Feeling the psychoactive effects of cannabis for the first time can be a sublime experience that is truly transformative for many. For a first-time smoker, it’s important to put the effort into making your inaugural experience as pleasant and memorable as possible. This checklist provides novices with several important points to consider before taking their initial few hits. Everything from where to find buds to where to smoke them will be covered to help make things as smooth and safe as possible.
Some people might rush this process and resort to smoking low-grade weed under a bridge with friends, or inhaling enormous quantities of THC and becoming anxious and overwhelmed. Unlike in the recent past where cannabis users had to smoke in secret, many countries have now legalized the plant, enabling users to purchase high-quality cannabis from legal stores to smoke in their own homes without fear of prosecution.
First-time smokers lucky enough to live in such areas have a higher chance of a great first experience. They can go to a store, know exactly what it is they are spending their money on, and ease themselves into the world of cannabis with high-quality flowers containing low to moderate levels of THC.
In contrast, cannabis users who live in areas where the plant is still illegal don’t have access to such luxuries. Instead of entering a store and being offered a menu that covers everything from potency to terpene content, cannabis users dealing with prohibition have to settle for whatever they can get their hands on. This could mean low-grade, mouldy flowers, or extremely potent buds. This checklist is especially important for these users to help them achieve a memorable experience (in a good way). Here’s what you need to know.
Before you even begin to find a source for buds, it’s important to cover some theory first. You don’t need to start reading botany textbooks or grow guides. Simply do a little bit of reading about THC (the active constituent within cannabis) and how it affects the body. This will help prepare you for a feeling that you’ve never felt before, one that will certainly feel rather strange at first. It’s also worth learning about how cannabis can have different effects at different doses.
To give you a headstart on your research, THC works in multiple ways. It operates as a stimulant that elevates mood and heart rate, and works as a depressant that induces relaxation and sleepiness. It also has some properties of a hallucinogen in that it causes sensations of detachment from self. Plus, different subspecies of cannabis are associated with producing varying effects. Heavy indica strains usually offer stoning body highs that relax, whereas sativa strains are known to primarily energise and motivate. Most strains on the market today are hybrids of the two, offering some combination of these effects.
An important part of preparing for your first cannabis high is to assess the risk involved. Cannabis is regarded as a relatively safe drug, especially in comparison to substances such as alcohol. Although rare (especially when proper dosage is considered), cannabis can cause negative physiological effects in the form of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, in which vomiting, nausea, and abdominal pain can occur.
Users with underlying health conditions should also be aware that cannabis can cause short-term spikes in blood pressure (hypertension) and exacerbation of underlying pulmonary diseases, such as asthma.
Cannabis is also linked to triggering acute psychosis symptoms in at-risk populations. Therefore, people who are already at an increased risk of mental health issues due to family history and other factors need to be aware of this potential risk.
Other than these factors, cannabis is one of the safest recreational drugs available and causes little more than increased appetite and sleepiness as side effects.
The best methods for novices are to smoke or vape dried flowers with low to moderate THC values. These modes of delivery give the user much more control over the high. Wait to see how you feel after each and every puff, and only proceed to take another hit if you’re not feeling the effects. Wait around 5–10 minutes between each inhalation to gain a clear picture of how your body and mind are reacting. Stop smoking if you begin to feel overwhelmed or sick.
A popular method of cannabis consumption for experienced users is to smoke/vaporize high-potency extracts and concentrates. This is known as dabbing. However, these products often contain extremely high levels of THC that are virtually guaranteed to give novices a hard time. These are best reserved for when you have built up a reasonable tolerance.
Edibles are another popular method of consuming cannabis, delivering THC orally in the form of food items. This can include anything from cakes and cookies to gummies and pasta. Again, edible cannabis isn’t considered the wisest choice for your first cannabis experience. Unlike smoking, which causes an almost instant high, edibles take much longer to “hit” as the THC must travel through the digestive tract to become assimilated. This different metabolic pathway creates a substance known as 11-hydroxy-THC, which causes a much more intense and longer-lasting high that new users often find uncomfortable and off-putting.
Now that we have all that covered, it’s time to locate some weed. The ease of this process will massively depend on where in the world you live, as previously mentioned. Those living in legal states within the US or countries that tolerate cannabis use to an extent such as the Netherlands, Spain, and others can simply pay a visit to their local dispensary, coffeeshop, or cannabis club. These establishments provide a wide range of strains that differ greatly in taste, potency, and effect. The people working there will be able to guide you as a beginner on where to start and how much to dose in order to have a pleasant experience.
For those living in countries where cannabis is still illegal, such as the UK and large portions of Europe, this process is harder. It often involves asking friends and co-workers for the number of a stranger and meeting them in dodgy locations at weird times of the day. The result of this is often a poor-quality product grown in suboptimal conditions and processed erroneously.
Adding to the negativity is that you will most likely have no idea of the strength of the buds, which is a problem for beginners in need of something subtle. In this case, just take things one toke at a time. One more potential problem is receiving poor or even totally fake product that won’t produce the high you want. This is where testing for THC comes in handy.
Testing your weed for THC can easily be done by using the EZ Test THC kit from Zamnesia. Simply place a sample of flower, hash, or hash oil into the phial provided along with the reagent. The colour of the mix will turn red if THC is present. If you’re really not sure about the weed you’ve purchased, use this kit to determine the presence of THC to ease the mind. This is especially useful for products such as hash that often contain contaminants, and sometimes little to no THC.
How much weed will you need for you first experience? The answer to this question is: not much. During your first smoking session, it's time to put the ego aside and approach things with humility. The strength of the buds being smoked is a big determining factor of how hard the high will hit you. One gram of moderate-strength weed will be enough to get you seriously stoned, and many people will require a lot less than this. Load up your bong or vape with a tiny amount to begin with, wait to see how it affects you, and proceed from there.
Set and setting are two concepts used when taking psychedelics to ensure a good trip, and they also extend to the practice of smoking weed. Setting refers to the physical environment, whereas set refers to the individual’s mindset. An ideal setting for first-time use is out in nature during a sunny day, or at home in a comfy room with close friends that you trust. In terms of set, preparing through meditation and intention will place you in an accepting and peaceful state of mind. By following these guidelines, you’re most likely going to have a positive experience.
This checklist is purely about preparation. There is no need to fear cannabis; and by fully preparing for your first smoke, you are making a safe substance even safer, especially after considering its compatibility with your current health. The first few times smoking cannabis feel rather odd, and some users claim they feel nothing at all. But there’s definitely a time when you adjust to this state and something “clicks”. This is where states of flow, creativity, and euphoria can be found.