Cannabis is experienced very differently between different people. A product that one person finds perfect for relaxing might be too lethargic for another. Someone might find one strain great for creative work, and someone else might find it anxiety-inducing. As a “bimodal” drug, the effects can also vary greatly depending on your dosage and consumption method. With such a wide range of potential effects, finding the dosage and method that’s right for you is essential for good experiences and avoiding bad ones. The following guide generalizes what is ultimately a very subjective experience, so keep in mind it might take some trial and error to find your favorite way to consume. If you’re embarking on this journey, remember three things:
How does it work?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive molecule in cannabis that makes you feel “high”. Every mammalian body, including us humans, has an endocannabinoid system that regulates a wide range of behavior, including sleep, memory, appetite, pain and more. This system has an array of receptors that are perfect “keyholes” for THC. This is the primary mechanism by which cannabis affects us. While these mechanisms operate virtually the same way every time you partake, the amount and method by which you consume has a potentially drastic effect on your experience.
When cannabis is smoked or vaporized, THC is transferred from your lungs to your bloodstream, and then to your brain, where it does it’s work. Eating or drinking THC routes it through your stomach, and most importantly your liver, where THC is metabolized into the scarier sounding but largely similar 11-hydroxy-THC. It does virtually the same thing, but is more easily diffused from blood to the brain, commonly resulting in a more intense feeling, even with the same amount of THC.
Should I eat it or smoke it?
Again, everyone’s different. Despite the conventional understanding that ingested THC packs more of a punch than if inhaled, there are people who find smoking to be more intense. Especially if you do one or the other regularly, your body can build tolerance to one over the other.
If it’s your first time, smoking or vaping can make it easier to adjust dosage as you go. The quicker onset of effect allows you to take baby steps, judge your state of mind and decide if you want more or if you’ve had enough. Even if you inhale a little too much, the effects wear off relatively quickly than if eaten.
Eating cannabis has its own benefits, including a more consistent dosage and not needing to inhale if you’d rather not involve your lungss. But the long onset time of effects is one of the most common reasons people overshoot their dosage, so remember to be patient. The effects also last longer, so keeping some CBD around can be useful if you realize you’ve overshot it after the fact.
How much should I eat?
It’s taken the industry a few years to get here, but if you walk into any legal dispensary, chances are, you’ll find most brands segment their infused products into 10 milligrams, 5 milligrams or 2.5 milligrams of THC. As of early this year, California legally limited the amount of THC in a single serving to 10mg, and a whole package to 100mg. Every other adult-use state has followed California’s lead. We’ll use the most common edible serving sizes as a frame of reference because they’re the most consistent way to talk about dosage.
How much should I smoke?
There’s a little more math involved if you want to determine the exact dosage in flower or vaporizer cartridges, but the same principles apply. Flower, cartridges, oil; really anything that is intended to be inhaled, contains THCA: the unactivated form of THC. The act of heating makes it psychoactive and inhalable. Keep in mind that relative to ingesting an edible, inhaling THC vapor or smoke accelerates the onset of psychoactive effects. So even with the same quantity of THC, you’ll feel it faster and it will pass faster as well. We’ll use some roundabout averages to show the math but as these kinds of products are legally required to list their THC percentage/content, you should always check the specific product you’re using. The math is as follows:
An average pre-roll, 500mg of flower (25% THC)
500mg of flower containing 25% THCA = 125mg of THCA
Combusting flower transforms THCA into THC. As is the nature of a pipe or pre-roll, approximately 30% of that is lost during combustion, leaving 70% of the original 125mg:
70% x 125mg = 87.5mg of THC consumed per 500mg pre-roll
Obviously, smoking a whole pre-roll by yourself is not recommended for newcomers. While the math shows it’s the equivalent THC of having almost nine “standard” doses of edibles, the difference between smoking and eating means the actual experience is nowhere near as intense. For some, the same amount of THC in an edible can be 3 or 4 times as intense. There’s no real way to quantify a consistent metric of inhalation, but if you’re new, a few inhales is plenty. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before you have anymore.
An average vaporizer cartridge, 1000mg of distillate (65% THC)
1000mg of distillate containing 65% THC = 650mg of THCA
The controlled vaporizing of distillate through a properly manufactured vaporizer should result in little to no loss of THC. Dosist’s pens ingeniously portion vapor for you, splitting their 1000mg pens into 200 doses or inhalations. Again this metric is virtually unquantifiable if you’re using a pen that isn’t dosist, but 200 doses gives us a useful frame of reference:
650mg of THC / 200 doses = 3.25mg per inhale
THC cartridges are not intended to be consumed in one sitting, by anyone, let alone someone who’s never tried it before. That said, vaporizing THC is a slightly less intense experience than combusting it, and vaporizer pens are much easier to take a controlled inhale from. If it’s your first time, a few brief inhales should do the trick. Again, wait 5-10 minutes before having anymore.