More than half of Americans admit that they’ve tried marijuana at least once. Of these people, we all know someone whose had a bad experience or two before deciding that cannabis isn’t their cup of tea.
When I was a freshman in college, I had several less-than-positive experiences with weed before concluding that I didn’t like the way it made me feel. Fourteen years later, I’m a daily user who’s extremely passionate about the cannabis industry as a whole… why the dramatic change? To make a long story short, I eventually realized that I had never actually felt relaxed in my life, and that my bad experiences were partially due to the fact that relaxation was a completely foreign sensation for me. More importantly, I learned that the specific strains and the method of delivery were important factors in determining whether or not I’m going to end up feeling anxious.
I wrote this blog for people who are curious about trying cannabis for the first time, and also for people who've tried weed before and felt paranoid as a result. At the end of the day, marijuana probably isn’t for everyone, but there are many factors that can be controlled to ensure a higher probability of a pleasant experience.
Since Washington legalized canabis in 2012, a common sentiment I’ve heard from both friends and customers goes something like, “I’m curious to try weed— but I don’t want to smoke! I just want a little piece of chocolate or something.” On the one hand, it’s perfectly understandable that someone would opt not to smoke when there are several other viable options for consumption, but on the other hand, these people may be doing themselves a grave disservice and setting themselves up for a bad experience.
Imagine you have a friend who’s never drunk alcohol before, and they said, “I'm curious to try booze— but I don’t want to sip beer! I just want a shot of vodka chased with cranberry juice.” Of course everyone knows that a shot of liquor is much more inebriating and has a longer-lasting effect than a few sips of beer, but in the case of cannabis, most novice users don’t realize how strong an edible is compared to 1 or 2 puffs of smoke. Here in Washington, the state limits edibles to 10mg servings specifically so inexperienced users don’t get too high and have a panic attack. Many regular cannabis users consider 10mg doses of THC to be somewhat inconsequential, whereas some stoners are extremely sensitive to edibles; In my case, I always tell customers that I can dab or smoke anyone under the table, but a stupid 10mg edible is usually enough to make me uncomfortably high.
The timing for edibles is tricky: you won’t feel any effects for 30 minutes to 2 hours, and then it comes on strong and lasts for hours. Sometimes beginners get impatient and eat another edible, which is a terrible idea because they end up getting far more stoned than they intended to. There are 5mg and 2.5mg options on the market for this specific reason, but I’ve heard, read, and lived through enough horror stories to advise against edibles altogether until you’re a seasoned user. You don’t want to end up like Maureen Dowd.
Choosing Sativa Strains
As you may [or may not] know, there are 3 classifications of cannabis: indica, hybrid, and sativa. Indica strains tend to be more relaxing & soporific, sativa strains tend to be more energizing & cerebral, and hybrid strains are somewhere in between. Upon describing these classifications to an inexperienced user, many will respond that they want something to “make them happy” or something that won’t make them tired. Upon hearing this criteria, most budtenders will understandably recommend them sativa strains.
Marijuana sometimes makes people paranoid, and in my experience, sativa strains (and many hybrids) tend to cause this negative reaction more often than indica cultivars; the reason for this may be because the cerebral qualities of [certain] sativa strains exacerbate underlying anxiety in some folks.
For those who want to get high but insist that they don’t want to feel tired: I don’t know what you have planned for the day, but I advise you reconsider your strategy and do something more low key and relaxing. We’ll elaborate on this later in the article.
Underestimating Vape Pens & Cartridges
I understand the appeal of cartridges for a new user: vape pens are easy to use, easy to conceal, they don’t “stink” the way smoke does, and some brands add pleasant-tasting fruit flavors to their oils… it seems like the perfect choice! The problem with cartridges are that they’re way too potent for the uninitiated.
If you’ve never heard of dabs or dabbing, it’s when a veteran cannabis user heats up concentrate (hash oil) on a titanium or quartz “nail” in order to take a highly-concentrated shot of cannabis vapor; A single dab can be too intense for even the most seasoned stoners. If concentrates sound excessive to you, bear in mind that this is the exact same stuff that’s inside of vape pens and cartridges.
I don’t want to draw a false equivalency between dabs and vape cartridges (for perspective, we’d say 5 or 6 long draws from a vape pen are sort of close to the effect of 1 dab), but it’s important not to lose sight of how strong cannabis oil really is. The median lab result for buds is about 20% THC, and the oil in cartridges is typically upwards of 60 or 70% THC; A single puff from a vape pen is 3x more potent than one puff from a pipe or a joint. It may not be wise to hit a vape pen if you’re inexperienced with cannabis, but if you’re going to do it, we advise that you don’t inhale longer than 4 seconds, then wait at least 20 minutes before you take another puff.
Believing You’re Going to Die
You’re not gonna die. I mean, yeah, we’re all gonna die eventually, but there isn’t a single instance in recorded human history in which someone died from marijuana alone. Please don’t waste your time, money, and dignity by calling 911 or going to the ER: if you end up feeling like you’re going to die (perhaps you’ll perceive that you’re breathing weird, or that your heart is beating too fast) know that the feeling is temporary, and that it’s physically impossible to die from THC. You may feel uncomfortable, but you’ll be happier with your life decisions in the long run if you just ride it out or sleep it off. I promise you’re not going to be “stuck like this forever,” and you’re not the only person whose had that thought.
Recommendations for a Better Experience
Now that we’re covered some of the common mistakes that result in bad experiences, let’s talk about what you can do to increase your chances of having a good time.
Prepare for a Relaxing Night In
Allocate an entire evening (maybe a Friday night) to getting high and chilling out at home; being in a safe, comfortable environment is very important to ensure that you don’t have a negative experience with cannabis. Make a playlist of your favorite songs, queue up a comedy movie or your favorite cartoon, and make sure you have lots of water and [healthy] munchies on hand.
Shut Up And Smoke It Already
I can’t say this strongly enough: if you’re trying weed for the first time (or are giving it another shot after a negative experience), I highly recommend smoking. Unless you have a specific medical reason why you shouldn’t smoke, it's the most gentle, controllable, and least expensive way to dip your toes in the water.
At this point in the article, I’d like to address your excuses one-by-one and take them all away from you:
- "I don’t like the taste of weed” - Get over it. You didn’t like the taste of coffee, vegetables, or alcohol the first few times you tried them, but you overcame that because the benefits outweighed your temporary disgust.
- “I hate the smell” - Well nobody likes the smell of fish, yet us Seattleites still eat lots of seafood and take trips to Pike Place Market. Eventually you get used to the smell of fish, but with weed, you eventually start to enjoy the smell. So again, get over it.
- “Edibles are more attractive to me” - Dude, are you even paying attention? Go back and read the “Eating Edibles” section.
- “I can’t smoke in my apartment” - Perhaps you could step outside and smoke somewhere [that isn’t visible to the public].
- “It’s illegal to smoke in public” - Correct, and for perspective, the enforcement of marijuana laws has been the lowest priority for Seattle Police since initiative 75 was passed in 2003. If you’re being a nuisance and an officer feels the need to intervene in your session, the official policy is for them to give you a verbal or written warning, then if you persist, the worst that will happen is you’d get a citation akin to a speeding ticket ($100 max, though I’ve heard it can be as low as $24). Herbn Elements does not condone public consumption, but, speaking personally as a private citizen, I think stepping out by the dumpster to take a puff or two is a calculated risk worth taking in this case.
- “I don’t have the tools or know what to do” - Tell one of our budtenders, and we can set you up with a simple $5 pipe, an optional $5 grinder, and teach you how to pack a bowl. I promise it’s not as difficult as it might seem!
- “I don’t know how to roll a joint” - Buy a preroll. We have some quality half-gram doobies for only $4.
- “I like to make excuses” - Yes, I can tell. You know what helps with that? Weed.
As with edibles, the best advice for novice smokers is to go low and go slow. Take one small puff from a pipe or a joint, wait at least 15 minutes to feel the effects, then maybe take another small puff if you’re still not where you want to be. After the second hit, wait another 30 minutes before you consider a 3rd puff.
If you can’t smoke, the next best thing would be to try a vaporizer for flower, but the problem for rookie users are that these devices are costly (roughly $100 to $500 a unit) and have a steep learning curve. If you know someone that has a Volcano, a PAX, or— my personal favorite— an Arizer Extreme Q, ask them if they would be interested in spending an evening with you to field test the product. Which reminds me…
Invite Your Stoner Friend Over
You probably know at least one person who smokes a ton of weed and seemingly knows everything about it: ask them if they want to hang out and be your “weed sherpa” for the night. Homie’s been around the block before, and they can make sure you stay comfortable. Be selective with who you ask to be your sherpa because they need to be on the same page as you (meaning they need to understand you’re testing the waters, not trying to get as high as possible). You want this to be more of an intimate experience than a party, so keep your company to a maximum of 2 guests.
Avoid Sativa Strains
If it’s your first time smoking weed or if you’ve previously had bad experiences with cannabis, you may end up feeling anxious or paranoid if you smoke certain sativa strains. Being someone who’s prone to anxiety, I personally recommend avoiding any and all strains containing the word “cookies,” “OG,” “diesel,” “haze," or “wreck” until you have more experience with marijuana. Tell your budtender that you’re new to cannabis and that you’re looking for an indica, an indica-dominant hybrid, or something with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD (because CBD curbs the intensity of THC’s effects).
Some strains we’d recommend for a chill night in include:
- Blackberry Kush
- Berry White
- Granddaddy Purple
- White Widow
In the future you can experiment with all the different strains out there and keep a journal to remember how each one affects you, but for now, we’re just trying to ensure you have at least one good experience with weed, so please don’t mistake this section as saying “stay away from all sativas and OGs forever."
Of course we can’t guarantee that your experience will go perfectly according to plan, but we’re hopeful that anyone who follows the above advice would be better positioned to have a good time.
Article by Ramsey Doudar; an in-house marketing and social media strategist at Herbn Elements. Ramsey's perspective is influenced by 1.5 years of budtending, 5 years as a cannabis industry marketing professional, and 10+ years of being a super picky medical patient.