Don’t Fear the Reefer: a guide to comfortable cannabis consumption

Feeling “too high” can be scary. We’ve all heard the horror stories of paranoia and discomfort. A bad experience can leave a lasting impression, one that may deter folks from seeking out the wide-ranging relief that cannabis can offer to those who consume it responsibly. The best way to avoid an overwhelming experience is by following the cardinal rule: START LOW and GO SLOW.

How much should I take?

This is going to depend on the type of effects you are looking to achieve, the type of ingestion method you prefer, and your tolerance. As a general rule, the lower the THC concentration, the less intoxication you are likely to feel. But, a “low” dose for one may be an uncomfortable dose for another. Our Endocannabinoid Systems are each more unique than our fingerprints, with many fluctuating variables to consider between product and person!

Edibles cause the most trouble and can be more trick than treat if not consumed responsibly. Many of us have unexpectedly overindulged on a homemade brownie in adolescence or a potent purchased medible as access without regulation or education became more widespread. It is impossible to know how an individual will respond to an ingestible until they’ve tried it. A person could smoke an ounce of flower every day and still be sensitive to a 5mg edible; conversely, a 90lb novice might need 20mgs of THC to feel intoxicated. You just don’t know until you try, which is why it is so important to start LOW.

Why are edibles so unpredictable?   

When you eat something it has to be digested before your body can access its full nutritional value through the bloodstream. Same thing goes for cannabis edibles. Before you can feel the effects, your body must digest and metabolize the cannabis. This can take a while depending on how recently you’ve eaten, what you’ve consumed, the ingredients in the edible, and your metabolism (which can change).

After oral consumption, effects are generally felt within two hours and can last anywhere from 2-8 hours, again, depending on the above factors as well as individual tolerance, which can vary widely and change with time. Go SLOW and wait at least two hours before ingesting another dose if you are not feeling the effects you desire. Set a timer if you have to, because the Time Warp isn’t just a song from Rocky Horror, and rushing into higher doses can certainly sneak up you.

Additionally, activated THC in edibles (known as Delta-9 THC) is metabolized by the liver and translated into a new type of cannabinoid, 11-Hydroxy-THC. Therefore, while some cannabinoids may be absorbed more directly into the bloodstream via the mucous membranes in the mouth (especially through sublingual dosing) and stomach acids may deplete others, the body processes what is left over into something far more potent and long-lasting.

Dosing Edibles

When it comes to edibles, if you are looking for an intoxicating experience, most people fall within a comfortable dosing range between 2.5-15 milligrams of THC. In Oregon, edibles are capped at 50mgs of THC per package with 5mg doses. This can mean a dosing guide on the side of the package or individually dosed pieces. If you don’t yet know your tolerance, it is wise to choose an edible with precisely dosed pieces so that you can better monitor your intake and comfort levels.

A high CBD concentration can also help mitigate a negative THC experience by creating a weakened binding affinity for THC at receptor sites. With both CBD and THC present, many find they can also lower their overall dose to get the same relief they would get at higher doses of those cannabinoids in isolation.

Inhalants, like smoking and vaping, offer fast acting effects with shorter duration than edibles. If you’re new to cannabis or it’s been a while:

  • Start LOW and go SLOW. A puff or two will do, with at least 10-15 minutes between sessions.
  • Choose a low THC option. With some exceptions, below 20% is the magic number with whole flower. Far less, sometimes, if you’re interested in a functional, cognitively clear experience.
  • Choose a high CBD option. CBD can mitigate a negative THC response and provide a more forgiving high, or, little to no high when in tandem with very low THC percentages.  
  • Use a flower vaporizer. Inhalants offer ideal bioavailability, but combustion can evaporate volatile compounds, like more delicate terpenes, that would otherwise enhance therapeutic value, thereby creating a more THC driven experience. Additionally, people with compromised immune systems or lung conditions are less likely to want to consume through combustion. Flower vaporizers set at low temperatures can offer a more controlled, gentle experience while being easier on the lungs and preserving a more full-spectrum profile of therapeutic compounds.
  • Avoid alcohol when consuming cannabis as they can compound and intensify one another’s effects, even in seasoned users.

 

Topicals are an excellent starting point. They can be used for site-specific pain and inflammation relief without risk of intoxication. They are the best way to introduce yourself or a hesitant someone to the power of cannabis without fear of a change in cognition, blood pressure, heart rate, or anxiety from overconsumption. They are applied as needed, but front-loading applications several times per day often offers the most relief over time – an exception to the Low & Slow mantra.

 

Safe Spaces

Environment and atmosphere also play a role in achieving positive cannabis experiences:

  • Find your safe space. Whether that means alone, with friends, snuggled up inside, or out in Nature, allow yourself a comfortable space in which to consume.
  • Give yourself time. Set aside time to enjoy and observe the effects. Potent effects can be pleasantly incapacitating, even transformative, when life’s chores aren’t looming.
  • Pay attention to the energy you are given and use it accordingly. An active, cerebrally stimulating high might encourage physical activity or creative endeavors, while a body focused high may be perfect for reading a book or watching a movie.
  • Let go of the myths and misconceptions perpetuated by prohibition propaganda. They are the tales told to keep us in fear and Pharma.

 

“Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – John Ehrlichman, White House Domestic Affairs Advisor under Nixon

 

Remember, cannabis has literally saved lives. It has never taken one. Not even once. Our bodies have evolved in tandem with this polypharmaceutical powerhouse over thousands of years and research is beginning to prove just how important a healthy Endocannabinoid System is to optimal internal homeostasis and our ability to resist and control a whole host of devastating diseases.

If you are interested in exploring the benefits of cannabis but are still unsure where to begin, come talk to us. Email us, call us, stop in – we are here to be your spirit guides on your journey to wellness. We are here to ease your fears.

 

Andrea Sparr-Jaswa

Andrea Sparr-Jaswa is the co-director of education and outreach at Farma in Portland, Oregon, where she is responsible for aggregating and analyzing customer facing data. She advocates for accessibility and comprehensive understanding by using current research and resources to address the questions and concerns that have been steeped in myth and stigma. Andrea is passionate about helping folks form a lasting and positive relationship with cannabis through the language of science.