Lorena Cupcake, voted “best budtender in Chicago,” has answered hundreds of questions from cannabis shoppers and patients during their time as a budtender. And now they're turning that experience into a monthly advice column, Ask a budtender. Got a question for Cupcake? Submit your questions to email@example.com.
I used to smoke a lot of flower, then took a break for a couple years. Now, I mostly enjoy vape pens and chocolates I pick up when I visit my sister in Massachusetts.
There's a lot of other products (wax, resin, shatter, tinctures) that apparently came about when I wasn't partaking; what's the best way to get high these days?
Dear concentrate curious,
The best way to get high is the way that works for you. As you've already seen, that can change over time. Everyone has their favorite methods of cannabis consumption that balance effects and experience against practical concerns like cost, convenience and safety. When you find the right fit, that's the best method for you, at least at that moment.
One of the most important ways that we change over time is by gaining a tolerance to THC, the chemical component in cannabis that produces an intoxicating high. When you smoke weed every day, like you used to do, the CB1 receptors that interact with THC in your body lose sensitivity. Over time, cannabis doesn't impair you as much, and you may require a higher dose to attain the same high.
Since you're coming back from a long tolerance break, you're likely still in the process of gaining tolerance to higher doses of cannabis. For that reason, I think it makes sense to outline your options in order — from easy-to-dose products preferred by newbies, to high-potency concentrates beloved by longtime stoners.
When I did one-on-one consultations in a medical dispensary, many patients didn't have a robust history of recent weed smoking experiences. Some, on the recommendation of a doctor, were brand new to cannabis. Others hadn't hit a doobie since the most popular strain was the classic Acapulco Gold.
Since they didn't have a firm grasp on how different doses of THC affected them yet, the last thing I wanted to do was send them home with a 50 milligram fruit chew for the wildest evening of their life. Tinctures were a great option since they're an approachable medium to those familiar with hemp-based CBD oil. They're also easy to dose out just a few milligrams at a time.
Essentially, tinctures are oil (cannabis resin, created by glands known as trichomes) emulsified into a carrier liquid. Since the manufacturing process is a little more complicated than shaking up salad dressing, they tend to be more expensive per milligram than a budget-brand gummy. For that reason, I usually don't recommend them to anyone who has already built up the tolerance for edibles — unless money isn't an issue, or digestion/gut absorption is.
You mentioned enjoying chocolate bars, and I think they're a super solid choice in the edible category. Chocolate contains three substances that mimic the effect of cannabinoids by activating receptors and inhibiting the breakdown of anandamide. Often nicknamed the bliss molecule, anandamide is partially responsible for the blissful feeling we get from fat-soluble THC. Therefore, combining THC with the fat and anandamide-boosting chemicals in chocolate is thought to make your high more long-lasting and powerful.
Beyond chocolate, there's a whole world of infused gummies, cookies, crunchy snacks and fizzy drinks out there in options that vary from state to state. When gauging quality, one rule of thumb is to look for products infused with cannabis oil. While some companies formulate their recipes from the ground up, others use machinery outfitted with spray nozzles to deliver precise doses of distillate to the surface of wholesale candy or snacks. Since THC distillate has been stripped of all terpenes, it's common to feel the effects of these edibles quite differently.
Retaining the broadest spectrum of beneficial phytochemicals in an extract is essential for creating a full, smooth high that replicates the beneficial effects of flower. Though there's plenty of full-spectrum tinctures and edibles on the market, for some, nothing beats the fast-acting effects of inhaling smoke or vapor.
I applaud your choice of vapes, which are thought to carry fewer health risks than smoking. Vape devices use an electronic element to heat cannabis somewhere within a sweet spot of 330℉ to 365℉. If you're ready to upgrade from oil cartridges paired with a vape battery, you can pick up a dry herb vaporizer and start dabbling in flower again. From there, it's just a matter of figuring out which strains work for your unique preferences and biology.
You could also pick up a portable concentrate vaporizer, like the dual-use Pax 3 or the G Pen Roam, and try some of those waxes, resins and shatters you've seen. However, I wouldn't feel pressured to start using concentrates just because they're there.
I'll let you in on a little secret: I hated dabbing for a long time. I just didn't have the tolerance to handle high-potency extracts. The first time I hit a dab, I laid awake paranoid for hours, then woke up sincerely relieved that I wasn't high anymore. Now that I'm a regular dabber with well-worn CB1 receptors, I couldn't replicate that experience if I tried.
The beauty of dabs is that they'll be there for you when your rising tolerance means that your old routine is no longer bringing you the same level of relief. Some people can simply take a tolerance break; one study showed that CB1 receptors become more available after just two days, and continue to upregulate over a four-week period.
Others have serious day-to-day pain or mood management needs that make these very strong, concentrated forms of cannabis an amazing resource. I chatted about the benefits of concentrates with Dances, an Los Angeles-based musician known for posting hilarious observations and brilliant ideas after hitting his Puffco Peak. “You get a more immediate, more intense high, along with a clearer flavor,” he told me via DM.
“I started dabbing regularly after recovering from a car accident,” he said. “I was already using weed for pain, but I like to get high. Dabs achieve that when added to rotation. I really feel the difference in strains; I can pick and choose how my day goes.” Plus, he added, he can also use concentrates to get what he calls “weed k-hole super high.”
That's not the experience everyone is looking for — you might not be ready for that yet. When I took my first dab, I certainly wasn't. The important thing is to keep trying different products and learning more about new product categories, including those I didn't mention here (like Rick Simpson Oil, and two categories I plan to cover in next month's column). While the methodology might change over time, cannabis will always be there to get you high — no matter your tolerance level.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps