For the new recreational pot user, the world of pot can seem entirely overwhelming. There are strains, cannabinoids, terpenes, edibles, oils, and so on – and, for each term in the cannabis glossary, there’s a variation on the experience of this versatile plant. This is not an activity to rush into if you’re starting from a place of little to no experience, hence, why we say: ‘start low, go slow.’ Finding your ideal relationship with cannabis takes time.
We spoke with Dr. Carolina Landolt, leading Canadian Rheumatologist and founder of Summertree to get her tips on safely starting into the world of recreational cannabis use – without reliving a bad experience you may have had in Amsterdam or back in high school.
Tip # 1: When it comes to pot, more is not more.
Getting totally wrecked isn’t the only way to do it. Dip a toe in, and know that this might mean starting with an even smaller quantity than you might think. “Because there’s this idea that (recreational cannabis use) is an awesome experience, I think some people don’t realize this can also be a not-awesome experience,” Carolina says.
“Especially with edibles, that’s where people really make mistakes because the effects are so long-lasting and people take too much without realizing it. People don’t realize you can actually take a quarter of that cookie. I always say you’re better off dipping a toe in those waters and assessing yourself.”
Especially if you’re trying cannabis for the first time and all you have to go off is maybe an experience in high school, know that it can be different now. You don’t need to blow your own mind every time you partake. “Exploring something that has a balanced amount of THC:CBD is softer,” suggests Carolina (find out the difference between THC and CBD here). “That’s not something you tried in high school, I guarantee it. You might actually find that that is a nicer experience for you. People don’t realize that there’s the ability to consume and still engage socially, just as there is with alcohol.”
Starting with a balanced THC:CBD strain is one way to manage your high. So is choosing your method of consumption.
Tip #2: Vaping FTW. And save the edibles for later.
With vaping, you spare yourself the direct inhalation of smoke (fiery lungs are no one’s cup of tea), and you might also have more control over how much pot you actually consume.
“From a logical standpoint, smoking anything is going to burn your lungs, if you’ve never smoked,” Carolina says. “Smoking is not the best vehicle for that experience. When you’re inexperienced, it’s literally going to feel like your lungs are on fire. You’re muddying the waters.”
Give yourself a chance to actually have a genuine, enjoyable experience and let breathing be easy. Let everything else be easy too – that’s what vapes are made for. “They’re discreet, they don’t smell, they don’t require you to be grinding and filling, emptying, cleaning, rolling, etc. Without question, for me, that is going to be such a great entry point for people.”
So, if you had your heart set on making your crew a batch of brownies or spiked-cocktails, by all means, bookmark the perfect recipe, but save it for later: “I would tell people not to start with an edible, because anything that’s inhaled, you’re going to be able to regulate how much you take more easily, it’s not going to last as long and it’s so much less of a commitment.” For first timers, you want to be as in charge of the intensity and duration of your high as possible. Vape for more calculable results.
Tip #3: Pick your moment.
After you’ve selected your low THC strain and you have your vaporizer, pick your moment. Word to the wise: Don’t make it high stakes.
“Set aside some time and space and say, OK, I want to try this, and I’m going to be at home with a few friends who also want to try it and just see how it goes – I think that’s a great way to start,” Carolina says. “That way you’re just dealing with the experience and not the fact that you’ve also committed to attending someone’s wedding, for example.”
Picking your moment may seem like common sense, but do use it. Start there, and your use will become more intuitive. “Over time you’re going to acquire your own limits and know what you like about this and what you don’t – or maybe you don’t like it at all,” says Carolina.
And that would be OK, too. Some people don’t like to drink, others do. Recreational use of both of these substances is everyone’s individual choice.
Tip #4: Don’t assume your engagement with pot will be the same as alcohol.
We tend to see this comparison because we can use both recreationally now, but that doesn’t mean the two substances are comparable.
“I always say: this is different,” says Carolina. “Alcohol is one molecule with many different vehicles – you can have a cocktail, or a beer, or glass of wine, and at the end of the day, you’re having alcohol. Like sugar, sugar is one thing. It comes in many vehicles, but at the end of the day it’s sugar, one chemical structure. Cannabis is different.” This plant is as complex as it is versatile. Carolina breaks it down:
“You start with the single point of cannabis and then it extends out – THC is different from CBD. Different strains are different from each other because of their chemical composition. The amounts of CBD and THC in that particular strain, the minor cannabinoids that we know so little about, they play a role, too. On paper, you could have (2 strains with) 20% THC and those experiences might be totally different. That’s not the case with alcohol, where you are always going to have the same effect.”
Do be discerning, but don’t be overwhelmed. Just do some research into what you want to start with ahead of time, and start online.
Tip #5: Don’t know which strain to choose? Trust the hive.
The internet is a vast ocean of information, but when it comes to research for recreational cannabis use, it’s just where to start.
“The wisdom of the crowd does have some wisdom in it,” says Carolina. “From a recreational point of view, if 8 / 10 people say this is energizing and I can do this and go for a bike ride, I’ll say OK alright, that’s likely the effect you can expect. You may find that for you – and this is why I recommend setting time aside – it does make you sleepy, but your chances of getting the result you are looking for is higher if you rely on the distillation of people’s experiences. That’s the same as asking your friends. That’s a valid thing to do. It’s how we make decisions on everything.”
Feeling a little more confident? Take your new knowledge, head to the OCS and start your cannabis journey. And if you want more cannabis wisdom from Dr. Carolina Landolt, check out her episode on The Dopist podcast where she talks medical cannabis and shares the story of how the Summertree Clinic came to be.