Dear Herb: I’m a cannabis newbie. Where do I start?

A self-described rookie wants to try cannabis after legalization. What to buy without "looking dumb?"


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Dear Herb: If I'm a rookie who hasn't used pot for years, what is the easiest product to start with on July 1?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/03/2018 (1779 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dear Herb: If I’m a rookie who hasn’t used pot for years, what is the easiest product to start with on July 1?

I want something that’s easy to consume, so maybe not something I have to smoke. Something that’s not too powerful. Something I won’t look dumb asking for. — Afraid to be a Square

Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he'll look into it.

Dear Square: First, my usual proviso: July 1, which has been widely reported as the target date for legalization, is no longer in the cards. At this point, I think we’re looking at legalization in late summer or early fall.

Fast-forward, then, to Sept. 1 or whenever legalization begins. Let’s imagine your nightmare scenario:



A clean, brightly-lit, government-sanctioned marijuana dispensary. A long line of impatient HIP YOUNG CANADIANS stretches out the door, staring at their iPhones as they wait their turn to buy cannabis legally for the first time.

SQUARE, a middle-aged Canadian who hasn’t smelled weed since her high-school prom in 1974, is near the front of the line. Beads of sweat form on her forehead as she frantically scans a wall-mounted list of cannabis strains for sale.

CLERK (shouting): Next in line, please!

SQUARE steps up to the SALES COUNTER.

CLERK (brightly): Welcome to Legal Cannabis Store! How can I help you today?

SQUARE: Uh, hi… I’d like to buy some grass — I mean, some pot, I guess? Dope? Ganja?

CLERK (patiently): Certainly ma’am, we have many kinds of cannabis available for purchase. How much were you looking to buy today?

SQUARE: I used to buy it by the lid when I was a teenager. Do you have any lids?

CLERK (trying not to laugh): No ma’am, we have packages of one gram, three-and-a-half grams, seven grams or thirty grams.

SQUARE: Wait, how much is a gram again?

CLERK (under his breath): Not another one…

CLERK picks up the in-store intercom as SQUARE looks on in horror.

CLERK (loudly): Can I get a fogey check at register three?

HIP YOUNG CANADIANS point at SQUARE and laugh heartily while documenting the entire event on Snapchat.



OK, Square, let’s get you educated so you can walk into that cannabis store with confidence!

Immediately after legalization, Canadians will actually be fairly limited in terms of the types of cannabis products they can purchase. Government regulations on commercially produced cannabis edibles won’t be ready until about a year after legalization, so you won’t be able to buy edibles on day one.

The same goes for concentrated, vapeable and smokable cannabis oils. That means you won’t be able to purchase those slick cannabis oil vape pens all the kids are using these days.

(That’s a bit of a shame. In my opinion, a no-fuss, no-muss cannabis vape pen is probably the least complicated way for a newbie like you to try cannabis.)

Ingestible cannabis oil will be legal as soon as legalization takes off, so that’s one possibility for a smokeless legal cannabis experience. Those ingestible oils are generally administered under the tongue or mixed with food.

At this point, though, those oils are mostly designed for people who use cannabis for medical purposes. I don’t know whether they’ll be the kind of in-demand product that retail cannabis stores will carry. (And, some of those oils have very low amounts of psychoactive THC, so they probably wouldn’t be a good option for recreational users who want to get high.)

Aside from those ingestible oils, you’ll only have one other option at the outset of legalization: buying dried cannabis bud and then figuring out how to use it.

In terms of buying the bud itself, ask the cannabis store employee for something relatively mild. Specifically, I would suggest cannabis with THC content in the range of 5 to 10 per cent. Cannabis store employees ought to be well-trained on recommending products in line with consumer preferences, and I’m willing to bet they’ll be ready for novice users like yourself who want “beginner” bud.

The way I see it, there are three ways to use that bud: smoking it, vaporizing it or making your own edibles. You wrote that you’d like to avoid smoking, so scratch that. Making homemade edibles can be a complex, time-consuming process (as I’ve documented in a previous edition of Dear Herb) so let’s cross that off the list too.

A handheld cannabis vaporizer in action. This particular model retails for about $500. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)

In my view, your best remaining smokeless option will be to buy a vaporizer designed for cannabis bud and learn how to use it. In short, vaporizers heat up ground cannabis bud without actually igniting it, turning the active ingredients of cannabis into a warm, inhalable vapour instead of hot smoke. Vaporizing is generally considered a less harmful way to use cannabis.

The good news is, there are lots of vaporizers on the market already, and they’ll almost certainly be sold at legal cannabis stores.

The bad news is, you might wind up paying a couple hundred bucks for a good one. Cannabis vaporizers are available in desktop and portable models, with prices ranging from $75 to $800. You’ll also need a grinder to pulverize the bud before vaping it.

Different vaporizer models all work in different ways, so there’s no one-size-fits-all explanation for how to use one. I recommend heading to your local head shop ahead of legalization and asking an employee to show you a few different models and explain how they work. Pay special attention to user-friendliness and ease of cleaning, and ask about the battery life of portable units.

Perhaps the cost and complexity of vaporizers is turning you off, and you’re starting to rethink the idea of smoking. If so, you will be able to buy pre-rolled joints on day one of legalization. That might not be the healthiest option for your lungs, but it will be the single most straightforward way to walk into a legal weed store and walk out with something immediately useable.

Or, you can wait another year for legal, mass-produced edibles and cannabis-oil vape pens.

In the meantime, here are a few Leaf News articles that might help you get up to speed on the basics of cannabis:

See you at Legal Cannabis Store!

Got a question about cannabis? Herb answers your questions about legal consumption and growing, the law, etiquette — you name it, he’ll look into it.  Email or to submit anonymously, fill out the form below. Please include an email address if you’d like to be notified when Herb answers your question:  


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