Five things for the cannabis-uninitiated to know about bud

Jonathon Page, a botany professor and cannabis tester at the University of British Columbia, and Tim Cullen, CEO of Colorado Harvest Company, offier a crash-course for the cannabis-uninitiated.

Indica versus Sativa and other questions answered

Customers line up outside Jimmy's Cannabis in Martensville, Sask. on the day that recreational cannabis became legal in Canada. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

If you are heading to the local cannabis shop, some experts suggest you do a little homework.

CBC Radio in Saskatchewan reached out to Jonathon Page, a botany professor and cannabis tester at the University of British Columbia, and Tim Cullen the CEO of Colorado Harvest Company for a newcomer's crash course on recreational cannabis,.

Here are five things to consider before handing over your green.   

1. THC

They need that baseline of knowledge about potency.- Jonathon Page

This is not the 1960s.

Cannabis today is refined.

Be careful and ask about the THC percentage.

"That's the main driver of the psychoactivity, the high of cannabis, but also a lot of the possible medical properties like pain relief and anti-nausea," explains Jonathon Page.

THC really is the measure of how potent cannabis is. If you are a new user, you should think about going low so that you don't get too high.

You can't overdose on THC, but too much can be extremely unpleasant.

Consumer beware, said Page.

"They need that baseline of knowledge about potency because it's really important to the experience both from the pleasurable side and the enjoyment side but also how intoxicated you are."

FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2016, file photo, assistant manager Jaclyn Stafford arranges glass display containers of marijuana on shelves at The Station, a retail and medical cannabis dispensary, in Boulder, Colo. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

2. What's in a name?

It's easy to get confused.- Tim Cullen

There is a dizzying selection of cannabis strains. Sometimes the names make sense. For example, Sour Diesel crossbred with Bubble Gum becomes, you guessed it, Sour Gum.

Lesson one from Tim Cullen, forget about the names.     

"Frequently they don't tell the consumer much, it's easy to get caught up in them and it's easy to get confused by them," Cullen said.

3. Indica versus Sativa

You can remember the Indicas because they keep you 'in the couch.'- Tim Cullen

Indica versus Sativa in cannabis is similar to the mild or dark roast decision at the coffee shop, or the pinot/chardonnay debate in the wine aisle at the liquor store.

Understanding the type of effect that suits you best will save you a lot of time at the pot shop.

"Some…can give you more of an up high…and others will be more sedative," said Jonathon Page.

Indica is a little sleepy, and settles in the body. 

"You can remember the Indicas because they keep you in the couch," joked Cullen.

Sativa settles in the brain. 

"When people say when I smoke cannabis it makes me paranoid," Cullen explained, adding "that is associated with the Sativa strains. It's more of a heady type of a high."

Oh, but if only it were that simple.

There is much to know about cannabis before venturing out to a local retailer and the experts CBC spoke with suggest new consumers do some homework before buying. (Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press)

4. How about hybrids?

I don't have to look at every strain.- Tim Cullen

Of course, dedicated cannabis breeders have been hard at work trying to refine the best qualities of both strains and then bring them together in a hybrid — a little of this, a little of that. 

"When I walk into a cannabis store I don't have to look at every strain on the shelf," offered Cullen. "I just ask, 'what are the hybrids?' "

So before lining up to get into the pot shop it's a good idea to figure out whether on balance you are more Indica or more Sativa, and pick a hybrid accordingly.

5. Experiment

The takeaway here is that if you are not an experienced user you may want to experiment a little. Don't go for it all at once. Sample different strains and find out what works for you. Go slow and take your time, the experts say.

One last tip. Perhaps refrain from using the term "Mary Jane" — unless you do it ironically.

- with files from Saskatoon Morning and The Morning Edition 


Danny Kerslake is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio stations across Western Canada. In his career with CBC Saskatchewan, Danny has reported from every corner of the province and has lived and worked in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Danny is a newsreader and digital AP for CBC Saskatoon.


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