So you’re finally ready to try cannabis for the first time, or maybe the last time you smoked was 20 years ago and you’re ready to start back up. Either way, the very idea may seem a bit scary with all the rumors about the strength of weed today and NY Times columnists losing their marbles for hours on end. Where the hell do you start and how do you smoke weed safely? We can help make your first cannabis experience more enjoyable.
Unless you seek specific therapeutic benefits, in which case you should reference our CBD content, you are likely looking to catch a pleasurable buzz. As easy as that may sound, the cannabis market has significantly evolved over the past several years and the options can be daunting to navigate. In this guide we will help you determine the appropriate strain, dosage, and consumption method for a positive first-time experience.
Although it’s tempting to simply eat a cannabis-infused brownie, we don’t recommend doing so. The effects associated with ingested cannabis have a delayed onset time, last much longer than the other consumption methods (anywhere from 4 to 8+ hours), and can be significantly more intense.
The recommended consumption method for novice users is either smoking or vaporizing cannabis; the reason being that dosage control is relatively easy compared to other consumption methods. Smoking cannabis is the traditional method and involves inhaling the smoke released by the heated buds.
You can pack a one hitter pipe or roll it into a joint. A bong is another alternative and will result in the smoothest hit as the smoke is filtered through water prior to being inhaled, but the intensity of a bong hit is not recommended for novice users. If you find the effects of smoking cannabis to be too intense, we suggest vaporization as a more mild alternative.
For those looking to avoid the potential respiratory irritation caused by smoking, we recommend vaporizing for the first time. A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis buds and/or concentrates to a specific (lower) temperature, which causes the cannabinoids (beneficial compounds like THC and CBD) stored in the plant’s trichomes to evaporate into a gas without combusting any plant material. In our experience, vaporization provides a more forgiving, manageable, and mild high than smoking cannabis.
If you’re feeling good about the vaporizer route, the photo above may be confusing. Just remember, the golden liquid in your vaporizer cartridge is simply a concentrated, extracted version of the original cannabis buds, and should be labeled indica, sativa, or hybrid at the very least.
Some cartridges may have multiple strains inside them, while others will be strain specific. Weed is like wine – every strain has a history and some dispensaries have garden blends; the same way vineyards blend grapes to make a more unique flavor profile. The key terms to understand are indica and sativa. These terms are used to describe the two major species of the cannabis plant that induce markedly different effects.
Choosing between indica and sativa varieties of cannabis is dependent on your desired effects. Those seeking an upbeat, focused, and creative experience, should select a sativa dominant strain. Alternatively, those looking for relaxing, appetite inducing, and sedative effects should choose an indica dominant strain. Those in search of a great anytime smoke with a more balanced high should try a hybrid strain (one that combines elements of both the indica and sativa species through the breeding process). For more detailed information, reference our strain selection guide.
For first-time smokers, one or two inhalations is all it takes to feel THC’s powerful effects. We recommend first-timers wait 15-20 minutes after smoking before deciding to take additional inhalations, as the effects can become more pronounced over this period. As you get more accustomed to your preferred dosage you can take additional hits for a stronger effect.
However, you should never feel pressured to finish a bowl or joint, you can always come back to it. If your only option is to ingest cannabis, we recommend starting with a dose of 5mg of THC. Everyone’s metabolism is different and therefore has a different reaction to edibles. The important part is to WAIT after you ingest as onset can take up to TWO HOURS. As you become more familiar with your edible tolerance, it will be easier to adjust dosage.
If you do end up a little too high, don’t worry, just check out our guide on how to manage a high.
Like so many other parts of the joint rolling process, everyone has their own style of lighting a joint. Not only do you have some options when it comes to the ignition source, but there is also a bit of a technique involved in achieving an even burn with a powerful cherry right from the start.
Some cannabis consumers prefer traditional lighters (hello, classic Bic!), while others favor the more natural hemp wick to eliminate inhaling fuel. Personal preferences aside, we can help you properly ignite the slow-burning joint you worked so hard to roll.
No matter what you ignite with, patience is key!
Do: Create the Cherry Slowly
Even the best-rolled joint can be sabotaged by hasty lighting! To light a joint that smokes slowly and evenly, start by applying flame to only the tip while slowly rotating the joint in your fingers.
The objective is to create a cherry (the portion of the joint that is actively burning) at the tip of the joint that will burn down the length of the joint evenly. Be patient! It’s different from lighting a cigarette: creating a cherry without inhalation typically takes a bit more direct heat and time.
Once the cherry is off to a strong, even start, you can use a combination of inhalation and additional flame application (at separate times — not together!) to round and even it out as needed.
After the first few hits, a correctly lit joint will continue to burn evenly, as illustrated below.
Don’t: Inhale During Ignition
Applying flame to the joint tip while inhaling might seem like the right thing to do because it is similar to how cigars and cigarettes are lit. However, we are dealing with cannabis here, not tobacco, so the technique doesn’t carry over to joints.
As cool as it looks, we don’t recommend lighting while drawing on the joint during ignition, as it often results in an uneven cherry and a higher likelihood of canoeing, the dreaded run of fast-burning herb that can sabotage a good joint.
This can be especially problematic with twax joints and blunts, as you can ignite the BHO to the point that it burns out of control, ruining your hard work. Follow this guide to learn more about the different types of cannabis concentrates, and how to safely make your own dabs or hash oil at home.
Whatever you do, just make sure you have a heat source at your disposal! While it may sound obvious, we can almost guarantee that the lack of a lighter has halted more than one of your joint sparking operations.
We will admit that the cigarette method is fair game in outdoor, high-wind scenarios (an uneven cherry is better than no cherry at all), but this is an in-a-pinch solution rather than a go-to. There are some more effective alternatives, like a one-hitter.
Pro Tip: How to Light a One-Hitter
A one-hitter is an elongated pipe with a very small bowl that makes a great alternative when you don’t have a joint handy or smoking one isn’t practical. You should use a grinder card to load it, and then feel free to take the quintessential ciggy-style rip!
With a pipe like this, you do not need to worry about cornering the bowl since the amount of herb is so tiny. It’s easier to light a bowl without burning your fingers when using the one-hitter! We highly recommend the Marley Natural Taster.
Joint Smoking Etiquette
No matter your smoking experience level, it’s always important to stay current on your joint etiquette — nobody wants to be “that guy.” By following the code of conduct below, you’ll ensure you don’t embarrass yourself the next time you’re handed a joint.
Think of this guide as a sort of cotillion for joint smokers – retain your invite to the smoke circle with these helpful tips.
Respect Rolling Seniority
You don’t have to be the best joint roller in the world, but you should know how your rolling skills stack up against others. If you can’t roll well and you know someone else can, it’s best to let him or her take the reins. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice though! One day you might find yourself as the most experienced roller available, and we can help you improve your joint rolling skills for when that day comes.
Learn to Use a Crutch
A crutch can be made from just about any paper-like material (a paper scrap, a business card, we’ve even seen one MacGyvered from a straw wrapper – anything goes), and you can even buy pre-cut crutches. Our favorites are these natural hemp & cotton tips from RAW.
There is no need to hand someone a sloppy joint that barely rips. Crutches eliminate Scooby snacks, soggy ends, and make the entire social smoking experience more pleasant. Furthermore, you can use the crutch as a handle when you hand the joint to the person next to you. Similarly, if you’re on the receiving end of the hand-off, grab the joint by the crutch instead of crushing the tube of ground cannabis.
Don’t Expect to Hit it without Contributing
We all know someone who frequently jumps in the joint rotation without contributing – not cool! Don’t be this person. Even if you don’t have bud, it’s appreciated when someone offers cash, food, or something else useful if you want in on the joint. Those who typically smoke out the group will take notice, and you’ll maintain a comfortable, open invite.
He Who Rolled Shall Light
The person who rolled the joint has the right to light it and hit it first. While this sounds trivial, wouldn’t you be upset if the joint you just spent time rolling was carelessly lit like a cigarette by an amateur? It’s acceptable for the roller to offer this privilege to someone else, but they have full control over the ignition process.
Puff, Puff, Pass
This is the cardinal rule of joint smoking – take two hits and then pass that thing! Don’t hog the joint or it may be the last time you’re welcome in that smoking circle. If you’re smoking with close friends and you have a different rule, that’s okay – house rules are a thing, after all — but in most scenarios, stick to “puff, puff, pass” unless otherwise instructed.
Ash Before You Pass
You don’t want to be responsible for ruining your friends favorite piece of clothing or furniture – ash before you pass! It’s very simple. Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of an un-ashed joint, so don’t put that on the next person in rotation. Ash, then pass.
The Joint is Not a Microphone
Cannabis has a unique way of bringing people together and part of getting acquainted is telling stories. By all means, keep sharing, but please don’t use the joint as your personal microphone! Remember rule #5?
Nobody likes it when you hold the joint and forget to smoke it until the cherry goes out. The joint is not the Talking Stick, so please don’t treat it as such!
Stick to the Original Rotation
Regardless of whether you’re actually standing in a circle, everyone should stick to the original joint rotation. Typically, the joint roller lights the joint and passes it to the left. The joint continues to be passed left until everyone hits the joint once and the ‘circle’ is completed. It’s more relaxing when this order is maintained until the joint is finished. Otherwise, no one knows who’s turn it is, making for a confusing time and creating the possibility of skipping someone inadvertently.
Keep Your Exhale to Yourself
This is a common accident, but be mindful of the direction and force with which you exhale your hit. As pleasant as cannabis smoke is, no one likes to take a cloud to the face. A slight upward or downward tilt of the head when exhaling can alleviate this faux pas. And, if you do accidentally exhale right in someone’s face, own up to it — then, try not to let it happen again. It’s common to get tripped up by a breeze or fan on occasion, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.
Don’t Pass the Roach
The passing of the joint is a ritualistic process, and being on the receiving end means two more hits…unless, you get passed a roach. Not cool. If the joint is gone, put it out – there’s no need to pass the roach. It’s like getting a gift wrapped box with no present inside. When it’s time to let it go, let it go.