The Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis

Marijuana has always been a source of fear for me. The very mention of marijuana brings up memories of older boys in high school who were always trying to get me into trouble, as well as a slew of stoner ex-boyfriends, one of whom I had to take to the ER because he became *too* high. (It was a good time.) Even though many people have suggested I try cannabis to help with my chronic sleeplessness, I’ve never been able to get comfortable with it, even if it is for medicinal purposes.

However, now that it’s legal in Los Angeles, I’m beginning to see the plant in a different light. I couldn’t believe how user-friendly the sector had become on my first visit to MedMen, which bills itself as “the Apple store of dispensaries.” The store’s minimalist shelves are loaded with cannabis-based items like tinctures, balms, and edibles, as well as clearly labelled plants advertised for specific conditions (like my insomnia above) or purposes (like increased creativity).

Despite this increased accessibility, I am still hesitant to try items without first learning about the plant. How much THC is in 2.5 mg? Will I feel pleasantly at ease or suspicious? So, to answer this and other pressing questions, I’ve enlisted the help of a few heavy hitters in the cannabis world: Sean Akhavan, MedMen’s head research scientist; Jessica Asaf, The Cannabis Feminist; Jeff Chen, Director of UCLA’s Cannabis Research Initiative; and Hamp J. Atkinson, MD, co-director of the University of San Diego’s Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR). If you live in a legalised state, please share your acquired knowledge in the comments section below.

Not all marijuana has the same impact.

Do you know how red wine makes you tired, while rosé makes you feel as if you could drink it all day? (Of course, you’d never do such a thing.) This is an idea that is related to the previous one. Varied strains of cannabis have different effects on the mind and body and can be used for various purposes, such as sleeping vs creating. “The cannabis plant has two major strains,” Akhavan explains. Indica strains promote profound relaxation and are commonly used to unwind after a long day or before going to bed. Sativa strains, on the other hand, are recognised for their uplifting and energetic effects.

While this concept may appear black and white, Akhavan assures me that these are not two completely different plant types. (I’ll go into more detail about this later.) “Every cannabis plant developed in North America is a hybrid of both strains,” he continues, “with some showing more Sativa or Indica qualities, or a mix of both.”

Do you have trouble remembering which is which? Use this charming mnemonic to help you remember: “It’s simple to conceive of it as ‘in-di-couch,'” adds Akhavan. (Indicas make you mellow, quiet, and even sleepy, which means you’ll be glued to your sofa.)