Here’s everything you should know
New Cannabis User Guide
1. Cannabis Changes Lives
Chances are you’ve already heard that cannabis changs lives and that’s how you stumbled upon this page.
Cannabis changed my life personally and I’ve watched it change the lives of countless others. In case you’re still on the fence about trying MMJ, here are more patients happy to share their stories:
- Pamela Hadfield: Migraines
- Nina Simmons: Epilepsy
- Meg Lewellyn: Multiple Sclerosis
- Danny Sloat: Pain
Aside from remarkable symptom management, there are more reasons to consider cannabis, here are several little-known benefits of marijuana.
2. Not All Marijuana Is Equal
First, you should know cannabinoid medicine is complex. It’s not as easy as smoking a random joint and feeling better. It’s important for patients to know, NOT ALL MARIJUANA IS EQUAL!!
I can’t stress this enough. Each strain of cannabis causes a different physical and mental reaction. On top of that, cannabis medicine is very individualized, so you might react very differently to a strain compared to my reaction.
For patients, this means if one strain of cannabis doesn’t help relieve your symptoms, please try another. Patients often need to try several different strains before they find the ideal one for them. Personally, I mix strains to create my customized blend based on my symptoms. I encourage new patients to start with a high-CBD, low-THC strain the first time and to slowly increase their THC levels.
Think of cannabis like other medications. Patients often have to try several different pharmaceuticals before finding one that works best for them. The biggest difference is, with cannabis you don’t have to worry about dying from an overdose because no one has ever died from too much marijuana.
3. Whole-Plant Medicine vs Isolate
Where you live determines your access to different types of products. Products generally fall into two types: Whole-plant medicine vs isolate.
To understand why cannabis medicine varies so much, you need to understand the basic chemistry of cannabis. Cannabis is an organic material made up of more than 400 different molecular compounds. Like most plants, marijuana contains polyphenols, proteins, esters, etc. In addition, cannabis also contains cannabinoids, highly active molecules that interact with our endocannabinoid system.
The most popular and most researched cannabinoids are THC and CBD. However, in addition to these major cannabinoids, there are a hundred-and-something minor cannabinoids that we must not forget about. Each minor cannabinoid can have a profound physiological effect. It’s the ratios of these minor cannabinoids and the terpenes that make each strain of cannabis so different.
Different ratios of cannabinoids (major and minor,) plus different terpenes, create different health effects. Whole-plant, or full-spectrum, medicine refers to using the entire plant to address the symptoms. This frequently involves vaping or smoking the flower, cooking with the flower, and extracting oil & concentrates directly from the flower. Whole plant medicine utilizes the plant’s natural terpenes, polyphenols, and ALL of the plant’s cannabinoids, both the major cannabinoids and the minor ones. I am a passionate believer in whole-plant medicine.
Cannabis Isolates – THC or CBD
Isolates, on the other hand, refer to utilizing the isolated cannabinoids, usually just THC and/or CBD. Researchers often prefer to use isolates because it decreases the variables and makes the research more consistent. Unfortunately, using isolates exclusively is not always as effective for every patient. Most patients benefit greatly from all of the natural cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis.
The medical marijuana programs in some states only allow access to isolates, so not all patients have access to whole flower.
Isolates are common in dispensary edibles (especially candy because they’re easy to spray on). Isolates are also often used in oils, tinctures, and carts. Vapable Carts/Oil Cartridges are often made from THC/CBD isolate with added terpenes.
Personally, I see benefits to using CBD isolate in addition to whole-plant medical marijuana.
4. How Should I Take It?
After you choose a type of medication, you’ll need to choose a method of consumption. There are many different types of cannabis products. Depending on how the product is prepared, you can smoke it, eat it, use it as topical, take it as a suppository, absorb it under your tongue, swallow a capsule, and more.
We’ll briefly discuss the two most popular methods:
- Oral consumption
When possible, I urge new cannabis users who are using cannabis for the first time, to start by vaping the whole flower (vaping concentrates is much stronger). Vaping offers the same immediate benefits of smoking, but without the carcinogenic effects of smoke. If someone doesn’t have access to a vape, they can smoke with a water pipe which can help filter out some of the carcinogens.
When you consume cannabis by inhaling it, it takes effect more quickly and wears off more quickly than oral consumption. This is good for the occasional new patient who dislikes the feeling.
There are a variety of vaporizers on the market, in a variety of price ranges.
I’m a steadfast Pax vaporizer fan. This is the device I use to vape dry herb (it also vapes concentrates):
The Pulsar Flow is my favorite dry herb vape under $100.00:
Some individuals desire the immediate benefits of cannabis but struggle with vaping or smoking. For example, even though cannabis has been historically used to treat asthma, some people just can’t tolerate inhaling the hot air. These individuals often benefit from a Volcano vaporizer. which allows the hit to cool in a bag prior to inhalation.
When Patients Can’t Tolerate Vaping/Smoking
A less effective, but more affordable alternative to the volcano vaporizer, is a bong with an ice pinch. The ice can help cool the smoke prior to inhalation. (You fill the top of this bong with ice. The smoke is filtered by the water at the bottom of the beaker. Then the ice cools the filtered smoke before the person inhales it.)
Fortunately, for those who cannot tolerate inhalation at all, edibles exist.
Eating cannabis is the most convenient way to utilize it. Patients often choose this method as a way to avoid the smell of marijuana.
It’s important for patients to realize that the effects of eating cannabis are different (sometimes very different) than vaping or smoking it. The intoxicating effects of edibles tend to be more pronounced compared to inhalation. It also takes longer for edibles set in and a lot longer to wear off. Even regular cannabis users, who strictly smoke or vape, should start edibles with a low dose.
Patients should also keep in mind that edibles don’t work for everyone. Occasionally, digestive systems just don’t properly process cannabis consumed orally.
In some areas, like San Francisco, dispensaries sell accurately dosed cannabis edibles, capsules, tinctures, and more. Having access to accurate pre-measured doses makes managing cannabis medicine much simpler.
Making Eibles At Home
Unfortunately, not all regions sell edibles, in many areas like NJ, we make our own edibles at home.
The good news is, even though making edibles at home can be time-consuming, it’s not too difficult. Here’s how to make a small batch of cannabis oil at home the old-fashioned way.
If you’re looking to save time, there are a few innovative devices that can make preparing edibles significantly easier. The Magical Butter Machine makes cannabis butter, oil, and tinctures at the touch of a button. Watch my demo.
Before you can prepare and utilize your cannabis, you need to decarboxylate, or decarb, it. To do this, you cook the cannabis flower at a very low temperature. Proper decarboxylation is essential for effective medicine.
Here’s a basic explanation of what happens during decarboxylation: Raw cannabis contains low levels of THC, but contains high levels of THCA (the inactive precursor to THC). THCA needs to be heated at a specific temperature for a specific period of time to properly convert it to THC. The cannabis will not be effective if it’s not decarboxylated.
The cheapest way to decarb is to cook the flower covered in the oven at 220-240 degrees for 30-60 minutes. You probably notice the large range in temperature and time in those instructions. The truth is every plant is a little different and there are a few different methods. This makes it hard to decarb perfectly. Decarbing in an oven is effective but not completely efficient.
If you want perfect decarboxylation, you need the NOVA Lift Decarboxylator. This little device makes perfectly potent edibles. Ardent sent me one to test and I’m blown away. My medication is significantly more potent using this device.
Cannabis topicals are often forgotten about but can be extremely effective for some types of pain. I use cannabis topicals regularly. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a state with an expansive product selection, you’ll have plenty of ready-made options.
If you don’t have access to a commercial product, you can still try cannabis topicals by making them at home. You can use infused cannabis oil directly or you can use the infused oil to make a homemade cannabis topical recipe.
5. Will Medical Marijuana Make Me Feel High?
Patients often want to know, “Will cannabis make me feel high?” It all depends on the THC content, but in the beginning, yes, cannabis will probably make you feel a little high. However, most patients adjust quickly as their THC tolerance builds. Usually, after a few days-to-weeks of consistent use, one or two puffs does not make the user feel cognitively altered.
This is not unusual with medication. Many pharmaceuticals come with warning labels informing patients “not to drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how this medication affects you”. The same is true for cannabis.
6. How Much Should I Use?
First, let’s acknowledge that using too much cannabis, too quickly, can cause anxiety and panic attacks. Overconsumption is responsible for the majority of bad experiences while using cannabis. Start at a low dose, and increase your dose VERY slowly.
Proper dosing of cannabis is challenging.
Keep in mind, there’s also a genetic component to cannabis metabolism which means everyone is different- different people require different dosages and different frequency.
How much to start with, depends on what type of products you have access to. I’m a believer in whole-plant medicine. I always recommend patients start with a low dose, for example, one puff of a low-THC flower, and wait a while to see how it affects them, then increase it from there.
If starting with edibles, I often recommend starting with 2.5 mg and waiting 2 hours.
7. Are There Risks of Using Cannabis?
Like all substances, there are risks associated with cannabis use because both, THC and CBD have side effects. The thing is, the risks of cannabis have been blown way out of proportion. Medical marijuana is actually significantly safer than most pharmaceuticals. Some experts argue that marijuana is safer than Tylenol.
Still, like coffee or alcohol or even Tylenol, patients should be aware of the minor risks associated with cannabis use. Cardiac patients should know that cannabis can affect the heart. It’s also important for patients taking other pharmaceuticals to know that cannabis can interact with some medications like antidepressants and antibiotics, and blood thinners. Usually, these interactions are minor but it’s important to be aware of the possibilities.
8. Know the Laws
The most dangerous thing about cannabis is the law. Being arrested for cannabis destroys and derails lives. No one has ever died from a cannabis overdose, but countless lives have been destroyed by cannabis arrests.
Go out of your way to understand and respect your local laws to make sure you are protected (or as protected as possible). The unfortunate truth is medical marijuana patients trade rights for medicine.
Because medical cannabis is not legal everywhere, some very ill patients are forced to choose between their health and following the law. My heart aches for those in that predicament.
7. Should I Tell People?
I’m often asked by patients if they should be public about their cannabis use, or if it’s something they should keep to themselves. This is a very personal decision.
As an advocate, my heart wishes for everyone who benefits from cannabis to scream out their truth. BUT as a human who understands the purveyance of the negative stigma and it affects, I understand why most people hesitate. There are societal risks associated with cannabis use because of federal law and the stigma.
Most states do not have employment protections so, unfortunately, many cannabis patients risk losing their jobs if they come out publicly.
If you do decide to tell your loved ones about your cannabis use, try to come from a place of understanding. Be patients. The brainwashing is intense and many don’t believe the medical benefits until they witness it first hand. Educate yourself and go into conversations with knowledge and resources.
As a parent, it’s extremely important to talk to your kids about cannabis (even if you choose not to divulge your use) because kids are NOT learning facts in school, they are still learning propaganda. Parents who are medical marijuana patients have a special obligation to prepare their kids to face the negative stigma because they will face it eventually.
If you do decide to go public, here are some tips.
- Be educated and prepared to present facts and resources–often.
- Expect people to confidentially tell you that they use cannabis too (you’ll be shocked by how many do and by who it is!)
- Expect to encounter people who are totally brainwashed and will simply never understand cannabis use unless they experience it first hand. After more than 80 years of propaganda, it’s impossible to convince every one of the truth. Here’s how I deal with cannaphobia.
Cannabis is a new medication and trying it can be a little scary at first. Be patient, listen to your body, and learn, learn, learn. Not everyone experiences incredible benefits from cannabis, but I can tell you first hand, for many, medical marijuana is life-changing. I hope your results are as remarkable as mine have been.
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