CANNABIS 101: Bud basics for beginners

With the countdown to cannabis legalization Wednesday ticking towards 4-20, some novice stoners may feel lost navigating this brave new world of government-sanctioned bud. Whether you’re a first-time user, coming back to cannabis after a hiatus, or looking for a refresher, experts say there are basics bud beginners need to know in order to achieve their best buzz.

The chemical “orchestra” of cannabis

Oyedeji Ayonrinde, a psychiatry professor at Queen’s University, says cannabis consists of hundreds of chemical substances, more than 100 of which are known as cannabinoids, which act on receptors in the body to alter a range of physiological processes.

Among this “orchestra” of cannabinoids, said Ayonrinde, there are two main soloists: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Ayonrinde said THC is the more psychoactive compound that creates the euphoria commonly associated with “the high,” while CBD is more “chill,” inducing a relaxing effect.

For new cannabis users, Ayonrinde recommends selecting a strain with less than 20 per cent THC. This may be represented on labels as a CBD-to-THC ratio, he said, and it’s important to know both numbers, because a higher potency of CBD can rein in the effects of THC.

As an analogy, he said to imagine THC being the accelerator of a car, and CBD as being the brakes. A three-to-one THC-to-CBD ratio would be your standard car; a 30-to-one ratio would be like a car with the brakes of a motorbike; a 300-to-one ratio would be like a car with bicycle brakes.

Start low, go slow

This is a common refrain among cannabis connoisseurs, but for Adolfo Gonzalez, co-founder of CannaReps, a Vancouver-based training program for dispensary workers, it serves as a mantra. His philosophy is to encourage users to start with the lowest possible dosage to achieve their desired high.

“To consume responsibly and to stop when you have enough, that’s the

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