Marijuana 101


getting started with marijuana

So you’re ready to give marijuana a try?

This article will educate you on the basics of marijuana enjoyment. With this knowledge, you’ll be equipped to enjoy marijuana safely and navigate social situations involving cannabis with grace. Let’s get started!

Is Marijuana Safe?

Enjoying cannabis is partly about putting yourself in a relaxing state of mind. It is challenging to have a relaxing experience if you’re nervous about how a drug is going to impact your body. So let’s address the question of safety right off the bat. Research from the scientific community is not abundant on marijuana because of it’s historical classification as an illegal substance. However, we can set some reasonable goal posts to get smarter. First, let’s look at how toxic marijuana is relative to other recreational drugs through a simple ratio:

The graph below displays this ratio of “fatal dose” to “effective dose” for a variety of recreational drugs. Using alcohol as an example, a couple shots will give most people a “buzz”, but drink 10x that over a very short time period and you could be in serious health danger. The higher the ratio, then the harder it is to “overdose” on the drug. Graph incoming!

Sources:
The Atlantic: Drugs and Toxicity
American Scientist

Notice "heroin” at the bottom with the lowest ratio of 5x. Over doing it to a relatively small degree can be fatal. Alcohol, is only slightly better at 10x and worse than codeine, MDMA, and even cocaine at 15x. Up at the top sits marijuana. It is so difficult to overdose from marijuana poisoning that it doesn’t happen. Honerable mention to nutmeg for making the list.

Takeaway, you aren’t going to overdose on marijuana by trying it out. If you have had a beer or a glass wine, marijuana is far less toxic to your body. But you must dose properly, especially with edibles! More on that later in this guide.

For now, lets disclaim that long-term continued use of any substance, including marijuana, is bound to have health consequences. Know that most forms of marijuana will impact your reaction time. As a starting point, anything you wouldn’t do while or after drinking alcohol, you shouldn’t do while or after consuming marijuana. I say “starting point” b/c if you drink any alcohol, then you have a tolerance to it whereas you won’t with marijuana.

What is the difference between marijuana, cannabinoids, THC, and CBD?

Marijuana is a plant. This plant secretes chemical compounds called cannabinoids. There are over 80 different known types of cannabinoids and the number is growing. THC and CBD are the 2 most popular cannabinoids, but the market is starting to educate and provide consumers with others for different psychoactive or medicinal purposes. So, what’s the big deal about cannabinoids?

Turns out, they mimic endocannabinoids which naturally exist all over your body as part of your endocannabinoid system. This biological system regulates things like mood, appetite, stress response, and immune function. When I say “system” I simply mean a whole bunch of receptors spread throughout your body. Trigger a receptor in a certain place, trigger a response within a certain system.

Ingesting or absorbing a particular cannabinoid will light up a unique myriad of these receptors across the body. Some impact appetite, others will stimulate your nervous system, and others will kill pain. At a high level, THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the cannabinoid that makes you feel “high”. CBD is not psycho active, so you will not feel “high” from it.

Where to try Marijuana?

The first time you try marijuana, you might not get high. There are potential biological causes for this as your are introducing a new compound that your body is not familiar with. The more likely situation is you need to make sure you’re “hitting” properly. If you are smoking or vaping make sure you are getting the smoke/vapor into your lungs.

The best way to experience marijuana for the first time is a place that you feel safe and you don’t have to leave if you feel uncomfortable. It’s also great to do it with someone who is familiar with Marijuana because they can help guide you through the experience. Don’t smoke pot for the first time and then go to a party. Make it a controlled and safe situation.

What to expect when trying Marijuana?

Marijuana comes in a ton of different varieties. Each strain or cross-strain has a unique experience profile. Some strains have cannabinoids that have no psychoactive effects at all. That is, weed that doesn’t get you high!!!. I’m talking about the Cannabidiol I meantioned above. In general, if you’re consuming marijuana, you shouldn’t be driving a car, operating a crane, or, depending on the strain, trusted with the Cheetos.

Types of Marijuana (weed): Sativa, Indica, Hybrid

Marijuana comes in many different varieties. But to give this world some initial form we are going to break it up into two main types, Sativa and Indica.

Sativa vs Indica: What’s the difference?

Sativa: Makes you “high”, happy, energetic Indica: Makes you “stoned”, relaxing, mellow Hybrid: Combination

Sativa
In general, Sativas are more uplifting and energetic. They will make you laugh or can help trigger creativity. Sativas are described as being “heady” as the sensations will likely occur more in your head, neck and, upper back and shoulders.

Indica
Indicas on the other hand are mellow and tend to give you a sensation of relaxation and a comfortable weight on body. An indica strain can act as a pain killer, appetite stimulant, sleep aid or help with anxiety. Personal Note: Since I am a very high-energy, fairly anxious individual, 90% of what I consume is Indica. It’s calming relaxation effects are my primary objective.

Hybrid
Hybrids are just that, Sativa and Indica plants cross-bred together so you get a balance of both. For example, you might use a hybrid when you need to treat pain, but you want to avoid feeling too relaxed or sleepy as you might with a full Indica. Some hybrids are a great combo of relaxing and mentally stimulating so you get a kick of mental energy, but also something that will help with anxiety and relax your body.

Note on Anxiety Prevention:

A few things to say here. First, about the marijuana strain. In general, if you have issues with anxiety, Indicas or Indica-hybrids (hybrid that has more indica than sativa) are going to be your jam. Those strains are more relaxing, calming, and soothing. That does not mean you need to stay away from Sativas completely. It’s just that Sativas, in general, are more intense in regard to energy and mind stimulation. That being said, there are mellow Sativas that you will find you prefer much better to some Indicas or Indica Hybrids. The reason? For some people the weight of a pure Indica is just too heavy and they want a lighter relaxation. Also, while there are general rules on how certain strains are supposed to make you feel, each person gets impacted differently. If a certain strain makes you uncomfortable or gives you a lot of anxiety, then stay away from that strain.

Second, if you’re new to marijuana, then there is going to be some degree of anxiousness. If you don’t know what it feels like to be “high” then you are going to feel new sensations that might take some getting used too. Also, with alcohol so prominent in society today, someone puking in the toilet because they’ve had "one too many" is often not a cause for too much alarm. That’s because a lot of us have either been there ourselves or seen others over the toilet and usually they are walking around the next day. The population is generally much less familiar with cannabis.

This sometimes results in people freaking out over new sensations and calling the hospital when they are actually completely fine. It isn’t that marijuana is some bigger thrill to experience, it’s because of ignorance about marijuana relative to alcohol.

Example: A police officer eats too many pot brownies, freaks out and calls 911.
Time is going really really slow….


How do I get or buy marijuana?

If you already have access to marijuana, wonderful. If you don’t, ease of getting access to it will depend on your state.

This can help:
Find a dispensary www.weedmaps.com
Find laws in your state http://norml.org/laws

I’ve got the Marijuana, how do I use it?

Here are your options for getting cannabinoids into your bloodstream.

1) smoking a joint, pipe, or bong etc
2) vaporizing
3) edibles
4) concentrates

1) Smoking: Joints, pipes, and bongs

I list these first because they are probably the quickest way to get going if you have some buds and the way your likely to encounter marijuana that isn’t yours out in the world. We’ll knock them down one by one.

Joints:



Break up some marijuana, wrap it up with some rolling paper and a crutch rolled up at one end and you’ve got a joint, otherwise known as a “J”. Rolling papers and “filter papers” can be found at most any gas station, liquor store, or smoke shop. There are a lot of tutorials out there already for how to roll a joint.

What is filter paper or a crutch?

You know the filter at the head of a cigarette that prevents the burnt stuff from coming back into someone’s mouth. Well, same concept. You can use an actual filter and buy a pack of them at the stores I just mentioned. Or, you can make a crutch out of a piece of thicker paper, folded as shown above in the diagram. Make about 4 folds of an accordion, then go around. Roll this piece up at one end of the paper with the cannabis. This will give your fingers a place to hold the joint and the accordion will serve as bit of a filter as well as provide structural support.

Inhaling:
Once it's rolled, all you have to do is light it and take a hit. If you are new to weed, then a whole joint is going to be too much for you to smoke on your own. Just take the hits you want and then you can either cap it in a tube or a jar to extinguish it or just set it down and it should burn out on it’s own. Then you can relight later when you’d like another hit.

When hitting a joint, as a starting point, give a relaxed inward pull of about “two Mississippi”, remove the joint from your mouth, breath in two more second before you relax and exhale. Some people refer to “ghosting” as holding in the smoke so long that it maximizes the amount of cannabis absorbed in the lungs. I'd highly recommend against this practice. Most of the cannabinoids are absorbed quickly in the first few seconds of the hit. Ghosting is no good for your lungs and doesn’t deliver any stronger impact.

Preparing the marijuana:
You’ll have to break up the weed to be able to roll it up into a joint. You can do this a number of different ways. If you don’t have a grinder, a shot glass and some scissors work well. If you have a grinder, don’t grind the buds up too fine. Maybe just one full turn. That does two things, first, it ensures the bud chunks are large enough so that air will flow easily through the joint. That makes the draw (how hard you have to breath in air through the joint) a lot easier (important if you’re rolling a big joint). Second, if the buds are too fine, after they burn, it is more likely they will come back as ash into your mouth. So for joints, a coarse minimal grind is usually best.

Pipes and Bongs:

If you have a pipe or a bog, then smoking is even easier because you don’t have to roll a joint. Here is a quick how-to on using these guys.

Loading the bowl:
For a pipe or a bong, it is usually easiest to just pick the marijuana buds apart with your fingers and place them in the bowl. Make larger pieces for the bottom so that you’ll have them as somewhat of a filter for the bottom. This will help stop burnt pieces or ash from coming back into the bowl toward your mouth. Stack the weed up until the bowl is full.

Hitting:
Hold up the lighter to the bowl while covering the side hole with you finger. Start to breath inward. You will be drawing smoke into the inner chamber of the pipe or bog. After a few seconds, continue breathing in, but release your finger and the flame. The smoke in the chamber will go into your lungs. Hold for just a moment and then exhale. Start small. Get a feel for it. With smaller pipes, you will be inhaling the smoke right away as you start to inhale. On larger bongs with bigger chambers, more smoke gathers before being inhaled.

When your finger is removed from the side hole there is a more concentrated burst of cannabis into your lungs and your bodily system. Your “high” will come on as a quicker wave. Across the board, the intensity of a hit depends on how much you inhale. To avoid coughing lower your inhale intensity. Remember, you just want to take sips. It’s fine to take a huge rip, but make sure that is what you want to do before you do it. You get an unlimited number of tries in this game.

Smoking marijuana when you have nothing but a lighter:


There are a few objects that can be made into a bong when one is not available. The apple bong and the soda can bong are probably the most useful to be aware of. Resorting to a creative method is neither shameful nor out of the ordinary. Quite the contrary. Ingenuity is praised when it comes to smoking marijuana. Here are a couple tutorials to help you make there.
Apple Bong
Soda Can Bong

2: Vaporizing:

Vaporizing is heating the marijuana to a level where the active ingredients (THC or CBD cannabinoids for example) are vaporized so that they can be inhaled. Vaporizing is an excellent way to enjoy marijuana because you inhale a lot less of the things you don’t want to inhale. You'll need a device to help you achieve this. There are a bunch of different types of vaporizers and they come in all shapes and sizes, but the concept is similar. Hot air heats up the buds until the THC vaporizes. There, now you understand how basically every vaporizer works. Let's drive it home with a diagram.

More vaporizers are coming out all the time, but there are a few I’ll describe here so you get the feel for different types. Note, this is not a buying guide and I don’t get any financial benefit from the products mentioned below. I personally have more experience using Stortz and Bickel products which is why you see them in my examples. Alright let’s get to it.

Balloon Vaporizers

The Volcano
http://www.storz-bickel.com/shop_us/en/volcano-digit

The Volcano by Stortz and Bickel is the most iconic vaporizer out there. This german engineered device is no joke. It’s looks like an apollo space shuttle with a balloon on the top. The Volcano uses a heater and a fan to blow hot air upward. That hot air passes up through the ground herbs and fills the balloon with vapor.


Once the balloon is full, the balloon (and it’s plastic clip nozzle) snaps off. Then connect the mouth valve and you are good to go. See below.


Why buy a volcano?
The Volcano is expensive, but the balloon mechanism helps the heat dissipate a bit prior to going into your lungs. This is a huge plus for both the smoothness of the hit and your respiratory health. If you want the premium in home experience the volcano is the way to go. You can get a carrying case for the Volcano, but it is not particularly portable.

Whip Vaporizers

Whip type vaporizers differ in that instead of the vapor being captured in a balloon, it goes through a cooling coil (the "whip”) directly to your mouth. But the concept is the same. When hitting a whip vaporizer, you will have to inhale more firmly because it is the suction from your mouth that pulls the hot air over the herbs.

Here are images of a few whip vaporizers:

Plenty:
http://www.storz-bickel.com/shop_us/en/plenty-vaporizer


Arizer Extreme Q:
http://arizer.com/store/en/arizer-desktop/21-aroma-arizer-extreme-q-heater.html


Silver Surfer:
http://7thfloorvapes.com/index.php/seventhfloorvapes/vaporizers/desktop/super-surfer.html


Portable Vaporizers

There are a number of vaporizers not he market now that are compact, discrete, and portable. Some of these work so well they can actually serve as your primary vaping device at home and when you’re on the move. Portable vaporizers typically have a metal bowl where you put the herbs. The surfaces of the metal bowl heat up and that heat gets spread through the herbs vaporizing the THC. Here are a few to be familiar with:

The Pax:
https://www.paxvapor.com/pax-2
The Pax is made by a company called “Ploom”. This vape is super sleek and discrete. The light on the body illuminates purple when it is heating and then green when it is ready to hit. Just bring it up and rip away. Depending on how tightly the herbs are packed will depend on how hard you need to pull (suck in with your mouth).


The Mighty and The Crafty:
Mighty (larger)
Crafty (smaller)
Stortz and Bickel, a company you’ve seen earlier on this list, finally made the move into portable vaporizers with these two products.


3) Edibles:

Edibles are a great way to experience cannabis. If you are new to them then you should wade systematically into these waters. It is very easy for people to over do it and have an unpleasant experience. This is chiefly attributed to the fact that it can take 1.5 or 2 hours to feel the impact of the cannabis. If you have an edible, you should wait a full 2 hours until you take more. I’ve seen people get to 1 hour, say they don’t feel anything and eat more and then be in an uncomfortable spot. Be smart! Here is some information that will help you navigate the edible waters.

How much to take?

You should never eat a marijuana edible without knowing exactly how much THC is in it. I am not a doctor. This is simply the verbal guide that I give to friends put in diagram form. For a friend who is a first timer who is of average build, I’d be very comfortable starting them with a 5 mg dose. However, I’ve seen study abstracts that show that some people can feel the effects of as little as 1.5 mg THC. So starting at 3 or 4 mg totally works too and is a good alternative if you want to dial it back a tad.

You should do that anyway if you have a smaller body that would call for it. If you are mixing with alcohol, know that it will magnify the impact of the cannabis meaningfully. If you are a newbie, I wouldn’t mix them at all. First, the alcohol could greatly magnify the cannabis past where you’re comfortable. Second, it’s pretty compelling to just focus on the cannabis sensation and get to know how your body reacts uncluttered by the alcohol. Let’s start with a dosage chart. Understand, this is how I would explain it to someone new.
Ok, so now you have a feel for how many mg of THC to target. But figuring out how much you’re about to take with the edible you’re looking at is sometimes challenging.

How much THC is in the edible?

You should absolutely find out how much THC is in the edible you are about to eat. This is not as easy as it would seem for a couple reasons.

Challenge 1:
Young industry and inconsistent/confusing labelling.

The cannabis Industry is young and labelling isn’t as consistent as it should be. First off, you sometimes see the number of doses printed on the package, but one company’s dose measurement might be different from another's. You should go by the milligrams of THC in the edible. And even in that case, know that the mg printed on the package may not be a perfect measurement. On top of all that remember that different cannabinoids exists in different plant strains. Although an edible is often labelled “indica” or “sativa”, it typically won’t tell you what specific strain, or likely combination of strains, were used. Getting your edibles from certified dispensaries and asking them about which brands are trusted will help you get what you’re expecting.

Challenge 2:
Available dose might be much higher than you need

There are a lot of edibles out there with high potency. If an edible has 50 mg THC and you only want to take 10 mg, then you got to approximate eating a 1/5 of it. Since you are dealing with an organic piece of food, the cannabinoids will not be distributed perfectly throughout the edible. Take this into account. Always under estimate in these situations to give yourself some cushion. Playing it safe is always the good decision. Once you have a base with an edible, if you desire, you can always smoke or vape from there. The if you over do it, you only have to wait a half hour or so until your feeling much better.

How long will the effects last?

Medical research has been held back because of the illegal status of marijuana so you won’t be finding any good information from the FDA. Again, I’m not a doctor, but in describing the timeline of impact to a friend, I’d chart it this way:
Some comments here:
First the overall narrative. An edible will typically start to phase in around the hour mark. It will ramp fairly quickly once it starts and this drop in can be alarming if you haven’t felt it before. From 1.5 to 2.5 hours, it’s party time. You’ll feel he maximum effects in long waves here. Around the 3 hour mark you can clearly feel the effects dissipating, but you will still very much be feeling the cannabis. At the 3.5 to 4 hour mark, you’re now feeling the come down. The come down period differs widely depending on the strain. Past the 5 hour mark it depends on both the person and what else they have done or consumed that day. If you have an empty stomach then expect the edible to hit much more quickly. And subsequently, if you do eat, kicking off the digestion process can amplify the impact of the cannabis. Exercise has a similar supercharging effect.

A note on edibles like hard candy and lolly-pops:
While these edibles are being digested like say, a brownie would be, there is also THC being absorbed through your mouth and lips. You can start to feel the impacts from these edibles as quick as 15 minutes since it is a much quicker trip to your bloodstream. But since you are consuming them more slowly, say over 10 or 15 minutes and again, part of that THC is going to your stomach, it significantly smooths out the ramp up curve.

What to do if you have too much marijuana edible?

Don’t panic, you're going to be fine.

CBD tincture will decrease the psychoactive impact of the THC that is overwhelming you. The CBD (Cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid that attaches to the same receptors as the THC, therefore when CBD is in your system, there are less open receptors for the THC to attach to. Since CBD is not psychoactive it will help reduce the impact of the THC on your senses. That’s right, cannabis that makes you less high.

Having just a little caffeine can help, but not if anxiety is a major issue as it might make things less comfortable.

Concentrates

"Concentrates" is a wide category, elements of which will play a major role in the future of marijuana. Broadly, this group is stuff where the active ingredient in the marijuana plant (the cannabinoids) have been extracted. I'll list the main types of concentrates and cover how you will see them out in the world.

First, a tiny brain spasm marijuana plant anatomy. Check out this picture of a beautiful marijuana flower below.

See those white crystal structures all over the marijuana plant? Those tiny structures are called trichomes and while cannabinoids are present throughout the entire plant and leaves, the concentration is highest in these crystal trichomes. Since getting your mind blown is fun, let's zoom way in.



I mean, how bitchen do those things look? Thus ends our brief brain spasm on marijuana plant anatomy. Now, let's talk concentrates.

Kief:

Remember the trichomes we discussed about 8 seconds ago. Those can be collected from the marijuana plant by grinding it up or shacking it. Sometimes the plant is frozen and the trichomes are agitated and broken off. Typically a screen is used that is specifically sized to let the trichome slip through but not any other plant matter. Take a bunch of trichomes that have fallen off the marijuana plant and collect them into a dusty powder and you have...Kief! Here is what it looks like.

Hash:

Hash is simply Kief, compressed. here is a picture. Vocabulary spasm: Resin: The interweaving of trichomes on the plant which is goo-like in texture Trichomes: The individual crystal structures that make up the resin and contain a high concentration of cannabinoids Kief: Trichomes that have fallen off the plants and are collected together Hash: Compressed Kief

Tinctures:

Tinctures are a wonderful entry point for people who don't want to inhale anything. Tinctures are basically high proof alcohol infused with cannabinoids. The alcohol is used as a solvent to extract the active ingredients from the marijuana plant. Marijuana Tinctures typically come in a small bottle with an eyedropper cap. Simply put a few drops on or under your tongue and your good to go. By example, as an experienced user, depending on the tincture, you might take 3 to 5 drops under the tongue and then for a minute or so, rub your tongue around to coat your inner mouth with the tincture and let it sit without swallowing. This leads to a bunch of the cannabinoids getting absorbed through the tissue in your mouth, as opposed to your stomach, so they will reach your bloodstream more quickly. When THC is absorbed this way, the time to impact is shortened. It can take as little as 15 minutes or as long as 45 to start feeling the effects. Alternatively, if you swallow the drops down immediately, expect the impact timing to be closer to if you ate a normal edible.

Hash Oil:

A broad category that includes a variety of extraction techniques. Hash oil doesn't really have anything to do with the "hash" we described earlier. It is simply a sticky extract that contains concentrated amounts of cannabinoids. A tic-tac size of one of these concentrates can contain as much THC as multiple joints. With concentrates there are two major attributes you will hear throw around, a)extraction method and b)texture. First let's tackle the popular extraction methods. Here we have solvent and solventless methods. Here is a rundown of the most popular.

Extraction Methods:

CO2 Oil (solventless):

CO2 oil is created using magic. That magic, involves putting CO2 into the perfect temperature and pressure conditions so that it becomes a supercritical fluid, which means it acts like a liquid and a gas at the same time. It can pass through the marijuana plant material like a gas and yet still absorb and extract the cannabinoids as if it was a liquid solvent. As a last step, lower the pressure and the CO2 evaporates away leaving a very clean, very pure concentrated hash oil. Like I said, magic.

You'll find CO2 oil is in a lot of vape pens that are out on the market. Here are a few.

[images to be added]



Butane Hash Oil - BHO (solvent):

Butane is a light hydrocarbon commonly used as a solvent which is then boiled away to leave a very pure oil or wax that can get to levels of 90% THC.


[images to be added]

Ice Water Hash (solventless):

This process involves freezing the trichomes so that they become brittle and then using a mechanical process, water, and ice to gather and then filter out the brittle trichomes. A water solution containing the trichomes is passed through filters and dried.

[images to be added]

All of these extraction methods will create concentrates of varying stickiness, stability, color, and cannabinoid concentration. Additionally, these attributes will vary considerably depending upon the cannabinoid profile of the strain, as well as the specific heat, pressure, and duration levels used during extraction method.

Tinctures
Here is where the terms like bubble hash, wax, budder, crumble, shatter, honey oil, and just plain oil come into play. If you want to force all of these attributes on one axis, it's texture. On one end is the harder, more rigid "shatter", which is glass like in appearance. Shatter that is still glass like, but slightly less hard will stretch and snap off like pulling apart extremely thick taffy. This is sometimes called "pull-and-snap".

Moving down the texture scale we get sappier and less stable. "Honeycomb" is smoother like shatter, but brittle. "Budder", and "crumble" are crumbly waxes. They will typically break apart as you handle them and they remind me of handling a chunk of cookie that is crumbling in my hands. Then you've got oils. Some are thick and sticky and used in dabbing (more below). Others are more liquidly and used in vape pens.

[Images to be added]



Wrap up:

That does it for this article. More to come soon.