With the passing of Prop 207, Arizona becomes the lucky thirteenth state to legalize recreational cannabis use in the United States, which opens up all sorts of possibilities.
So if you’re completely new to cannabis and feeling overwhelmed, this is for you. Keep reading and soon you’ll have a solid grasp of what cannabis is used for and the best ways to dip your toes into the refreshing green waters.
As a recreational state, Arizona allows anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of cannabis flower and five grams of concentrate (a waxy substance made by extracting the psychoactive components of the flower). That’s more than enough for a beginner like yourself!
So what’s it used for?
Arizona has had legal medical marijuana since 2010. Cannabis has been shown to treat a wide variety of symptoms such as pain, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, low appetite, and many more. Now those people who are seeking relief from a dearth of ailments no longer need to apply for a medical card.
On the other hand, it’s not called recreational marijuana for no reason… cannabis is just a good time! Whether you’re looking to unwind after a long day or indulge in a sensory bacchanal during a walk around the park, cannabis might just replace your evening glass of wine as your go-to method to relax and take the edge off.
The Green Genie brings some advantages to the ring in a head-to-head match-up with alcohol. For one, you’ll be swapping out sweaty nights and hungover mornings with deep sleep and cozy wake-ups. You also skip the liver-punching and calorie-stacking that comes with drinking (although the munchies might mitigate that difference).
Plus, ever watch a movie drunk? Baffling.
What To Partake
OK, let’s run you through the basics so you don’t feel too overwhelmed the first time you step into a dispensary. Namely the different types of cannabis and the different ways to consume them.
If it’s your first time, start with some simple flower (concentrate is generally more potent than flower and is better saved for once you get some experience under your belt — unless you’re using a cartridge, which we’ll get to in a sec).
Cannabis encompasses hundreds of different variants of the same plant, called strains, each toting different profiles that come from its unique combination of the many psychoactive elements that produce cannabis’s trademark effects. Cannabis strains are often broken into three groups that reflect their typical effects:
Indica: Picture a young Brad Pitt glued to his couch in True Romance, and you know what the effects of indica look like. Muscle relaxation, appetite stimulation, drowsiness, all these are typical reactions to an indica-dominant cannabis strain, making it a good choice for evening use or treating specific ailments. Make it easy to remember by thinking “indica” = “in da couch”.
Sativa: If indica is something you feel in your body, sativa is one you feel above the shoulders. Creative outbursts, complete immersion into the book in your hands, or a strong desire for a brisk walk through nature are not at all uncommon after a hit of this energy-inducing group of strains. A sativa may lead to an elevated mood and increased energy, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself dancing through the house as you knock chores off your list.
Hybrids are one more common category that comes from crossing the genes of sativa plants with those of an indica to create something new entirely, combining and diversifying the effects of the original strains.
These are general guidelines, and strains can vary in their effects from person to person. While this will give you a good baseline from which to start, experimentation is key to finding the kind of cannabis you best prefer.
And strains are only half of the equation — how you partake is just as important as what you’re partaking!
How To Partake
The ol’ reliable method is smoking — whether in a pipe, a joint, or cooled through the water of a bong, smoking is the most common way to enjoy cannabis. Buy a preroll or roll your own; take a toke from a one-hitter or a glass bowl; however you do it, the heat from your lighter will activate the psychoactive compounds in cannabis like THC and CBD and send them hurtling through your lungs and into your bloodstream in an instant. That gives smoking cannabis perhaps the shortest-latency time between inhale and high.
Smoking — simple, straightforward, and accessible.
On the other hand, smoke can be harsh and irritating to the lungs, leaving you coughing and with a fuzzy feeling in your mouth. For those reasons, more and more people are turning to vaporizers as their method of choice.
Vaporizers (commonly called vapes) use a heating element that reaches a certain temperature to vaporize the good stuff while keeping the temperature below what produces tar and other carcinogens when smoking, leaving a cleaner and cooler cloud for you to inhale. However, the jury is still out on whether any temperature of hot gas is safe for your lungs, so use your judgment on what you’re comfortable with.
Vapes come in all shapes and sizes, from those meant to handle flower to disposable cartridges pre-filled with concentrates for your convenience. Vaping cannabis lends a distinct profile of flavors when compared to smoke and a mildly different effect, so give it a try and see if it’s your cup of tea.
Speaking of tea, there’s a whole other branch of cannabis products that don’t require the inhalation of any hot gasses and are significantly more discreet: edibles. Gummy bears, mints, sodas, syrups, coffees, chocolate bars… the edible scene is like wandering into Willy’s Chocolate Factory — Nelson’s, not Wonka’s.
Rather than using a flame to activate your cannabis, edibles use an entirely different process. Without getting too far into the weeds (wink), it’s enough to understand that THC and other psychoactive compounds are activated before being infused into the edible product. It’s then metabolized by your liver, circulated through your bloodstream, and ultimately to your brain. What results is a more body-focused high that is slower to come on and will last much longer, making it ideal for people with chronic pain.
Edibles can be particularly potent, so be sure to start small (around 5 mg per dose) and work your way up from there. In fact, that’s good advice no matter where you start with cannabis:
Take it slow! Cannabis is like seasoning — you can add more if you need it, but you can’t take it off once it’s on. Enjoy a puff from your pipe then sit back and relax, and assess how you feel after about twenty minutes.
So experiment and find what suits your tastes the best, and enjoy Arizona’s newfound freedom to partake in this wonderful plant!