Any varsity stoner will tell you that now is a great time to get into cannabis. With recreational legalization sweeping the States, an introduction to cannabis no longer necessitates a clandestine search for a reliable dealer. Instead, novice users are faced with an abundance of cultivars bred for astronomical highs, sometimes intrusively knowledgeable budtenders, and shops full of customers decidedly confident in their selections. If you're a potential toker still working up the nerve to cross the threshold of your local dispensary, it can all be a tad overwhelming.
To all the canna-curious folks out there, this step-by-step explainer will help you feel like a ganga guru before you even step foot in a dispensary (or place an order online).
Choosing a strain for the first time
Spoiler alert: sativa, indica, and hybrid designations only marginally describe how a strain might affect you. For those not familiar with the folklore, sativa supposedly implies a stimulating strain, while indica indicates a more sedative strain. It is between these two poles that all hybrid strains fall, and those innumerable hybrids are bred for all manner of effects from deeply therapeutic to straight-up celebratory. In reality, unless you plucked it from a wild field in Nepal or Afghanistan, most all weed is a hybrid. And indica and sativa are designations more useful and meaningful to growers than consumers.
What's more important than those broad designations? The strain's terpenes (the oily essences that perfume cannabis and other plants) and the percentages of cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Together these can give you a far more accurate prediction of how a given cultivar, or strain, might affect you. So, instead of focusing on indica or sativa, take some time to consider what you want out of your high. Are you looking to relax? Sleep better? Feel more aroused, energetic, or euphoric? Figuring out your intention will make choosing the right strain much simpler.
Tip: Once you know what your goal is, take a spin through the Weedmaps strains database and filter strains by the effect that's right for you.
Choosing a flower product for the first time
Long gone are the days when a plastic bag of loose herb was your only option. From single pre-rolled joints to decadently branded jars of premium flower, you have many product types and price points from which to choose. When smoking weed for the first time, don't worry so much about the quality of the flower you choose. That may sound controversial, but as long as you're purchasing cannabis from a licensed brand and retailer, you can rest assured it's a quality product that has been tested for microbes, pesticides, and other harmful compounds.
Focus instead on how you would like to consume the strain of your choosing. Are you looking to roll a joint yourself or buy a pre-roll? Do you have a pipe you've been dying to use or are you looking to try ripping a bong for the first time? Whatever you choose, to light up, you'll need at least 1 gram of flower, a basic grinder, and a lighter or matchbook, in addition to a pack of rolling papers or bong or pipe.
For your first time smoking weed, pre-rolls are the easiest entry point since all you'll need in addition to your pre-roll is a lighter or match. Without the added accessories, they can also be a budget-friendly way to experiment with weed for the first time. Just make sure to avoid pre-rolls that have added kief, extracts, or concentrates since they will likely be too strong for a first experience.
Tip: Whenever possible, check out your local dispensary's online menu before stepping up to the counter. This way you can plan your purchase to fit your budget, while still leaving room for any wildcard specials.
Enjoying your first time
You've got your weed and you know how you're going to smoke it. The last thing to do is make sure you're equipped to deal with your high. A selection of snacks that range from petite nibbles to full meals, multiple hydration options like juice and tea in addition to H20, and a comfortable place to zone out and/or get weird are all necessary to a successful trip. Having some low-stakes activities at the ready before you get high — like adult coloring books or video games — are crucial as well.
Should your high become more intense than you anticipated, these easygoing activities can bring your cognition back into focus and put your feet back on the ground. Similarly, having a CBD product, like a disposable vape or tincture, can often temper a too-intense high as well.
Related: Too high? How to sober up from weed
That said, you can easily avoid a too-intense high by starting with one or two puffs and waiting a full 15 minutes before smoking more. Take a moment to notice sensations both obvious and subtle and observe shifts in your mental and physical state as time goes on. That way the next time you're at the dispensary, you'll have a much clearer idea of what you did and did not like. Trying new strains is all part of the process to help you zero in on choices that work well with your chemistry.
Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.