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7 Tips For First-Timers Trying Legal Pot: Sager On Weed

No. 1: Go easy on edibles — cookies, gummies, chocolates, suckers. It might seem like a good way to try weed the first time, but it’s not.

By Mike Sager , Patch Contributing Writer
Jun 18, 2019 2:44 p m PT | Updated Jun 18, 2019 4:53 p m PT

LA JOLLA, Calif. — As a weed smoker from the free state of California, I’d like to be among the first to welcome you good people of Illinois to the exclusive club of 11 U.S. states that allow citizens, age 21 and up, to engage in the recreational use of marijuana.

Come Jan. 1, 2020, anyone over 21 in Illinois will be able to walk into a well-lit, state-licensed dispensary and buy a wide range of cannabis-based products, the main purpose of which are physical comfort and euphoria. I know we all could use a little more of that.

If you’re a first-time user, you need some rules of the road. Otherwise you might end up like my old friend Maureen Dowd, whose recent New York Times column recounted her horrific, first-time experience with weed-infused chocolate in a lonely Denver hotel.

Dowd and I came up together as cub journalists in DC, and I knew her then as brilliant and fearless; along with her news and writing chops, she had a take-no-prisoners playing style at the co-ed touch football games attended by the younger members of the press corps every Sunday at the base of the Washington Monument. As part of research on a story about weed in Colorado, Dowd showed her grit recently when she retired to her room with a weed-infused candy bar, overdosed herself, and ended up “curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours.”

[ COMMENTARY ]

If I’d been there to advise her, the first thing I would have noted: It is exceedingly unlikely that you will kill yourself with a marijuana overdose. In a landmark ruling in 1988, the US Drug Enforcement Administration determined that a weed user would need to smoke up to 1,500 pounds of weed (roughly 1.4 million marijuana cigarettes) in 15 minutes to “induce a lethal response.”

“Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man,” wrote the DEA’s chief administrative law judge. “By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care.”

A lot of people end up in emergency rooms every year after using pot. Many of them feel exactly as Dowd describes.

The truth is, you can suffer from medical problems after consuming excessive amounts of marijuana, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. It is also a fact that the active ingredients can cause “extreme paranoia” or make some people prone to do idiotic and dangerous things. A five-year, state-funded study of emergency room visits in Colorado found that vomiting, racing hearts and “psychotic episodes” were common. Over that five-year period there were three deaths tied to edible products.

Neither would it be right to overlook the fact that the American Lung Association officially cautions the public “against smoking marijuana because of the risks it poses to the lungs,” and urges continued research.

So, if you decide to take the plunge Jan. 1, here are some tips that might help once you enter the mystical portals of your first dispensary.

Tip No. 1: Go easy on the edibles — cookies, gummies, chocolates, suckers. It might seem like a good way to try weed for the first time, but it’s not.

Edibles are an imprecise art. The amount of time a particular edible takes to go into effect varies wildly from minutes to hours. Take notice of how many milligrams of THC — tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in weed — are included in each serving. If you’ve never tried an edible, start with only 5mg on an empty stomach — and have patience. Wait at least two hours before you decide to try another piece. As Dowd found out, the instructions on the various packages are not always clear.

Watch out for baked treats like weed brownies, which seem like a perfect stoner product, featuring the high and the munchies-satisfier all in one package. Even the best weed pastry chef will tell you it’s difficult to distribute THC evenly through a brownie — so even if you break off a piece, you really don’t know how much you’re getting.

If you’re looking for just the right amount of THC orally, try tinctures (dropperfuls) or rapidly dissolving lozenges, both placed under the tongue. Both of these products are easily quantified.

Tip No. 2: Smoking weed is still the most efficient and controllable method of ingesting.
When you smoke weed, the active ingredient, THC, moves quickly through the blood/brain barrier and goes to work. Take a small hit to start. In 10 to 20 seconds you should begin to feel effects. If you want to be safe, wait a full minute between puffs — is not unusual to cough on the first hit. Don’t suck gluttonously, just take a sip. Try adding fresh air to the end of your puff. Hold your breath for 10 to 30 seconds. Exhale.

Tip No. 3: Legalizing weed brings a wide variety of products to the marketplace. You can’t just hit up your dealer ask for an oh-zee anymore. You’ve got choices. There are different strains. Experiment to find out what you like.

* Sativa is energetic. It makes you feel awake and creative. It has the most THC. But like caffeine, it can also make you feel edgy — note that the patients’ symptoms mentioned above sound a lot like severe anxiety. Do not smoke sativa within four hours of bedtime.

* Indica is good for relaxing. It has a lower concentration of THC than sativa, but a higher concentration of CBD (cannabidiol). CBD is one of more than a hundred “phytocannabinoids,” unique to cannabis, which endow the plant with the many healing properties attributed. Indica makes you feel heavy and sleepy. Smoke this before bed.

* Hybrid, like it sounds, is in the middle. Most pot is actually hybridized, but let’s not confuse ourselves right now. With legal pot comes mandated state testing. Each product will have labels with testing results indicating the percentage and amount of THC. The higher the percentage, the stronger the weed. Different types of weed within the same strain profile will have slightly different effects.

Tip No. 4: Concentrates are the new frontier. Also called hash oil (even though it can be solid as well as viscous), concentrates are used in vape, dabs, edibles, drinks, and all kinds of cosmetic and semi-medicinal products. Concentrates are produced when all of the useable chemicals are extracted from marijuana flower and leaves using a number of methods, most commonly a large and expensive C02 extractor of the type that is used to extract caffeine from coffee to make decaf, or to extract herbal essences from plants like lavender or rose petals to make floral scents.

With weed flower, which is another name for the unprocessed buds, the highest known concentration of THC is about 28 percent. With concentrate, the percentage is usually between 70 and 90 percent. (Yes, this is strong.)

Vape cartridges, used in concert with a rechargeable battery, can be smoked anywhere; there is no skunky aroma of burning flower, only a minimal smell. Many cartridges are flavored with natural ingredients called terpenes. (Unlike nicotine vapes, there is no billow of smoke.) The word most often associated with vape is discreet. Puff away absolutely anywhere, but be chill.

No matter which type you smoke, flower or vape, at home or in public, please do not exhibit the stereotypical pot-smoking behavior —all the excessive sucking and ostentatious sound-making, that poseurs and actors regularly display. Just chill out and don’t draw attention to yourself. Act like you’re smoking a Juul vape or a Marlboro and nobody will give you a second glance.

Aficionados appreciate concentrates in their solid form, known as dabs. Often pursued with the fervor of an elaborate hobby, dabs require a special glass bong (blown-glass models can sell for up to $10,000) and lots of paraphernalia, including a torch or electric nail.

The effects of dabs are the most intense one can find with THC. They can also make you sleepy. In the dabbing community, people are known to nod out after a few hits, a condition known as DTFO — Dabbed the F— Out. There is frequently an excessive amount of coughing, which experts attribute to the strength of the concentrate; there is no science to back this up.

Tip No. 5: Smoking weed before alcohol can add a pleasant synergy. Smoking weed after drinking will f— you up. (Though nowhere near the degree that tobacco smoke will a non-smoker).

Tip No. 6: If you find yourself feeling too high, eat food. One doughnut or a slice will minimize the high. When your body starts to digest the food, you will start to “come down.” Either way, don’t be a glutton with the munchies. I’ve been smoking regularly for 50 years. Google tells me that five-foot-five and 145 puts me where I should be. (Maybe because I smoke pot instead of drinking tons of beer?)

Tip No. 7: Under the Illinois statutes, businesses may still test employees for drug use. Find out the rules at your place of work before you get yourself fired.

There is so much more to tell you, and we will soon meet again. But meanwhile, let me leave you with these two important considerations.

Even though weed will soon be legalized for recreational use, smoking weed while driving is still considered Driving Under the Influence. If your car reeks, you will go down. Even if you’re feeling clear enough, say, to write a column for a website, there is a possibility you will be hauled away in handcuffs.

If you get pulled over and your car does not smell — and if your eyes are not glassy, etc — and if you happen to have a big baggie of pot in your trunk, the cop can’t do anything. Under Illinois’ new law, anyone over 21 may legally possess 30 grams of weed, which is little more than an ounce, or roughly $400 worth.

An ounce might be enough to get Snoop Dogg high for at least a week, provided he was Bogarting his blunts, not passing ’em on. If that ain’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Which reminds me of the time I made Snoop cough with my own favorite strain of weed … I’ll tell you about that later.

Meantime, feel free to write here with any questions.

Mike Sager is a bestselling author and award-winning reporter. His work has appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, GQ and the Washington Post. Many of his stories have been optioned for or have inspired films or documentaries. He has been called “the Beat poet of American journalism, that rare reporter who can make literature out of shabby reality.”

7 Tips For First-Timers Trying Legal Pot: Sager On Weed – La Jolla, CA – No. 1: Go easy on edibles — cookies, gummies, chocolates, suckers. It might seem like a good way to try weed the first time, but it's not.

Buying Marijuana

Contacting Highs: Our Guide to Buying Marijuana

Cannabis users across the United States are entering uncharted territories as states, beginning with Washington and Colorado and later including California, Nevada, Oregon, the District of Columbia, Maine, and Massachusetts, legalize marijuana for recreational use and sale. Whether you’re a curious newbie, a user from days past getting back into cannabis now that it’s legal, or a seasoned stoner wanting to take your habits above ground, the process for purchasing medicinal and recreational cannabis can be confusing and daunting given the variety of options available.

That’s why we’ve created our Guide to Buying Marijuana. Read on to learn what you can buy, where you can buy it, and how you can consume your purchase.

Note: Unfortunately, in the vast majority of the country marijuana remains illegal for recreational use, and less than half of all states have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes. In this guide, we include methods of buying marijuana that are deemed illegal – even in states that have legalized recreational pot. We do not advocate or support these methods, but have included them because they are common knowledge. When buying marijuana, remember to be safe, be smart, and know the law.

Ways to Buy Marijuana

Where can you buy cannabis? Here are the most common ways to purchase pot.

  • Dispensary
    • A clarification: “dispensary” is often used to describe any store that sells cannabis and cannabis products, meaning “dispensary” and “retail store” are sometimes used interchangeably. For our purposes in this guide, we define a dispensary as a business that specifically caters to medicinal marijuana patients, while a retail store is defined as a store that sells recreational products to any adult.
    • Dispensaries sell medicinal products to patients. This means you must have a doctor’s prescription–and in many cases, be registered with the state in which you reside as a medical marijuana patient–to enter the dispensary and purchase cannabis products.
    • Currently, more states have made medical marijuana legal than have legalized recreational weed.
    • In the states where both are legal, patients will likely find a greater variety of products and lower prices in dispensaries than in retail stores.
    • To learn more about buying medical marijuana, see our section on Medicinal Buying.
  • Retail Store
    • In states where recreational marijuana is legal, adults age 21 and over can purchase cannabis and cannabis products from retail stores.
    • Here’s the status of recreational stores in the various states:
      • Washington – recreational stores are open.
      • Colorado – recreational stores are open.
      • Alaska – recreational stores are open.
      • Oregon – recreational stores are open.
      • California – recreational stores are open.
      • Maine – recreational stores are not yet open.
      • Massachusetts – recreational stores are not yet open.
      • Nevada – recreational stores are not yet open.
      • Washington, DC – while possession and cultivation of recreational marijuana has been legalized, the law does not allow for the creation of retail stores or a retail industry.
    • To learn more about buying recreational weed, see our section on Recreational Buying below.
  • Delivery Service
    • Many large cities have delivery services that will deliver marijuana straight to your door.
      • These businesses typically serve only the area within the city limits of their location and will not deliver outside of that area.
      • Customers place orders online or by phone and a representative shows up at their door with the products requested.
    • Delivery services may be available in municipalities that have legalized recreational marijuana and/or medical marijuana, or in places where marijuana is still illegal.
    • In both Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, services delivering recreational pot are available but technically illegal.
      • The laws around delivering medical pot are murkier but the practice is generally legal, barring any local laws banning it.
    • In Alaska, delivery services are legal and available.
    • In Nevada and the District of Columbia, delivery services for medical marijuana are legal but not so for recreational marijuana.
    • In California, Maine, and Massachusetts, the laws are a bit murky, but delivery services may be available, even though illegal.
    • In Oregon, delivery is legal, but there are many specifications and rules about how it is carried out.
    • In places where marijuana is still illegal, delivery services may exist (and even be thriving, like in New York City) but these services are still illegal.
      • Use of these services often requires a reference from a current customer.
      • Arrest and prosecution may occur for using one of these services in places where marijuana possession is still illegal.
  • Online
    • Similar to delivery services, there are online sources for marijuana but all or most are illegal.
    • Websites:
      • Some websites advertise that customers can place orders online and the marijuana will ship anywhere in the U.S.
        • But no matter where the shipping destination is located, this is illegals since shipping or transporting marijuana across state lines is a federal offense in addition to being a state offense.
        • No legalized states allow online purchases.
      • Ordering online also exposes you to being ripped off since you won’t know if you’re getting what you paid for (quantity, quality, etc.) until you open the package. And then, there’s no recourse if your order is wrong.
    • Dark Web / Deep Web drug markets:
      • Hidden websites exist on encrypted networks and have marketplaces set up allowing for illicit trade, including that of cannabis and cannabis products.
      • These illegal exchanges have been the target of both federal and international efforts seeking to shut them down and incarcerate the people responsible.
      • Here again, you can’t be sure that you’re going to get what you paid for, and you’re putting yourself at risk for prosecution.
    • Listing on websites such as Craigslist:
      • These listings offer delivery to customers or will make arrangements to meet a customer somewhere to complete a transaction.
      • Once again, you have no idea what you’re getting, and there’s no recourse if you do get ripped off.
  • The Black Market
    • This refers to all underground, illegal weed sales. In states where recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal, this includes all sales occurring outside a state-licensed store or dispensary, such as:
      • Street transactions
      • Buying from your long-time dealer
      • Buying any re-sold recreational or medical products
    • In states where the possession of recreational and/or medical marijuana is still illegal, any and all pot transactions are illegal, and the only way to get pot is on the Black Market.
    • No matter how you cut it, the rules are pretty clear: buying illegally is buying illegally, and if caught, you’re subject to prosecution and penalty.
Why Buy Legally

In states where recreational and/or medical marijuana is legal, many users still prefer to go the Black Market route. They cite reasons such as price, quality, and convenience. So why buy pot through legal channels such as a store or dispensary?

  • Quality assurance – especially with regard to recreational products, states test marijuana to monitor quality and ensure customers that they’re getting what they pay for. No risk of schwag, laced products, or oregano masquerading as ganja.
  • No finger on the scale – when you buy a certain amount of marijuana and/or marijuana products, you get the weights and portions you paid for. Even in the case of edibles, the amount of pot noted on the package is the amount you get.
  • Help your community – recreational weed is taxed (and in some states, it is taxed HEAVILY) and those tax dollars go to schools, other municipal projects, and to building and maintaining the state’s recreational sale and regulation infrastructure. These are worthwhile things to support, and you can do so just by buying and enjoying pot legally (even if it costs a little extra).
  • And best of all…IT’S LEGAL. If you follow the laws and purchase and consume responsibly, you can’t be penalized for it. And that’s what so many pro-420 activists have worked hard to achieve.

Recreational Buying

Legalizing Recreational Marijuana in the United States

On November 6, 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize the possession, consumption, and sale of recreational marijuana in the United States. These states ended a century of prohibition and blazed the trail for 6 additional states to follow suit in the years since (along with Washington, DC which legalized possession and consumption, though not purchase).

See our individual states guides to learn more about the paths to legalization. Below is a brief overview of what you need to know.

  • The laws passes by our nation’s capital and 8 states to legalize recreational marijuana are in direct defiance of federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This means the possession, sale, and/or distribution of pot is a federal offense.
    • The Department of Justice during the Obama administration chose to take a hands-off, wait-and-see approach with states that legalized recreational weed notifying the states that there would be no action taken if they:
      • Kept marijuana out of the hands of minors
      • Made sure marijuana was not transported to neighboring states where it wasn’t legal
      • Kept money from legal sales away from organized crime
    • But these states are now bracing for the possibility that the Trump administration will take an anti-marijuana position, particularly after the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
  • Each of the states that legalized recreational weed took slightly different approaches to the process.
    • Colorado is free-wheeling and industry-friendly which means more shops, bigger business, and less restrictive regulation.
    • Washington, in contrast, is much more cautious and methodical about implementation. That means fewer shops, a more discreet industry, and higher taxes (which leads to higher prices).
    • Alaska, Oregon, and the other states chose approaches that resemble Washington state while DC legalized possession and cultivation of marijuana but not a retail industry.
  • The recreational industry in each state is unfolding at varying paces. Stores are open in some but not in others, and many local municipalities who have the power to ban marijuana sales have chosen to do so
  • With more and more citizens, government agencies, and legislatures warming to legalization, we can expect ballot measures supporting recreational marijuana to become more and more common.
Age Restrictions

How old do you have to be to buy legal weed?

21 and over. The states that have legalized recreational weed to date are treating marijuana much like alcohol, allowing only adults 21 and over to buy it legally.

So, don’t expect the age threshold to be lowered unless the same happens for alcohol (and there’s no reason to think that’s a probability any time soon).

Where to Buy Recreational Marijuana

In all 8 states that have passed legalization measures, adults 21 and over can buy recreational marijuana and cannabis products only from licensed retail stores. That’s it. That means:

  • No delivery services (depending on your state)
    • Though some businesses operate as delivery services and say they don’t take payment, but instead “request a donation” for delivery, or sell other products and give a “gift” of marijuana along with them, these tactics still qualify as “marijuana sales” to the police, so they’re illegal
    • In some states, it may be legal for recreational and/or medicinal cannabis to be delivered. Be sure to know the laws in your municipality
  • No internet sales
  • No nothing but at a licensed store

What else to be aware of:

  • Some municipalities in legalized states have chosen to ban retail stores even though marijuana sales are legal in the state
  • There’s no consumption allowed on store premises, so no free samples or Amsterdam-style cafes
  • All weed purchased in a state must be consumed in that state.
    • Don’t try to transport legal pot across state lines into states where it is illegal. This is considered to be federal trafficking.
      • At the very least, the cops take your weed, and at worst, you’re facing a felony charge and hard time
How Much You Can Buy
Measuring Pot

Cannabis – whether bud, edibles, tinctures, or topicals – is measured in grams and/or ounces. While grams are the baseline for weed measurements in relation to cultivation and sales in most cases, state laws customarily note allowable amounts in ounces.

To get an idea of how much weed is in an ounce (the most an adult can buy at once in most retail stores):

  • There are 28 grams in one ounce
  • The average amount in a joint is slightly less than half a gram
  • So one ounce of weed equals 56-60 joints

At recreational stores, products are sold in the form of smoke-able bud by the gram, or in processed, prepackaged quantities like edibles (for prepackaged items, price is determined in part by how many grams of cannabis were used to make the product). To learn more about marijuana in its various forms – such as how to consume it, how much is considered one serving, etc. – see our section on Consuming Marijuana.

There are well known slang terms for different quantities of pot that actually originated during prohibition as code used in underground transactions. You don’t need to know them to buy retail pot since measurements in retail stores will be shown in grams in an effort by the cannabis industry to disassociate from its pre-legal past, but if you see or hear any of these terms, here’s what they mean.

  • Nickel -1⁄2 gram of marijuana (those many stores will not sell less than 1 gram)
  • Dime – 1 gram of marijuana
  • Dub – 2 grams
  • Eighth – 1⁄8 ounce of marijuana, or 3.5 grams
  • Quarter – 1⁄4 ounce of marijuana, or 7 grams
  • Half – 1⁄2 ounce of marijuana, or 14 grams
  • Zip, Zone, O, or Lid – 1 ounce of marijuana, or 28 grams
State Limits

Here are the amounts of weed you are allowed to buy in the states where recreational marijuana is legal (though retail stores are not yet open in all states; see our list above for details):

  • Washington – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • Colorado – 1 ounce (28 grams)
    • Non-residents can buy only 1/4 ounce (7 grams)
  • Alaska – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • Nevada – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • Oregon – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • Maine – 2.5 ounces (70 grams)
  • Massachusetts – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • California – 1 ounce (28 grams)
  • Washington, DC – none; the nation’s capital legalized possession, use and cultivation, but not retail sales
  • Note that the amount you can buy may differ in some states for each of the various forms of cannabis (bud, concentrates, edibles, tinctures, etc.; see our section on Consuming Marijuana to learn more).
How Much Retail Weed Costs
Current Pricing

What to expect, on average, at retail stores.

  • High quality – $233 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $191 per ounce
  • High quality – $243 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $199 per ounce
  • High quality – $296 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $251 per ounce
  • High quality – $271 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $235 per ounce
  • High quality – $211 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $186 per ounce
  • High quality – $299 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $236 per ounce
  • High quality – $340 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $285 per ounce
  • High quality – $249 per ounce
  • Medium quality – $204 per ounce
Factors That Affect Price
  • Tax – state taxes will be applied to your purchase and, in some cases, local taxes will also apply.
  • Supply – the more cannabis produced and/or available, the lower the prices. If less is produced/available, prices go up.
  • Harvest – the size of a harvest affects supply.

Buying Medical Marijuana

Legalizing Medical Marijuana in the United States

In 1996, California voters took the historic step of legalizing medical marijuana by passing Proposition 215. Fast forward more than two decades, and there are now 23 states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam, that allow approved patients to have medicinal access to cannabis and cannabis products.

Though each state has its own specific laws regarding medical marijuana (MMJ), particularly where possession limits and cultivation of plants is concerned, most of them have a very similar framework for how patients qualify for and purchase medicinal cannabis:

  • Doctors may recommend medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions that are improved with cannabis use.
    • Because marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance at the federal level, doctors cannot prescribe it. Instead, they provide referrals or recommendations to patients – essentially prescriptions, but different legal terminology.
  • Referral in hand, patients may then obtain a Medical Marijuana Card from their state (sometimes nicknamed “Green Cards”).
  • With their MMJ cards, patients may visit licensed dispensaries that sell medicinal cannabis and cannabis products.
    • Only MMJ patients may visit medical dispensaries, and dispensaries may only sell to card-carrying MMJ patients.

Without a doubt, the acceptance of marijuana for medicinal use has dramatically increased support for legalizing recreational marijuana. It is no coincidence that every state or municipality that has legalized recreational marijuana thus far had already legalized MMJ in prior years.

Getting Approved for a Medical Marijuana Card
Conditions That Qualify for Medical Marijuana

To qualify for MMJ, patients must have a preexisting condition approved for MMJ use. The exact conditions vary by state, but generally include:

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Nausea
  • HIV or AIDs
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic nervous system disorders
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Loss of appetite from other medication/treatment
  • Arthritis
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Hepatitis C
  • Persistent muscle spasms

To learn more about what conditions are eligible for medical marijuana, visit your state health department’s website.

Who Can Recommend Medical Marijuana

Again, laws vary by state, but generally a patient’s primary care provider can recommend medical marijuana.

In most states, these providers include:

  • Doctors
  • Physician assistants
  • Advanced registered nurse practitioners
  • Naturopaths

If your primary care provider objects to giving referrals for medical marijuana, it will likely not be difficult to find another provider who actively recommends MMJ to qualifying patients. Many of them, in fact, advertise openly that they give MMJ referrals.

When searching for an MMJ-friendly provider, look for one that:

  • Is a licensed professional that meets your state’s criteria for recommending MMJ
  • Checks patients’ records prior to making a recommendation
  • Conducts a thorough exam prior to making a recommendation
  • Cares about your overall health and well-being
Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card

Once you have received an MMJ referral from a qualified medical provider, you will need to obtain your medical marijuana card by completing a state-required application and submitting it to the regulatory body who oversees the state’s medical marijuana program. Once your application is approved, you will receive the card that allows you to enter and make purchases from a state-licensed dispensary..

  • A note: In some states, such as Washington, patients do not have to obtain a state MMJ card; instead, a doctor’s recommendation is all that is required. However, many of the providers who make the recommendations in these states will give patients non-state-affiliated cards that save patients from having to take their doctor’s recommendation with them every time they visit a dispensary, and that help participating dispensaries easily identify patients.

To apply for an MMJ in states that require them, you will likely need (and again, check with your state’s Department of Health for more details):

  • Proof of identity (driver’s license, other state-issued ID, passport, etc.)
  • Doctor’s recommendation
  • Proof of residency, which may include:
    • Rent or mortgage agreement
    • Utility bill
    • In-state vehicle registration
  • Applicable fees
  • Any necessary application forms and materials

You will likely be required to apply in person at a designated county office where your forms will be processed, your picture will be taken, and–if all qualifications are met–you’ll become a licensed medical marijuana patient in your state.

  • A note on patients traveling out of state to other MMJ states: some states will allow qualified out-of-state patients to their dispensaries; others will not; and still others may have out-of-state visitor requirements (such as specific proofs and forms) for entry. Be sure to get familiar with the laws related to out-of-state MMJ patients if visiting another state.
Finding a Dispensary

You’ve been referred by a qualified medical provider and, if necessary, obtained your MMJ card. Now, where can you buy medical weed?

Finding a dispensary may be more difficult in some states than others because of laws that restrict where the dispensaries can be located and how they can advertise. And, unfortunately, most state Departments of Health do not have official directories of medical dispensaries though it’s worth making a call to them to check.

To find dispensaries in your area, explore these common sources:

  • Local newspapers and magazines, particularly alt-weeklies
  • Ask your medical provider if they can recommend one
  • When out and about, keep your eyes open for any stores displaying a green cross since this is the universal sign for a medical marijuana dispensary
  • Search an online directory. These are often city-based and may have up-to-date dispensary lists with product details, so you know what you can buy before you go.
Laws for Buying and Possessing Medical Marijuana

So you’ve finally found a dispensary and are ready to buy some medical marijuana. How much can you buy in a single visit, and how much can you possess total?

No surprise there – the laws related to how much medical marijuana can be purchased vary greatly from state to state. In Oregon, for example, patients may possess up to 24 ounces of usable cannabis, while in Delaware, the limit is only 6 ounces.

Some things to research before visiting a dispensary:

  • Limits on how much you may buy in a visit
    • Do these limits differ depending on the form of cannibis you buy (bud vs. edibles vs. concentrates)?
  • Limits on how much you may possess at a given time
    • Is this different from how much you can buy?
    • Is there a cap on how much you may possess as a household, regardless of how many adults are in the household?
  • Limits on growing your own weed
    • Are you allowed to cultivate your own plants in your state?
    • If so, how many? In what stage of flowering or maturity?

Ways to Enjoy Marijuana

Once inside a retail store or dispensary, you may be introduced to new options for enjoying marijuana in different forms. Below you’ll find an overview of several options that are commonly available to recreational users and MMJ patients.

Smoking
What It Is:

Smoking is the classic mode of cannabis consumption with users enjoying bud in its most recognizable form. After purchasing your favorite strain, it can be smoked using your preferred method (rolling it into a joint or using a bong or pipe).

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to regulate amounts consumed
  • Affordable and economical
  • Portable
  • Effects are felt shortly after consuming
  • Can choose from a wide variety of strains
  • Can choose a preferred device for consuming
  • Some pieces for consuming (such as pipes and bongs) are aesthetically pleasing
  • Need something to smoke with – a pipe, bong, rolling papers, etc.
  • Can be harsh to consume
  • Some research shows smoking cannabis can be detrimental to the lungs
  • Conspicuous – you can’t consume it just anywhere
  • Apartments and hotels will likely have restrictions on smoking (which includes cannabis use)
  • Public use is most likely banned, and generally frowned upon
Unique Effects:

Depending on the strain and amount consumed, users may feel:

  • Relaxed
  • More energetic
  • More creative
  • A body high
Potency Profile:

Potency varies greatly by strain and by method of consumption. A few puffs of a joint has effects much different from a hit off a multi-chamber bong. When using a new method, take it slow and err on the side of caution.

Usual Dosage:

3-4 puffs of a joint or 2-3 hits from a bong or pipe is the typical single serving for smoking marijuana.

Again – users should be aware of the kind of marijuana they are smoking, as potency varies by strain.

Accessories Needed:

Users need a device to smoke bud, and can experiment to find their preferred method.

Some common devices include:

  • Rolling papers
  • Cigar wraps
  • Pipes
  • Bongs
Vaporizing
What It Is:

Vaporizing devices work by heating either cannabis concentrate, oil, or bud. Users then inhale the vapor for a cleaner, less harsh alternative to smoking that still delivers the same amount of THC.

  • Studies have shown that vaporizing may reduce the amount of harmful toxic and carcinogenic by products
  • At the same time, vaporizing may deliver a “purer” high – the same amount of THC as smoking, but with less byproducts
  • Easier on the lungs
  • Reduced second-hand smoke risks
  • Less conspicuous than smoking
  • Less odor than smoking
  • Vaporizing devices may be portable
  • Depending on the device, often highly efficient and economical (i.e. not much product for a large number of uses and high potency)
  • Reusable and disposable options
  • Some vaporizing devices offer a less intense high
  • Have to buy a device
  • Devices can be pricey – the average vape pen is $30-40, and that’s just for the pen
  • Learning curve to using the device
  • Reliant on the technology – devices can malfunction or break
  • Often a delayed high
  • For users seeking a stronger high, vaporizers may not be optimal since they often produce a weaker high
Unique Effects:
  • Some users report a lighter, more functional high using vaporizers
  • For medical patients, can be an easy way to keep THC levels up throughout the day without getting too stoned
Potency Profile:
  • Using a handheld vaporizer or vape pen, some users find the high from the devices to be less intense
  • Using a volcano vaporizer or similar device, users can obtain an exceptionally strong high even with a tiny bit of bud
Usual Dosage:
  • For a vape pen or handheld device, take 3-4 puffs and wait 15 minutes to see how it affects you
  • For a volcano or similar device, take 1-2 inhalations off a full bag
Accessories Needed:

Users interested in vaporizing will need one of the following devices:

  • Vape pen
  • Electronic joint (e-joint)
  • Desk-top vaporizers
    • Forced-air – vaporizers for home use that use a fan to send air through an internal heating chamber and into a bag or balloon for inhalation. The popular Volcano is a forced-air vaporizer
    • Whip-style – home-use vaporizer that plugs into an outlet and heats an element inside a compact box. Users then pull from a small tube to inhale
Edibles
What It Is:

Edibles are cannabis-infused treats that users ingest such as cookies, gummies, nut mixes, suckers. There are a wide array of edible products to choose from – or users can make their own.

  • A way to enjoy cannabis without any kind of smoking or inhalation
  • Can pick from a wide variety of edible products, including candy, cookies, and lozenges
  • Many of these treats are delicious – just as good, if not better, than “regular” goodies
  • Many users report feeling a stronger body high than from smoking or vaping
  • High lasts longer than from smoking
  • Can buy from a store or make your own
  • Delayed effect – can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for users to feel edibles
  • Unless specifically marked, hard to know how much cannabis you’re consuming, especially with homemade edibles
  • Can be difficult to regulate how high you get – one standard serving affects people differently
  • For first-time users, is often more intense than other methods of consumption
Unique Effects:

When consuming cannabis-infused edibles, your body processes THC (the psycho-active ingredient in cannabis) differently than it would from smoking (to learn more, see this Daily Beast article). The result is that users may experience:

  • A more intense high
  • In particular, a strong body high
  • A longer high, both in terms of total duration and length of intensity
  • Greater relaxation
  • Greater pain-coping properties
Potency Profile:

Edibles are one of the more potent ways to consume marijuana. The potency varies by product and the milligrams of THC that are included.

Usual Dosage:

The typical dosage is 5-10 mg of THC per serving (Colorado has now officially defined 10 mg as one serving). Store-bought edibles will clearly state the dosage per item (as in, each cookie, brownie square, lozenge, energy shot, etc.) or will ensure that each item (cookie, square) contains one serving of THC. With homemade edibles, it is more difficult to estimate the THC.

It is generally recommended, especially for first timers, that users take half a dose (i.e. eat half a cookie), wait an hour, and then consume more if desired. Users should experiment to find the right dosage for them.

Accessories Needed:
  • None
  • Edibles, which can be bought at retail stores and dispensaries come in a wide variety – see our Product Guide to learn more about what’s available.
  • Or, you can buy the items needed to make your own. See our Recipes Guide to whip up some of our favorites.
Tinctures
What It Is:

Cannabis-infused sprays or drops that are delivered orally or under the tongue.

  • Rapid absorption – effects are felt within 15 minutes which is much faster than with edibles
  • An alternative to smoking or inhaling
  • In stores, tinctures are often flavored
  • Inexpensive, considering how many drops are in a bottle
  • Can be added to tea, juice, and other liquids
  • Can make your own
  • Odorless
  • Discreet to administer
  • Tinctures are often made using ethyl alcohol, so users may feel a slight burn or unpleasant after taste
  • Not as widely available as other cannabis products
  • Not as much variety as with other cannabis products
  • Not a sustained high – effects flatten out quickly
Unique Effects:

Tinctures are known for delivering a rapid “peak,” meaning you reach your “highest” point shortly after receiving your dosage.

Many users report feeling a stronger body high than from smoking or inhaling.

Potency Profile:

Potency varies greatly by brand but some retail-sold tinctures have as high as 80 mg potency.

Usual Dosage:

3-4 drops. Wait 15 minutes and then take an additional 2-4 as needed. A typical bottle will contain 100-150 drops.

Accessories Needed:

None if taken straight. Bottles typically come with a dropper.

Otherwise, add drops to your favorite beverage. Tea is a popular option for tinctures.

Topicals
What It Is:

Cannabis-infused creams and salves that users rub on their skin. These creams are popular with medical patients for their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as for the relief they give from skin allergies.

This is not a recreational product – there isn’t enough THC in a topical to get high. But topicals have been shown to greatly help patients with certain medical conditions.

  • An alternative to smoking or inhaling cannabis
  • Can help with inflammation and certain skin conditions through direct application
  • May provide pain relief
  • Can be expensive – some containers can cost as much as several hundred dollars
  • May be difficult to find
    • Not typically found at retail stores – more of a medical product
  • Users may not find a great variety of products
Unique Effects:

When applied directly to problem areas, can help with:

  • Pain relief
  • Inflammation
  • Skin allergies
  • Healing
Potency Profile:

Topicals are completely non-psychoactive – meaning you won’t get stoned by using them.

Usual Dosage:

See instructions on the topical package. Usually, a small application of cream, salve, etc. is all that is necessary.

With marijuana becoming legal for recreational use in many states throughout the US, consult our guide to learn about how to purchase, where to buy marijuana and how to consume it.