Beginner Guide to Cannabis

The cannabis industry grows and matures, you may have already noticed more and more products that come in a variety of form factors: flowers, concentrates, edibles, vape pens, topicals and more. The list keeps growing and changing. Even a seasoned “cannaseur” may have questions.


Getting Started

WHERE SHOULD YOU START?

This is a loaded question. And there isn’t one answer.

Where you begin your cannabis journey depends a lot on your past experience and what you are comfortable with. Flower, pre-rolls and vape pens are good starting points, although some people are not comfortable with the idea of smoking or vaping. Edibles are another great place for first-timers. We recommend starting with a small (microdose) amount, like 2-5mg and then moving up from there to achieve your desired effect.

WHERE CAN I CONSUME?

Although cannabis is now legal in California, it is not legal to consume in public places or to drive while under the influence. You should consume in a private location, such as your home, or a friend’s home.

STORING YOUR PRODUCTS

It is very important that you store your cannabis product in a safe, secure location away from children and pets.

To maintain freshness, flower is best stored in glass containers placed in a cool, dry location (about 60% humidity).

Product Types

Flowers

Flower is the trimmed and cured bud of a female cannabis plant. As with wine grapes, there are different varietals of cannabis flowers, which we call strains. Each strain has a unique flavor and combination of active ingredients, and provides a subtly different effect. Exploring different strains is one of the real joys of cannabis consumption.

Most people look at the strain name, plant type (indica/sativa) and potency (THC/CBD content) when buying flower. Flower is sold by strain and weight. Under current California state law, individuals can legally buy one ounce of flower per day. When you visit the dispensary and have decided what you’d like to buy, say something like, “I’ll take an eighth of Red Congolese.” That’s it! Easy, right?

Flower can be smoked through a pipe, bong, or joint. It can also be vaporized through a variety of accessories.

Concentrates & Extracts

Cannabis concentrates are several times stronger than cannabis flowers. They are made by separating the tiny crystals that sit on the surface of the plant—trichomes— from the underlying, inert vegetable material. Most concentrates are made with solvents like butane, but some are made simply with heat, pressure and water. Concentrates can be found in many different forms including shatter, wax, rosin and sauce. All concentrates have been rigorously tested to ensure they are free of any residual solvents.

Cannabis concentrates are usually consumed through a portable device or stationary rig (or “dab rig”) that vaporizes the concentrate at very high temperatures. Concentrates can also be mixed with flower to supercharge a bowl or pre-roll.

Due to their high potency, concentrates are often reserved for a more experienced cannabis consumer.

Vape Pens

Vape pens are a convenient and discreet way to consume cannabis. They gently heat cannabis extracts to the point of vaporization, without combusting. The effect onset is immediate and gradually trails off over two to three hours—a shorter duration than pre-rolls and flower and without the smoke, ash or strong odor. Some vape pens are pre-charged and disposable; others offer rechargeable batteries and interchangeable cartridges.

Vape pens are an easy way to control your cannabis intake, particularly if you’re interested in microdosing. In fact, some vape pens come with a built-in indicator to help ensure a reliable dose with each use.

Vape pens and cartridges are sold by strain, extract type, plant category and potency. Some brands claim specific effects but these claims are not evidence based.

Pre-rolls

Pre-rolls are joints filled with cannabis flower. They are also sometimes enhanced with cannabis concentrates. Pre-rolls provide the most traditional way to enjoy cannabis, without the messy rolling.

Pre-rolls typically come in one-gram or half-gram sizes, are sold individually and in multi-packs, and feature different strains and blends.

Price varies by the size and number of pre-rolls, and the quality of the cannabis inside them.


Edibles

Edibles are food and beverages infused with cannabis, and can also take the form of capsules. They provide a healthy and discreet way to consume cannabis, but have a longer and more intense effect than inhaled cannabis. Edibles should be used with caution: “start low and go slow,” and avoid over-consumption.

Edibles can take from 30-120 minutes to take effect, and the effect can last 4-12 hours. An empty stomach decreases time to onset and increases intensity.

Read labels and dose carefully. New consumers should start with 2-5mg of THC. Wait two hours to assess the full effect before taking more.

Tinctures & Sublinguals

Tinctures are made by infusing cannabinoids into alcohol, coconut oil or vinegar. They are a low-cost, discreet and flexible way to ingest cannabis. Dropped under the tongue, their effect is similar to inhaled cannabis, with almost immediate onset. When swallowed with a beverage, the effect is similar to edibles: onset takes up to one hour, and effect can last six hours or longer.

Sublinguals are dissolved on, or under, the tongue. Many of these products have a high ratio of CBD and have been reported to assist with anxiety and help control seizures in children. Many tinctures do contain THC, so it is important to read the label for THC/CBD amount and recommended consumption instructions.

Taken sublingually, tinctures are a great alternative to inhaled cannabis. They have almost the same effect profile, without the wear and tear on your lungs.

Cannabis

What are strains?

The different varietals of cannabis flowers are called strains. Each strain has a unique flavor and combination of active ingredients, and provides a subtly different effect.  There are thousands of different cannabis strains out there and most of them have names that were coined by the growers who brought us the specific genetics from that plant. Some popular examples include Blue Dream, Sour Diesel and OG Kush.

Some products are always strain-based, such as flower and concentrates, while others are based on Indica/Sativa, and still others (mostly edibles) generally do not indicate a strain or plant type.

What does Indica, Sativa & Hybrid mean?

Cannabis has evolved differently around the planet, and different strains are classified according to their area of origin. Sativa strains come from closer to the equator, grow narrow leaves and are believed to have more energetic effects. Indica strains come from more northern latitudes, have wider leaves and are believed to have more relaxing effects. Hybrid strains are crosses of Indica and Sativa strains, and offer more balanced effects.

What’s the difference between THC & CBD?

The cannabis plant can contain up to 150 active ingredients, known as cannabinoids. THC and CBD are the most commonly known, and all Harborside products are tested and labeled with their content. These test results indicate the strength and nature of the likely effect. THC-rich strains are the most euphoric. CBD-rich strains are more restorative, with less euphoria or none at all. Many consumers prefer the balanced effect of a 1:1 ratio—equal parts THC and CBD.

What are terpenes?

Terpenes are oils secreted by the cannabis plant, and give each cannabis strain a unique smell and taste. Many of the names of different strains (like Lemon, Blueberry, Sour Diesel or Skunk) are reflective of that strain’s terpene content. Terpenes are not unique to cannabis and are present in many types of plants, especially herbs and fruits. Their importance goes beyond smell and taste; It is believed that the presence of terpenes also enhances the strain’s effects.

The science behind terpenes is still relatively new. Every day we are learning more about how THC, CBD and terpenes work together to create different experiences. This is known as the Entourage Effect or the Whole Plant Effect.

What is dosing and microdosing?

A dose is equivalent to a serving size. California defines a dose of cannabis edibles as a maximum of 10mg of THC. Microdosing is the practice of consuming very small doses that are barely perceptible by the user. Be sure to ask what dosage is right for you based on your tolerance and experience.