It’s Amazing What You Can Get Used To
What do we accept as “normal” when we use cannabis? Here’s a list of commonly reported negative side effects:
Rapid heart beat
An overwhelming head high or mental fog
Unable to function
This article is intended for people who have inconsistent and unpredictable experiences with cannabis. However, even if you have a very large tolerance and are able to consume as much weed as you’d like without any problems, this is still worth reading so you can help someone who is not so lucky.
If you are looking for some advice on how to control your cannabis experience, you are not alone. One 2018 report on trends in the cannabis industry found that the number of first-time users grew by 180%, due to increased legalization. No doubt many of these people are wondering how to consume cannabis in a safe, predictable, and enjoyable way.
Rather than thinking of negative side effects as inevitable reactions to cannabis, it may be more accurate to think of these as reactions to an overly-large dose. To be sure, some people just do not react well to cannabis, no matter how potent the product. But others may be surprised to find that if they intentionally lower their cannabis dose, many of the negative reactions listed above are avoidable.
Comparisons between alcohol and cannabis are not always helpful, but in this case they are warranted. When it comes to dosage of alcohol, most people know that one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor all contain about the same amount of alcohol (Imperial Russian Stouts and 151-proof rum notwithstanding).
Furthermore, people use this general understanding of alcohol potency to help control and predict the effect that it will have; one drink means you’re just relaxing and could drive, if needed. On the other hand, having more than a few drinks generally means you’re ready to get drunk.
Unfortunately, this basic understanding of alcohol potency doesn’t seem to exist in the world of cannabis. How much of an edible should you eat? How much of a joint should you smoke? These answers are not at all clear to a new user. If true, this lack of a basic understanding of cannabis dosage is a huge hindrance for new users that would like to try cannabis without risking an eight hour freakout.
It’s Time To Agree On A Starting Dose!
To address cannabis dosing, let’s start with any products labeled with the number of milligrams of THC they contain (typically edibles, capsules, oils, etc.).
Cannabis physicians agree that one minimum effective “dose” of cannabis is 5mg of THC.
If we can all agree to use this as a starting place, potency effects of edible cannabis products will be much easier to predict.
Some people may want two doses (10mg THC) or more to get their desired effect. Others may want to microdose with 2.5mg if they don’t want to feel high at all.
In any case, if cannabis industry thought leaders unify behind the mantra of “1 dose = 5mg THC,” this would be a huge step forward.
Inhalation Dosage Is Tricky
Now, let’s say that, after a little experimentation, you figure out that 10mg of THC is just right for you. This means that no matter the product, you can adjust your dose accordingly, as long as the mg of THC are clearly labeled. But, how can we smoke or vaporize cannabis flower with this same kind of confidence and predictability? In short, we can’t.
For starters, flower strains differ drastically in their cannabinoid (THC is the most commonly reported) and terpene profiles (a large concentration of terpenes can amplify the psychoactive effect of THC). So let’s use two more numbers to help get a better idea of what to expect from inhaling flower.
For THC percentage, consider 20% or more to be very strong.
But what if you don’t have information on the strain you want to use? The safest approach to controlling for the potentially high potency of an unknown strain is to start with one or two small inhalations. Then, wait at least 15 minutes to determine whether you would like more.
How do you have a small inhalation? That is sure difficult to do if you are torching a packed bowl! Therefore, if possible, pack yourself a very small amount that you can inhale all at once (about the size of a pea; this will look like it is not enough, but try it anyway — you can always try again). If you are sharing a packed bowl, light the bowl on the edge to ignite just a little bit of flower. You can also try using a magnifying glass to “solar puff,” which gives you a tight, concentrated laser beam of sunlight to ignite your bowl, rather than the wider flame of a lighter.
If you really want to get serious about controlling your dosage, consider investing in a vaporizer that controls your dose for you. These are becoming increasingly common.
Research Shows That Lower Dosages Can Be More Effective
Make no mistake, intentionally lowering your cannabis dosage takes self control; cannabis culture typically encourages higher doses than many people are comfortable with.
But you might be pleasantly surprised at what lower-than-usual doses of cannabis can do. In fact, some research shows that lower doses of THC are more medicinally beneficial than higher ones.
Get With The Times
Functional cannabis use is the next frontier of the industry. Join this growing movement by intentionally using cannabis to maximize the enjoyment of your experience while minimizing unpleasant side effects.
Even if you don’t have a problem with adverse reactions to cannabis, educating yourself and others about dosage could save a lot of people from a preventable bad experience — the more of these “freakouts” that are prevented, the more approachable the cannabis industry can become.