As somewhat of a cannabis noob, I had a question: what makes a good cannabis experience? How can you set yourself up for success? What are the things you should and shouldn’t do? Before diving into cannabis, what do I need to know? Can I uncover some interesting cannabis stuff that even veteran cannabis users would be interested in hearing about?
To explore these questions, I’ve spoken to three individuals, each with their own experiences, lenses, and cannabis journeys. First is Walker, one of the Woody Nelson marketing guys. Next we have Andrea, who was also interviewed for that post. She’s a cannabis enthusiast and founder of Vancouver’s Village Bloomery cannabis shop. Lastly, I’ve spoken to Jolyon, the designer of the Woody Nelson growing facility. Combining these voices and a bit of the science, we’ll dive into how to get high and have a good time; setting yourself up for success, dosage, picking products, terpenes, and more.
The Science of Getting High
If you’re curious about how THC gets you high, the answer is actually quite simple. THC, or Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol, is classified as a phytocannabinoid, or the plant version of the endocannabinoids found within our body. These endocannabinoids function in a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a series of transmitters and receptors that helps support our body’s balance.
There are other forms of THC besides just Delta 9, but we’re mostly going to be focusing on Delta 9 here since it’s kind of the standard in terms of consumption.
THC, as a phytocannabinoid, interacts with the ECS. More specifically, it binds strongly to our body’s CB1 receptors, which are largely found in the brain and nervous system and are associated with pain, anxiety, and inflammation management. This bind is what produces that high feeling. It’s also why THC tolerance is fairly easy to build – the more THC binds to these receptors, the more your system becomes accustom to operating under these new conditions.
Dose: Beyond Starting Low, Going Slow
One of the most important things to consider when using cannabis is dosing. Although this might seem like a pretty straight forward conversation, everyone’s body is different. Also, experiences with different products or methods of taking cannabis can make dosage vary. That’s why I decided to chat with a few folks I knew had more experience in the area than I did.
When talking with Walker and what he’s seen work for him and others, he repeated the age-old advice of ‘starting low and going slow,’ especially if you’re not used to cannabis yet. This is because taking too much, paired with sensations our bodies may not be familiar with yet can send us into an anxious spiral, which is not a very comfortable or relaxing experience. While he says that there are always those who like pushing dosage boundaries, they’re usually the ones who end up asleep on the couch.
On the topic of anxious spirals, personally, I’m someone who doesn’t like feeling out-of-control of myself. I know I’m not the only one, so finding ways to make dose exploration feel safe and comfortable was a priority of mine. Andrea was particularly helpful when it came to this, saying that she initially learned from a woman named Miz D. who spoke to her about the importance of setting intention and being aware of your time and setting. “There is nothing worse than trying something new in an environment that doesn’t make you feel good.” She also reiterates Walker’s ‘start low and go slow’ advice, choosing products that you feel comfortable with, and creating an environment that will lead to success.
When discussing her own cannabis use, Andrea said that she originally started with a more medical lens. She stated being nervous about what a ‘high’ would be like and wanted to have control over the process. She began with CBD before eventually dipping into more THC stuff, like flowers and edibles.
From there, Andrea spoke about CBD being a good introductory point – either for yourself or for someone willing to experiment but who’s still pretty nervous about the whole thing. This way, they’re able to experience the empowerment of trying something new, while still emphasising the “importance of prioritizing being in control of your own experience…even if that desired experience is to let go of all control!” When it comes time to dip into THC products, she often suggests that people try oil drops or low dose gummies because the dose is easy to control – smoking is great, she says, but can be more challenging to understand what exactly your personal dose is.
When it comes to trying something new, even just a different product, Andrea recommends taking a single toke and waiting fifteen minutes to see if it’s something you’d like to pursue. “If I’m smoking something new,” she says, “I want to give myself time to find just how much of that particular cultivar works for me.”
However, she cautions that when it comes to edibles, it’s particularly important to go slow. “It may take a few days to figure out what works for you, but trust me when I say not feeling high enough is better than feeling intoxicated. High is feeling great, social, confident, sexy, and strong, or blissful, restful, and at peace. Intoxication is feeling anxious, disoriented, dizzy, nauseous. No one that I personally know is looking to feel intoxicated by cannabis.”
Picking a Product: A Matter of Terpenes
One reason why different products may require different doses is because of their unique terpene profile. For the uninitiated, terpenes are unique chemicals that give plants their particular scents. Something smells like citrus or pine? That’s the terpenes at work. Terpenes (and therefore smell) are an integral part to the kind of experience you’re going to have with a product – whether it’s alerting, sedative, or somewhere in between.
When it comes to all these different components, Andrea shared an analogy she learned from a friend: “If THC is the gas, CBD is the breaks and the terpenes are the gears. If you can set out a destination, you can play with these three elements to see what mix gets you where you want to go in the most comfortable and efficient way.”
In terms of selecting a product without having to dive too deep into the state of terpene research, Walker says that “following your nose tends to be your best bet. Think essential oils; lemons and peppermint might be more alerting.” Andrea also said something similar about the importance of smell, saying that “when choosing a product to smoke I let my nose do the talking. If I like the smell of a product I’ll smoke it. If the smell repels me I listen!”
Perhaps not unexpectantly, the advice one of our favourite smoking wizards, Gandalf, gave us applies to more than just navigating ancient Dwarven mines: “When in doubt, always follow your nose.”
Setting the Stage: Time, Place, and Intention
Whether you’re trying something new or just planning another Friday night, I’m a firm believer in setting yourself up for success. Personally, the environment I’m in makes a big difference to my mood and stress levels. So I wanted to get a bit more insider knowledge about what it means to set yourself up for success when it comes to getting high.
What a comfortable environment looks like is kind of subjective, but one core piece of advice given by Walker is to ensure there’s both food and non-committal activities available. Non-committal because trying to do anything too complicated wouldn’t always work out. Allowing room for flow and flexibility often leads to a more positive, relaxing time. When it comes to food, while he says that “there’s a time and place for getting stoned and pigging out, if you’re smoking on a regular basis, that’s not ideal. So it’s a good idea to set yourself up with healthy munchies beforehand.” Though, it’s also hard to debate the satisfaction a good slice of pizza can bring.
Regardless of what you’re planning on doing, it’s important to pick products that’ll support those activities. “If you’re going to go out for a walk or something, plan properly,” Walker says. You don’t want to be drowsy or nodding off when strolling the neighbourhood. He says that it’s also important to figure out how different kinds of cannabis affect you, as this is kind of individual.
When it comes to the time and place setting, Andrea recounts that she prefers CBD products in situations where she’s feeling anxious or in a space where she’s out of her element. However, she also reiterates that it’s a real privilege to be able to pick a time and place for consumption – “many people who are renters and/or who are medical consumers don’t get to pick where or when they consume, so it is a real privilege to both have access to products I enjoy and to have a space where I can enjoy them. This is something I feel really passionate about. We need consumption spaces so that folks who enjoy cannabis can make connections and support each other to have the best experience possible.”
When it comes to picking a product or methods of consumption, Andrea says that “for the most part, I will choose a product based on the outcome I am looking for.” She goes on to discuss several methods of taking THC: ingestion takes longer to create an effect but lasts longer, so she more regularly uses this method when she’s looking for sleep support. Oil drops, she says, help support her sleep in a consistent, easy-to-rely on way. However, if “[she] wants to do something active, [she] will often smoke something because smoking takes effect immediately and [she] can ride that wave for an hour or so.” However, if she’s looking for a more relaxing kind of experience, she might have a bath and use a THC infused bath bomb, or smoke something in the tub for a bit of added luxury, have a low dose infused beverage, or give herself a nice massage with an infused topical. “All these products can be layered and can create a really enjoyable experience.”
Change and Ritual
The last person I interviewed for this post was Jolyon, who, while mirroring some of the other points made by both Walker and Andrea, had his own experience with cannabis use; one that speaks more to how use might vary and change depending on different life factors. What worked for us once won’t necessarily always work; rather, it’s a fluid process that keeps unfolding and changing as our lives and identities continue to develop.
Jolyon describes his initial experience with cannabis as being recreational and often associated with youth skateboarding culture. His focus switched when he got one of the early MMAR licences. This made his cannabis experience a lot more medicinal, and was when he started to develop an understanding about some of the science behind cannabis and cultivation techniques.
As he got older, Jolyon found himself drifting more towards CBD, stating that having children and a family may have had an impact on that. Nevertheless, he still enjoys the ritual of it all; enjoying the flower, enjoying the smoke, and rolling joints. In line with the time and place advice, he finds that having a lot of THC isn’t necessarily as conductive to work and responsibilities as CBD is, but still partakes in the ritual of it all. THC use is more reserved for getting outside, going for walks, snowboarding, or other outdoor activities.
This outdoor ritual of cannabis use seems to be, at least somewhat, shared by Andrea, who told us that “I smoke a joint when I walk my dog because it adds to the whole experience for me. I find myself more patient and more open to letting my dog take the lead. I figure he’s on my time for most of the day and I like letting go so he can just explore.” She also says that she enjoys a bit of cannabis before yoga or meditation.
There’s a lot that goes into the experience of getting high. The type of product and terpene profile can make a big difference, and so can dose, environment, planned activities, snacks, or stage of your life. One major theme was emphasised by all three interviewees, however, which was to always consider your time, place, and setting and plan accordingly.