The new green frontier of travel is exciting to many, daunting to others, and confusing to some who are worried they’re doing it wrong. It’s easy to understand why. When it comes to recreational marijuana, each of the states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, plus Washington D.C.) where you can now legally partake have slightly different laws, plus there are four more states joining the legal cannabis party over the coming year. Not to mention the wildly different ways dispensaries sell their kind buds and other magic merch. Here’s a weed-buying rundown of what to know, how to choose, and what not to do.
There are three ways that timing is key to a sensible, stoned journey. One is to be practical about how long you’re visiting a legal weed state and buy only enough to consume while you’re there. That way you’ll avoid the temptation of packing it for your trip home, which is a huge no-no since cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. This applies to driving too, since Oregon to Washington are the only two neighboring states where you can legally cross the border carrying cannabis—at least until California and Nevada institute their recreational-MJ laws in early 2018.
So how much is enough? The answer’s different for everyone. The proper dosage depends on things like your size, the strain, what form it’s in, and most importantly, your personal experience with pot. “Budtenders” can be helpful in navigating the choices. But some are more conscientious than others and might not consider all the factors for each personal recommendation.
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BASIC BUD BACKGROUND
If you remember one thing, it’s that dispensaries sell very potent marijuana strains—stronger than most people are used to. There are two measurements of each plant’s strength its likely effects: THC and CBD. There’s a ton of explanation about them and how each one impacts brain chemistry. But basically, THC is the psychoactive part that’s responsible for the more familiar, sometimes goofy stoned sensations; while CBD essentially helps tamp down THC’s “high.” That’s why CBD is considered more medicinal, helping with conditions like anxiety, depression, and physical pain.
Back in the day, THC was pot’s driving force, clocking in at about 10 percent strength for most strains of yesteryear. But in today’s Colorado dispensaries, for example, the average is closer to 19 percent THC, according to a 2015 study cited by NBC News. Some strains even reach the 30 percent mark—powerful!
Also, remember that marijuana is either sativa, indica, or a hybrid of both. Generally, sativa strains are more energetic and uplifting, instead of more relaxing and mellow indica (as in “in da couch”). Note that weed’s kooky names do have a system, so as you dive deeper you may notice that “kush” strains are generally higher in indica so they deliver its chill-body qualities. But a “diesel” tends to be a more active, sensory sativa high.
GREEN CHOICES GALORE
Many travelers new to the 420-shopping scene may be overwhelmed or enchanted with the awe-striking array of choices stocked in dispensaries. You’ll see plants for sale, giant jars of fluffy buds, capsules, beverages, all kinds of candy, and more.
Most stores have separate areas for fresh bud that’s ready to smoke, along with accoutrements like rolling papers, pipes, and vaporizers (for sale and sometimes for rent). Displays tell you all the nitty-gritty about each kind of marijuana, such as its THC and CBD percentages, who grew it, its qualities and effects, and prices per gram or ounce.
There’s also hash and the newest creations: cannabis extracts in the form of oil, wax, and a clear oil-based version called “shatter.” Unless you’re a serious daily pot connoisseur, these are probably better left to more seasoned consumers.
For non-smokers, edibles are the preferred choice. Seemingly endless choices are offered, from hard candy and gummy bears, to mints and chocolate bars to sodas and baked goods. Every edible should list its cannabis quantity, usually offering a “serving size” of either 5 or 10 milligrams of THC. (CBD edibles are harder to find.) Most people should start with 5mg, and wait 45 to 90 minutes to feel an edible’s full effects. A digested high will likely last a good three hours, longer than an average smoked high. The important thing is to be patient and see how a bite hits you before eating more. Don’t overeat!
Now back to the initial shopping questions: How long is your trip? Are you on a vacation that’s all about leisure time, or on a business trip where you need to be on point? How many times will you have a window of time and comfortable place where you can relax and enjoy being high?
Answering these should help you decide how much bud to smoke or edibles to consume, but it’s probably less than you think. Even regular pot smokers find that just two or three puffs of such high-quality ganja—which amounts to less than one gram—can last more than two hours, and its best to avoid serious responsibilities during that chill time.
One big note for travelers is that discretion is key. Technically, none of the legal weed states allow pot smoking in public, though most violators receive only a fine. And strolls through downtown Portland or Denver prove that open-air smoking is happening all the time—just take a whiff. You can avoid the risk by joining tours aboard smoke-friendly vehicles, marijuana social clubs, cooking classes, and other designated high zones.
But for your opening foray into the wild green yonder, a wise option is lodging at a cannabis-friendly B&B or hotel where you can try your fragrant new purchase in the comfort of a safe space. Then, whether you’re new to marijuana or sampling a new strain, you can enjoy the journey within your journey…hopefully with quality munchies nearby.