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The Explorer’s Guide to Cannabis

A primer for cannabis beginners and curious rookies 

Let’s admit it. Cannabis is no longer the domain of your hippie uncle or your stoner roommate. As legalization has swept the nation, cannabis has experienced a major image upgrade, and now occupies a place in the hearts and minds of the wellness savvy, influencers, the beauty industry, and even the senior set. If you are just getting started or recent legalization has made you think “why not?” it’s easy to be overwhelmed. The world of cannabis can indeed be intimidating, with jargon, fancy strains, and a million new consumption methods to choose from. 

Here, we aim to demystify cannabis with a user-friendly guide so you can have the best possible experience. 

Step One: Identify Your Goals 

A great starting point is considering what you are hoping to get out of your cannabis experience. If you haven’t yet fully committed to diving in, taking some time to get educated can be super helpful. 

Much of the enthusiasm driving cannabis’ popularity in recent years has been the growing consensus about the range of benefits. For people with medical conditions like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and ALS, cannabis is increasingly used as an alternative or in conjunction with traditional pharmaceuticals to manage symptoms like inflammation or seizures. 

For those looking to bolster their mental health, cannabis is widely used to help treat insomnia, PTSD, stress, and anxiety. For others, such as athletes hoping to relieve chronic pain or enhance performance, cannabis offers a non-addictive, minimal-side effect solution. 

And of course, with Arizona’s recent shift to recreational legalization, you might just be curious and want to see what all the fuss is about. 

Step Two: Knowledge is Power 

Getting up to speed on some cannabis basics will help you ensure you get the most out of your experiences. First: not all cannabis has the same effect. Varying strains affect the mind and body differently and can be consumed with intention to achieve a desired effect. 

Terpenes 101 

Terpenes are aromatic compounds responsible for giving plants, including cannabis, their distinctive fragrances. Terpenes have their own pharmacology and affect the way we feel. The terpene profile of each strain or product largely determines if you’ll have a more sedating or stimulating experience. Cannabis products are commonly categorized into three varieties to help consumers predict its effects: 

  • Sativa/Stimulating 
  • Hybrid/Balanced 
  • Indica/Calming 

Personal terpene preference is a crucial part of setting yourself up for success when selecting cannabis products that respond well to your unique biology. 

Cannabinoids 

By this point, you’ve probably heard the terms CBD and THC thrown around with some frequency. These are not strains, but rather compounds of the cannabis plant. Indeed, cannabis is chock-full of compounds—over 100 of them—called cannabinoids, of which THC and CBD are the most widely known. 

These cannabinoids interact with the body’s own endocannabinoid system in a range of ways. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating a wide range of functions, including sleep, memory, mood, appetite and more – it is what keeps all mammals in balance, also known as homeostasis. 

Simply put, CBD is most commonly associated with therapeutic effects. It has been proven to help with inflammation and muscle spasms caused by epilepsy (Lennox Gastaut and Davet syndromes).  There is anecdotal evidence that CBD also helps with sleep support, anxiety reduction, and pain management, while THC is associated with cannabis’ legendary “high” and ability to induce feelings of euphoria. 

Basically, CBD is the non-intoxicating sister of THC—which means it will calm you down without getting you high. Enthusiasts swear by CBD’s multitude of benefits, including anxiety relief. CBD has the potential to balance the ECS and thus aid with conditions such as anxiety, stress, sleep disruptions, etc.  

CBD has gained traction in industries from skincare to sports medicine and has popped up in everything from mascara to pain-relieving lotion. It is celebrated by everyone from pro-athletes to doctors, moms, and supermodels. 

Aside from feelings of well-being, THC can also be associated with relaxation, appetite stimulation, pain and stress relief, and feelings of elation. It’s worth mentioning that too much THC can lead to some discomfort. Because it is a biphasic it can cause anxiety at high doses or when isolated. We’ll get more into this in the dosing section. 

Its also worth mentioning that cultivation technology has evolved tremendously in recent decades, and many celebrated strains are blended for balance, effect, and flavor. 

Cannabis compounds work better collectively than isolated, creating stronger experiences known as the entourage effect. When possible, choose full-spectrum products over isolates. 

Utilizing the services of a well-informed budtender can guide you through the maze of options and help you find one that is well-balanced and best suited to your needs. 

It is also important to note that most of our understanding of cannabis’s effects comes from anecdotal evidence. Because of lingering federal prohibition, cannabis research is still in its early stages. “There are preliminary animal studies showing anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and sleep-inducing properties of both THC and CBD,” Jeff Chen, MD/MBA, Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative, recently told Well+Good, but added, “animal studies often don’t translate to humans.” 

Consumption Methods 

Cannabis consumption methods have also evolved radically since the early days of joints and pot brownies. At your local dispensary, you are likely to find a huge range of products – like flower, for smoking or vaporizing, yummy edibles, tinctures, vape pens, oils, and balms for your skin. Choosing the right consumption method is all about your desired effect and lifestyle. Discreet vape pens are well-loved for their ability to help people medicate on the go, while the world of gummies and other edibles has grown to include some dazzling options. Connecting with a trusted guide and getting informed can help you navigate this maze and take some of the mystery out of your options. 

Dosing 

The first rule of dosing is to start low and go slow. Overconsumption, especially if you are new to cannabis, is all too easy, especially with edibles and other concoctions. Beginning with too high a dose can create discomfort, including paranoia, dry mouth, and forgetfulness. If you are smoking, for example, beginning with a puff and waiting a few minutes to see how you feel is a good idea. With an edible or tincture, a 2.5mg dose is a good place to begin. 

For more specific guidelines, we have created a handy dosing chart to guide you: 

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Step Three: Keeping A Cannabis Journal 

In order to keep track of the different products you use, cannabis strains, terpene profiles, and length of effects, it is important to keep a cannabis journal. This will help you discover and remember your preferences, experiences and usage. It can help you uncover patterns that help you improve symptoms; avoid products you don’t like or find effective or even figure out when is the best time of day for you to consume. Here’s a template of what a cannabis journal entry should include: 

  • Date 
  • Time 
  • Symptoms before use 
  • Method of administration 
  • Dose 
  • Strain name and variety (Sativa, Hybrid, or Indica) 
  • Cannabinoid count (% of mg of THC, CBD, etc.) 
  • Terpenes if known 
  • Smells like 
  • Do you like the smell? 
  • Looks like? 
  • Symptoms after use 
  • Length of effects 
  • Effects 
  • Unwanted effects 
  • Other notes 

 If you want to dive deeper, the Item 9 Labs blog is a great source of reliable information on all things cannabis. And, our team is always happy to hear from you! Reach out to us via email at info@item9labs.com with any questions you have. We wish you luck on your cannabis exploration journey!