Before the current era of cannabis legalization and popping into your local dispensary, cannabis consumers pretty much had to accept whatever they were given.
Those days are no longer. Dispensaries are a weed smokers version of heaven, packed with an endless array of strains, devices, brands, and paraphernalia. But this massive increase in choice can actually lead to analysis paralysis!
For those new to the game or with less cannabis experience, the options can be daunting. This article will put you on the right track, so you’ll know the difference between concentrates and flower, and what products best suit your cannabis needs. Let’s get to it!
Consumption Methods at your local dispensary
Back in the day, smoking cannabis flower was pretty much your only option. Nowadays, cannabis comes in many different forms. Depending on your reasons for turning to cannabis, be it to just chill out at home, loosen yourself up in social situations, or relieve medical conditions, there is a consumption method out there for you.
Let’s start with the basics. Pure, unadulterated cannabis flower, presented to you in its natural form as God himself intended.
Human beings have been smoking the bud of the cannabis flower since the dawn of man, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.
If you want an almost instantaneous hit, a chance to sit down and slowly savor the subtle differences in flavors and effects of different strains – flower is the way to go.
Personally, nothing gives me more satisfaction than the ritual of a joint. Setting it up, the release of aroma as you grind the herb, rolling it, lighting it up, passing it around…
But the options don’t end there. You can smoke cannabis flower in a joint, bong, blunt, or pipe.
That being said, smoking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not the most healthy option. With respiratory health becoming a higher priority, many people are moving away from smoking and towards more health-conscious ways of getting high (more on that coming up…)
Since legalization, the cannabis industry has put a lot of effort into developing new ways of extracting the active ingredients from the cannabis plant.
Concentrates are a hot new product that is taking the cannabis world by storm. They come in many different forms and strengths, so even this subsection could be divided up again and again.
Compression, CO2 extraction, and ethanol extraction are just a few ways that cannabis extracts are produced. The end goal is usually to make a concentrated form of cannabis that is highly potent. Badder, wax, and hashes are all examples of cannabis concentrates.
These concentrates are usually smoked, either by the conventional methods listed above or with a dab rig. A dab rig contains a heating element or ‘nail’ on which the concentrate is ‘dabbed’ to release the smoke.
Edibles and Beverages
Edibles are another consumption method that has exploded in popularity since legalization. Edibles are simply food and drink that have been infused with the psychoactive ingredients of cannabis.
They come in a vast range of foods, everything from mints, to nachos, to chocolates. There are even restaurants opening that dedicate their entire menu to mind-altering foods.
If you don’t want to go down the smoking route, edibles and beverages are the way to go. There’s nothing to roll, no devices to set up or charge. You just open the wrapper and chew.
It is also easier to work out exactly how much THC or CBD (the natural compounds that do most of the work in cannabis) you are consuming. By law, edibles must be clearly and accurately labeled, perfect for those who want a more measured and precise way to get high.
Not only this, they are probably the most discreet way of consuming cannabis. There are no plumes of smoke, no smell following you around, and people will be none the wiser if you’re tucking into a bag of cannabis-infused potato chips on the bus.
The jury is still largely out on the effectiveness of cannabis topicals, but that hasn’t stopped their rise in popularity.
Anything that is applied to the skin or hair is classed as a topical. Because the ingredients in topicals pass through the skin, a barrier designed to keep things out of the body, there is debate around how much THC and CBD gets into the bloodstream.
Still, many people are claiming to reap the benefits of cannabis-infused skin and hair products. There are many uses for cannabis that are still in the research face, such as its ability to strengthen hair and decrease acne.
Many athletes sing the praises of CBD topicals as an effective way to counter muscle strain and joint aches. I certainly do not wish to argue with the host of MMA fighters who use CBD muscle rubs as part of their training routines.
A few years ago, you couldn’t walk down any street in America without noticing huge clouds of vapor being discharged from small electronic devices. The E-cigarette craze took the world by storm, and it wasn’t long before this trend made its way into cannabis culture.
There are two distinct ways of vaping weed.
The first, and older method, is vaporizing cannabis flower. Devices heat the dried herb to a precise temperature that releases the THC in a vapor without combusting the cannabis. As a result, fewer potentially harmful substances are inhaled.
The second method is vaping e-liquid that is infused with THC. Liquid refills are found at most good cannabis dispensaries and are available in a whole range of strengths and flavors.
Vaping is a softer go-between for those who are wary of the implications of smoking cannabis but still enjoy the ritual of pulling smoke between their lips and into their lungs.
Most commonly associated with CBD, tinctures are liquid alcohol that has been infused with an active ingredient.
You are probably familiar with the little glass bottles with a handy dropper-top lid. The liquid is pulled into the dropper and then dropped under the tongue. Because CBD is primarily taken for its medicinal properties, this harmless and effective method is the most popular way to administer CBD.
But CBD’s bigger sister, THC, can also be taken in this way. It is another excellent way to take accurate doses, as it’s possible to work out exactly how much THC is in every drop. It’s also a popular method for those who don’t like the idea of inhaling their cannabis.
For those who are choosing cannabis flower, the next choice is which strain to buy.
Cannabis has come a long way in the last few decades. Cultivators are pouring their time and effort into crossbreeding and genetic selection. Hundreds of new strains come onto the market every year.
While all of these strains come under the banner of cannabis, there are many factors to consider when picking the right one for you.
There are over 100 different types of cannabinoids, many of which are still unresearched, and there are not two strains that contain the same ratio of cannabinoids. This means the high is different for nearly every strain available.
While these differences may be subtle between some strains, others can be huge. Some strains will lock you to the couch, and others will fill you full of energy. Some may give you a purely cerebral high; others will affect your body. Some will aid concentration and creativity, and others will give you the concentration span of a goldfish.
And then there is flavor. All plants have naturally occurring compounds known as terpenes. It is these terpenes that give them their distinct taste and aroma. Cannabis is no different, and cannabis cultivators spend much of their time creating strains with distinct and unique terpene profiles.
Fruity Pebblez gives you a tropical punch to the taste buds. Sour Diesel gives you an earthy, mouthwatering sourness. Some strains have potent, overwhelming smells you can recognize a mile off, while others have subtler, more delicate tastes.
Picking the right strain for you comes down to personal taste, and nearly all cannabis enthusiasts have a go-to strain that they just can’t get enough of. There are far too many strains to list here. But that’s the fun part! Experimenting with different strains, comparing the effects and flavors is an exciting way to familiarize yourself with the world of cannabis.
You can’t purchase so much as a loaf of bread these days without being told that the wheat was grown on a 100% organic farm and picked by the bare hands of vegan yoga instructors.
Well, cannabis isn’t far behind. Whatever your consumer morals and sensibilities are, the cannabis industry has you covered.
You can buy organically grown cannabis that hasn’t seen a trace of synthetic fertilizer or pesticide.
There’s indoor, hydroponic cannabis grown under artificial light. There’s ganja that is fed only with the goodness of sunshine.
Cannabis is grown by multinational conglomerates floated on the stock market, and by mom and pops, small-scale family operations.
There are black-owned businesses, Jewish-owned businesses, and all-female businesses.
Whatever your political leanings or consumer sentiments, there is a product out there that allows you to spend your money with a clear conscience. There are even Christian dispensaries that allow you to pick up a copy of the Bible while you resupply! The choice is endless.
One thing that ties together all the topics listed above is the potency of the product you’re buying.
For those new to the game, going for lower strength products is definitely the way forward. Easing yourself in slowly is always recommended. Trying to keep up with seasoned smokers is a mistake often made. Experienced smokers build up a tolerance to cannabis. What gives them a nice relaxing high could turn you into a sweaty, paranoid mess.
Start slow, see how you go, and if you feel like you want to take it up a level, then do it bit by bit as you navigate your way through different products.
If you choose cannabis flower, the potency can be a bit tricky to nail down. Most strains will give you a ballpark figure, such as 10-15% THC, so it’s hard to get an entirely accurate figure.
The strength of concentrates is a little more accurate, but there is still a little wiggle room. As mentioned earlier, edibles and tinctures are the best way to know precisely how much THC and CBD is going into your system.
Full-spectrum vs. broad vs. isolate
This one is just for the CBD users out there.
CBD products are generally divided into three categories.
- Full-spectrum has all the cannabinoids found in the plant, including THC. The level of THC ranges from negligible amounts to enough to produce a slight high. You will get the benefits of the complete family of cannabinoids, known as the ‘entourage effect.’
If you’re entirely opposed to the high effects of cannabis or get screened for drugs at work, steer clear of the full spectrum.
- Broad-spectrum CBD has all the cannabinoids apart from THC. You’ll get the benefit of the rest of the plant, but with no risk of the high or any THC showing up in your bloodstream.
- CBD isolate is precisely that. The CBD is separated from the rest of the plant and all the cannabinoids and terpenes that come with it. Pure, unadulterated CBD.
Branding vs. price
Like any other consumer product, the cannabis space is filled with big, well-known brands and smaller, less recognized brands.
And just like other consumer products, the size or familiarity of the brand doesn’t necessarily align with the quality.
There are cannabis businesses out there that spend a fortune on fancy branding, marketing, and advertising, which is reflected in their prices. But that is no guarantee that what’s inside the bag is any better than smaller, humbler brands.
Do your research, dig around and find your local dispensary near me, and you’ll soon find a high-quality, reputable product that suits your budget.