviating a variety of afflictions.

5. Getting over the stigma (I’m a pot smoker!)

There is still a (very) small stigma associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption is part of the social landscape. Many people simply don’t notice it or just ignore alcohol consumption. It’s usually just accepted and we’re about 90 years past the end of alcohol prohibition. But there is still a bit of social stigma. There is a larger social stigma associated with cannabis consumption. Although cannabis is legal in many places, it’s still a somewhat stigmatized activity. I call this the “Cheech & Chong Effect.” The stoner stereotype is still with us. It’s all conflated in part because of our shared American puritan background. The United States can be a strange place. We have many very liberal attitudes, but then we have many conservative attitudes. To much of the rest of the world, we’re strange. In American society, it’s too easy to vilify the concept of being high. We’re the only western country to have ever outlawed alcohol. That happened, in part, because alcoholism was rampant in the U.S. and there was a strong movement to prohibit the use of alcohol because it was thought that alcohol prohibition, in and of itself, would be enough. It wasn’t. The United States wound up with a horrific crime problem that was related to alcohol and it gave rise to organized crime not seen before in the U.S. Many countries in the middle east don’t have alcohol distribution because of the proscription of alcohol in the Quran although there really isn’t a proscription against alcohol, but only attending services while under the influence. Over time, it’s been changed to a total ban on alcohol. Stigma exists everywhere. One reason hashish became popular in the Middle East and other Moslem countries was because of alcohol. In the U.S. there is still a small stigma, but once you start consuming, you’ll find that most people don’t care at all.

Debunking Common Misconceptions & Urban Myths

Cannabis, it’s effects and ‘harm’ that can come from consumption has been nothing but racist myth since the 1930s. True, there was myth before, but it was mostly harmless back then. It started getting vicious in the 1930s toward blacks and Mexicans along with Jazz musicians. That one was beyond me.  Jazz? Really? Seems like the cannabis (frequently called gage back then for some reason) scene really was filled with myth and racism. The myth was perpetuated and aggravated by Harry Anslinger, the racist who was responsible for cannabis being made illegal.

The biggest myth perpetrated during the era of weed vilification was that “Pot is a Gateway Drug”. If you consume pot, it will lead you to shoot heroin. We’ve since found out that the opposite is true. Cannabis actually lowers opiate addiction rates. Colorado has been our poster child about that. In Colorado, since legalization of adult use cannabis, addiction rates are down along with opiate deaths.

Next installment: Medical uses for cannabis. Does smoking cannabis cause cancer? And a host of other topics about marijuana.

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