Feature

7 Smart Ways to Navigate Buying Bud

By Niki Ford

Let’s tip the needle from nervous to excited. Even with the ongoing legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, the stigma of purchasing still prevails.

So if you’re a wary first-timer, let’s clear the smoke for a fearless shopping and edible-making experience. Though laws vary from state to state, these seven pointers apply to most dispensary outings.

1. Do your homework
To start your adventure, check out websites, such as leafly.com and weedmaps.com, to learn about strains of marijuana available for purchase in your area. Some dispensaries even deliver. These sites also offer dispensary ratings compiled by users. The reviews link to dispensary websites, where you can read about cannabinoid levels, pricing and special offers.

2. Look beyond the strain
Understand the difference between smoking your flower versus cooking with it, says Vanessa Lavorato, co-host of Viceland’s “Bong Appetit” and founder of Marigold Sweets, a Los Angeles-based small-batch edibles company. The effects from ingesting cannabis are very different, she says. You shouldn’t necessarily expect the same results associated with smoking any given strain. “More so than looking at what the strain is, I would be looking at if it is dominant in THC or CBD, or if it has a lot of CBN in it,” says Lavorato. “Look at the cannabinoid profile rather than the variety.” For instance, one might choose a CBD-dominant strain for pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease or a strain containing CBN for insomnia.

3. Suit yourself
Depending on the state, dispensaries range in size and style from high-end boutiques to superstores, which may also have separate entry areas for recreational and medicinal products. Whether you prefer a large selection, hard-to-find top-shelf weed, a low environmental footprint or full-spectrum “sun-grown” cannabis, you’ll have some sleuthing to do. Photos and reviews online can help. If you opt to buy premade cannabutter or canna oil, pay attention to the dose per serving, which tends to be much higher than the standard recipes in Kitchen Toke. If your state does not require shopping from only one dispensary, there’s an upside to visiting more than one. Many give free gifts to first-timers. No matter the type of dispensary, you’ll likely walk into a vestibule and encounter security personnel and a check-in desk. All dispensaries require identification, such as a driver’s license, and they will log your visit. For medicinal cannabis, you’ll need to show proof of a doctor’s approval. In most scenarios, medical marijuana patients pay lower taxes and have access to strains with higher percentages of THC.

4. Be upfront with your budtender
At some point, you will end up dealing with a budtender. Budtenders are experts in cannabis who offer suggestions based on your needs. They’ll also pull product for you and ring up your order. They can only be as good as the information you provide, so don’t hold back. Be up-front about your purpose, ailments and concerns. A good budtender will answer your questions with confidence, make appropriate product recommendations and put you at ease.

5. Use your sniffer
When you choose a strain, consider the terpenes, the fragrant oils that give cannabis its aromatic diversity. Generally, “whatever smells good is gonna taste good. Just follow your nose in the kitchen,” Lavorato says. “Choose flower for your recipes that smells delicious to you.” Sometimes the name of a strain reflects the flavor. Sour Diesel, for example, has an assertive citrusy scent, making it ideal for making a cannabutter for seafood, a vinaigrette or a lemony dessert, but not so much for a brownie. Blue Dream, however, which has a sweet, berrylike scent, pairs nicely with myriad foods, from brownies and ranch dressing to green smoothies and spicy shrimp.

6. Channel Goldilocks
Since individual reactions to cannabis vary, a one-size- fits-all dosing formula does not exist. Take a lesson from the intrepid Goldilocks: Approach the unknowns around dosing with caution and accept that a little disappointment or even discomfort is likely to get to “just right.” For starters, purchase one strain dominant in THC and another dominant in CBD. Test edibles made with these strains on different days so that you can familiarize yourself with how the THC and CBD function in your body, using this experiment to help reach the desired results.

7. Determine strength
Cannabis has higher amounts of THC today than in the past. At one Los Angeles dispensary, it ranged from 14.1 to 26.5 percent. A good budtender can help you determine the right percentage of THC depending on what you want to accomplish. See page 97 for a formula to calculate the strength of a dose. That said, Lavorato thinks that 10 mg is an approachable, tolerable dose for most people, but suggests that a dose as low as 2 mg is a good idea for a first-timer.

“Be very patient,” Lavorato says. “Our society has a tendency to want immediate results, especially with edibles. Maybe the first time you don’t get high enough, but that’s so much better than getting too high. You can always eat more, you can never eat less. If you put a gram of flower into a batch of one dozen cookies, at the very least, you will know how much stronger you want to make them.”

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