It's a great time to be a first-time cannabis consumer in North America. The stigma is receding. The Canadian Prime Minister and a serious presidential candidate support legalization, and many more states are looking to follow suit. And the product is better than ever, now that it's being produced by legal growers abiding by ever-increasing quality and safety standards.
So, let's say you're only now deciding to join the party: here are eight tips for the novice cannabis consumer.
Start slowly: a few tiny puffs or nibbles, at most. Wait and see how it treats you. Edibles can take as long as two hours to kick in depending on your metabolism, so factor that time into your plans. Far too many people have gotten way too high from jumping the gun and eating four brownies, mistakenly believing the first batch "wasn't working." Exercise patience.
Smoking or vaping provide the effects right away - probably best for first timers, since it allows you to gauge your level more accurately. Regardless of what Cheech and Chong do, holding it in your lungs until you choke doesn't get you any higher. Don't toke 'til you choke. As Steve Liebke's excellent, A Cannabis User's Harm Reduction Handbook, puts it: "About 95 percent of THC in cannabis smoke is absorbed in the first few seconds, so breath holding is quite pointless. All it really achieves is a far greater amount of tar being deposited in the lungs."
Enjoying the high is a mental game: if you're in a bad mood, sad, sick, or otherwise not at your best, play it safe. Wait for a better time. Cannabis has a way of acting as a magnifying glass: it amplifies whatever is already happening in your head.
Smoking for the first time at a massive rock concert or on a remote mountain hike might sound cool in theory, but it's better to test the water in familiar surroundings first, then baby-step outside your comfort zone. Your first time should be in the evening: if things get weird, you can always just go to bed. The comfort of your own home is an ideal situation.
You're going to want someone non-judgmental, whom you trust, and who has their head on straight, to hang with. Don't smoke for the first time solo, or with a big group. Too little stimulation means you might find yourself bouncing off the walls of your brain. Too much, and you might feel overwhelmed and prone to overanalyzing.
Some funny movies, a beautiful place where you can chill out and walk, or a playlist of your favorite tunes, can all focus the high in a positive way depending on your temperament.
If it's all getting to be a bit much, take a time out. So some breathing exercises. Sound silly? Nope, it's not. Deep breathing is a simple, free, remarkably effective way to cope with weed-induced anxiety. Or any anxiety, for that matter. Embrace your inner yogi.
Roll with it. Don't be afraid to get a little silly, or to reflect on the new sensations you're experiencing. If you're not into it, remind yourself that this is temporary and try to get the most of out of your experience. Love it or hate it, the feeling will pass. And then, at least now you know what all the fuss is about.
Check out this video showcasing some adorable first-time users.