There’s a first time for everything, so they say. Cannabis containing THC is one of the most commonly used psychoactive substances in the entire world, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s tried it. Yet.
If you’re of legal age and are considering trying weed for the first time, we’re genuinely excited for you! We’re already anticipating the delightfully heightened sensations it’s going to inspire. Being high is a strange and wondrous experience, a special kind of euphoria that can make ordinary experiences like gazing at the sky an ecstatic occasion.
But like anything else, there are different ways to go about it. We want your first experience of being high to be a positive one and to help you avoid the pitfalls that can come with inexperience. So take a trip with us—um, no, not that kind of a trip—and we’ll share our wealth of knowledge about the effects of cannabis, how to best enjoy them, and how to stay safe and happy while trying cannabis for the first time!
What to Do Before You Get High
You’re probably champing at the bit to start puffing on your first bowl or joint. That’s totally understandable! But before you get started, there’s one big concept that you need to understand before trying cannabis for the first time.
Across cannabis and other psychoactive experiences there is an important concept called “set and setting.” In this case, “set” refers to your mindset and “setting” refers to the physical space in which your experience occurs.
Cultivate a Setting
Let’s start with the “setting” part of the equation first. All it means is that for your first time getting high, you should choose a comfortable, familiar place to situate yourself. (No, we’re not suggesting the couch in front of the television, though that might happen a bit later!)
Being high can be a bit disorienting at first, so anything you can do to remind yourself that you’re on firm ground—with everything you need close at hand—will help make your experience more positive and predictable.
Many people—ourselves included!—love to roam the great outdoors while high. If you’re a nature lover, by all means, plant yourself (no pun intended) outside and take in the awe-inspiring splendor of Mother Earth.
But at the same time, be smart. Don’t set up camp in an area with a lot of hazards, like sharp drops, treacherous rapids, or poison ivy-choked trails. Be sure you have weather-appropriate clothing and basic supplies such as beverages and snacks (more on this last point later). For many first-timers, home may turn out to be the best place to begin.
Prepare Your Mindset
What about the “set” part? Cannabis tends to heighten whatever emotions you’re feeling; happiness can quickly blossom into joy, but any fears you’re having can suddenly loom larger and become more threatening than they normally might. This is what many people love about cannabis. It helps them observe, process, and move through emotions.
Still, it’s not uncommon for cannabis to provoke feelings of anxiety or paranoia in certain individuals on occasion. Is there a way to guarantee this won’t happen to you? No. But before you put down the vape pen and back away in terror, take a deep breath.
Here are some things to remember: Cannabis is inherently safe to consume. No reliable links have ever been made to cannabis causing a fatal overdose.
Even if you feel disoriented or confused after getting high for the first time, it’s helpful to remember that you’re not in danger. You’re not going to get in trouble. Wait a moment, take a few deep and cleansing breaths, and feel yourself come back into your body. There; that’s what we’re talking about.
Gearing Up: How to Get Cannabis Inside Your Body
Now that you’ve got the physical and emotional landscape prepared, there’s the question of what to smoke (or vape or take as a tincture or eat as a yummy, infused treat). You get the point—there are lots of ways to enjoy cannabis!
For your very first time consuming cannabis, we recommend smoking or vaping. Other methods can be just as wonderful and bring different characteristics to the party, but smoking cannabis flower or extract—or using a convenient vape pen—have one significant advantage: They take effect almost immediately. Let’s evaluate vaping vs. smoking side by side.
For those of us looking for the “classic” consumption experience, smoking cannabis flower just can’t be beat. However, it is harder on your lungs—even though cannabis smoke is not as harmful as tobacco smoke—and just as importantly, it’s harder to regulate the amount you’re inhaling compared with a vaporizer.
If you’d like to try smoking for your first cannabis foray, we recommend having a seasoned veteran on hand. We like to tell our customers: “Start low and go slow.” What does that mean? Especially if you’re new to cannabis, just consume a tiny amount. There will always be sessions in your future where you can layer on if it feels right.
Also, contrary to popular belief: Don’t be afraid to cough. You’ll still get to enjoy the effects and your body will adjust over time. We’re confident you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
Upsides: It’s a sheer pleasure to roll joints or roll out and break apart cannabis flower to use in a pipe or bong. You learn—quickly—how to regulate the amount of smoke entering your lungs to prevent coughing.
Downsides: For those unaccustomed to (or uninterested in) rolling joints, the actual rolling process—which can be tricky and certainly takes practice—doesn’t have to fall on you. Pre-rolls are a great option. The first few times you inhale cannabis smoke, you will probably cough and feel a bit uncomfortable. Or if you’re in a group, mildly embarrassed. Just remember, it’s totally normal.
While it lacks the mystique of sparking up a joint or the sensory satisfaction of taking a rip from a bong, vaping is a fascinating technological advancement on the ancient art of smoking. Rather than burning cannabis flower, vape pens (or more elaborate table top vaporizers) use a gentler heating method. The pen heats cannabis flower or highly potent cannabis extract to the point at which the cannabinoid-rich volatile oils in the plant become vaporized but not to the point that they actually burn.
This spares you the harsh and bitter flavors associated with inhaling burning plant matter. Will you feel a bit like you’re having your temperature taken with one of those techno-wands at the doctor’s office? Possibly. Will you receive a predictable dose of smooth and non-irritating cannabis vapor? Definitely.
Upsides: Vaping is easy. As Lauren Bacall once said, “You just put your lips together and blow.” (Actually you inhale, but who are we to argue with Lauren Bacall?) Regardless, this theme of simplicity is the bottom line. When comparing smoking vs. vaping, it is far easier to regulate the amount of cannabis you’re inhaling with a vape pen. Advanced vape pens even have features such as a gentle, finger-shaking buzz to announce that you’ve inhaled a perfectly modulated dose.
Downsides: You will lose some of the outlaw cool associated with smoking. But hey, less smoke can be a good thing, too.
Using Concentrates or Edibles When Trying Cannabis for the First Time
Are you contemplating using edibles or concentrates when trying cannabis for the first time? You may want to reconsider. Don’t get us wrong. Both of these consumption methods have a time and a place, and they each fill a specific niche for cannabis users.
That said, concentrates and edibles may be overwhelming for someone who’s trying cannabis for the first time and they might be better enjoyed once you’re more familiar with the kinds of experiences cannabis produces.
Concentrates possess a much higher potency as compared to cannabis flower. Edibles produce a different experience than smoking, since the cannabinoids in edibles are digested before they enter your bloodstream and impart their signature effects.
This means that edibles have a long onset time (an hour or more in many cases). The effects will last for longer, too, as the edible makes its way through your digestive system. Many first-time cannabis users get impatient waiting for the effects of edibles to kick in and believe they need to take more. Eventually, they are hit with the effects of a larger than intended dosage.
When you’re just getting started with cannabis, we recommend starting with a simpler option such as smoking or vaping.
What You’ll Feel the First Time You’re High
Finally, we’re getting to the good part! Cannabis intoxication is a blissful and time-bending experience all in one, and your senses may feel a little unsteady as they acclimate to this new mental environment. Depending on how much you’ve imbibed—and we recommend you “start low and go slow” to allow the cannabis to take effect gently—you’ll feel the effects for at least two hours, but usually not for longer than 2-6 hours, as long as you don’t keep ingesting more cannabis.
One of the most interesting things about cannabis is that, while there’s a reasonably predictable range of outcomes, it’s impossible to know exactly how any one person will react. Some of the sensations you can expect when trying weed for the first time include:
Euphoria: A feeling of bliss, inexplicable joyfulness, even a floaty sensation in your body as well as your mind. Do not fight this feeling; embrace it!
Time and Distance Warp: Cannabis changes our sense of time, typically making us think things are taking longer than they really are. Don’t try to speed yourself up or keep checking your phone. Enjoy the sensation and go with the flow. It’ll be over sooner than you may think.
Spatial Perception Changes: For some people—particularly females, interestingly enough—cannabis can alter perceptions of spatial relations. So especially when you’re new to the sensations of being high, move a bit more slowly and carefully than you might otherwise.
Surrounded by Sound: One of cannabis’ most potent effects is on our perception of sounds and music. Without getting too deep into the science behind it, we’ll cut to the chase by stating: The effects of cannabis makes music sound AWESOME.
The first time you get high, make sure you have access to some of your favorite tunes close at hand in case you feel called toward music. It really doesn’t matter what genre it is, although it’s true some aficionados gravitate towards chill, downbeat music to accompany their high. Bonus points for having good-quality headphones on hand. You will appreciate them like never before.
The Munchies: We promised we’d include this all-important topic and we’re delivering. The first time you’re high, you might be floored by how good food can taste. There are a host of possible reasons this happens; Smithsonian magazine published an in-depth article on the subject but—because it contains terms like “olfactory habituation” and “nucleus accumbens”—we recommend you read it when you’re not high.
Here’s a word to the wise: Have some of your favorite treats close at hand, but don’t go overboard. It’s easy to overeat when you’re high, and trust us, it’s not worth the tummyache. Choose a couple of simple, salty items—a little bag of salty roast nuts, or a sensible amount of potato chips, for instance—and a couple of sweet bites. Perhaps a crisp, ripe apple or a juicy orange, plus one moderate piece of chocolate or a (non-cannabis) cookie.
Extracurricular Activities: By all means, try out some of your favorite activities, so long as you’re confident you can stay safe. This is NOT the time to take up bungee-jumping, archery, or carpentry.
This next bit may be so obvious it (almost) doesn’t need to be said, but: Don’t plan on doing any driving till you’ve completely come down. There’s no need to tempt fate with your altered perception of time and space, is there? Once you’ve consumed cannabis a few times, there’s no reason not to engage in yoga, jogging, meditation or many other restorative activities! We’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out that sex on cannabis will help you understand the phrase “blow your mind” as you never have before!
Anxiety and Paranoia: Try as we might to avoid them, these feelings are a fairly common side effect of getting high. Our advice? As we pointed out earlier, it helps to remember that you’re in a safe and comfy setting and that any uncomfortable feelings you’re experiencing are just that: Feelings. They’re not going to hurt you, and you’re not going to feel this way forever. In most cases, these sensations will pass relatively quickly.
Varieties of Cannabis
This brings up an important point about cannabis. Just as everyone reacts to cannabis a bit differently, there’s also not just one kind of cannabis to react to! We do our best to source fresh, carefully handled, and responsibly processed cannabis products. At the end of the day, cannabis is still a plant, and as such it occurs in a dizzying variety of subtypes, or strains.
This is part of the cannabis plant’s mystery and wonder! Many cannabis enthusiasts divide the plant into two major botanical groupings: sativa and indica. Some strains—particularly sativa-dominant ones—tend to produce a buzzier, more stimulating and cerebral high; indica-dominant strains produce the deep relaxation (sometimes including the wonderful and/or stupefying “couch lock” sensation) and blissed-out inertia often associated with cannabis.
As you grow more experienced with cannabis, you’ll naturally begin to gravitate towards strains that suit you best or are a good match for different types of activity—there are far too many strains to describe here! Especially if you’re new to cannabis, we invite you to come by our Des Moines or Seattle dispensaries anytime to chat with one of our friendly budtenders. In addition to getting you set up with any gear you might need, our knowledgeable team can help steer you toward cannabis strains best suited to your goals and desires.
One Plant, Many Reasons for Consumption
Speaking of goals and desires, we know that people try cannabis for all sorts of reasons, both recreational and medical. Our stance is that we want to make it easy, enjoyable, and safe for you, no matter what those reasons are.
That said, there are reasons to be mindful of cannabis. It’s estimated that a small number of people who use cannabis could develop a dependence upon it. As we all know, moderation can be a useful tool in this and many other aspects of life.
For the large majority of cannabis users, it’s a safe, stimulating, relaxing and inspiring part of a healthy and active life. Whether you’re trying weed for the first time or an old pro, we want to help. You know how to reach us!