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A Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis for California’s Jan. 1 ‘Legalization Day’

On New Year’s Day, long-clandestine cannabis will join the ranks of beer, wine, mixed drinks, cigars and other adult indulgences in California.

It’s easy for a newcomer to feel overwhelmed by this new purchasing power. It’s like cruising the aisles of Costco without a game plan. For those who may choose to imbibe, here’s a cannabis primer, based on interviews with marijuana growers and retailers, physicians and drug abuse experts.

Cannabis Basics

Premium marijuana is sticky, fluffy, dense, leafy, covered in hairy crystalline sprinkles or fine hairs.

Only buy cannabis that’s been tested for purity, potency, pesticides and contaminants (although the marijuana available on Jan. 1 may not meet that standard). Look for a testing certificate. And make sure the packaging is child-resistant.

Today’s weed is the product of generations of selective crosses, grown in fertilized soil, protected to prevent wind stress and contamination and packaged in air-tight containers soon after harvest to ensure freshness.

Finding Good Stuff

Learning to appreciate good cannabis is no different than learning to appreciate good wine, music or art. Customers should steer clear of bad cannabis, often the result of poor growing conditions or careless storage.

Long gone are plastic baggies filled with harsh and dry Panama Red or Acapulco Gold — grown in the dust, hung from hot roofs, shipped in the back of smugglers’ trucks and then warehoused for months.

Judge cannabis on these four criteria: Sight, smell, taste and feel.

If the marijuana looks as if it’s been stored in a coffee can since the 1960s and smells like hay, don’t buy it.

Types of Cannabis

Just like wine, cannabis has varietals. The species called indica is short and stocky with dense buds, native to the chilly mountains of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Another species called sativa is tall and lanky with spindly buds. It comes from warm places like Mexico, Colombia and Thailand.

In general, indicas induce sedation and dreamy feelings. Sativas tend to be more cerebral, creative and uplifting.

But, like wine blends, almost anything found at a dispensary won’t be purely one or the other. An estimated 95 percent of all modern-day cannabis strains are hybrids of the two species.

Ignore brand names when making selections; they’re not remotely helpful. Purple CandyCane isn’t a Christmas treat. In The Pines is not a bluegrass song.

What's Inside?

The plant’s chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, also make a difference.

While there are dozens of cannabinoids, two of them get all the attention: THC (tetrahydrocannabinoil) and CBD (cannabidiol).

THC content can determine levels of relaxation, sleepiness, hunger and euphoria. CBD doesn’t offer the same psychoactive effects, but it has analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties.

Each marijuana strain can be assessed based on where it is on the spectrum of THC-to-CBD ratio. Together, the two compounds can create a balance.

There’s a third compound: terpenes. They’re the aromatic oils that give plants their smell and flavor — like Limonene in citrus peel or Myrcene in mangoes.

Cannabis Labels

Labels have a lot of technical information. Remember this mantra: low and slow. For the new consumer, “high-octane” THC is a bad idea.

While the THC levels of cannabis on most dispensary shelves range from 20 to 30 percent, start with a strain in the 10-15 percent range. Or look for a balanced THC-to-CBD ratio — say, 7 percent THC and 7 percent CBD.

If smoking or “vaping” with an electronic cigarette, wait 20 minutes. If eating edibles, wait at least an hour or two. Some people “micro-dose,” just taking one or two hits on a pipe or eating a tiny piece of an edible.

Did you overdo it? Here’s the good news: Unlike alcohol, too much THC — while frightening and miserable — is never lethal. If you’re not feeling well, go some place comfortable and serene. Put on music. Go for a walk. Gaze at the sunset. Or just take a nap.

Until Next Time

Cannabis flower is an investment, with no hard expiration date. Preserve leftovers well. The exception: edibles. Treat them like other food items, and don’t store them for long.

Cannabis deteriorates when exposed to light, heat and air. To slow down the deterioration process, keep it in a cool, dark and dry place in a glass jar or other sealed container. Plastic bags, except for Mylar, aren’t ideal because they allow air exchange.

Experts suggest storing it in a low cupboard, shelf or drawer — or in the basement. Don’t store it in a refrigerator, where swings in humidity can cause mildew. Don’t store it in the freezer because it will become brittle and break.


Article and image(s) from: Santa Cruz Sentinel

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