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Marijuana explainers for beginners

Your guide to all things recreational cannabis.

Walking into a marijuana dispensary with little to no knowledge of cannabis or what you might want isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but when every shop in the industry is having a 420 sale, reading up on your options first could prove worthwhile.

The term 420 actually stems from a 1971 San Francisco group of friends who decided to meet at a statue outside their school at 4:20 to look for a pot farm they’d been told about. Even though they never found it, over time 420 became code for meeting up to smoke weed, and is referenced as a common time of day to have a smoke.

The slang grew in popularity when the Grateful Dead picked it up, and it eventually also became a calendar date of stoner celebration. In current times, that tradition has extended to pot shops, which celebrate the date store-wide sales.

Dispensaries in Tri-Cities like Nirvana Cannabis Company and Green2Go, as well as others across Washington state and the U.S., have stocked up in preparation of sales.

What if you want to take advantage of buying some marijuana products at huge discounts during these sales — sometimes up to 40% regular prices — but don’t know where to start?

Jennifer King [email protected]

Here’s a beginner’s guide to dispensaries so you can blend in with the seasoned smokers.

Have a marijuana experience in mind

The wide variety of products in a marijuana store can be overwhelming. On top of that, if you walk into a weed shop without a clear idea of what kind of cannabis experience you want to have, you may end up with a product that’s not quite right for you.

When you walk into a weed shop, you’ll be asked to show ID. The state of Washington allows both a U.S. driver’s license or a passport. Some dispensaries in the Tri-Cities, like Nirvana, don’t allow vertical IDs, even if you’re 21 and older.

Most dispensaries have ATMs near or just inside the entrance as the vast majority of shops require cash only purchases.

Shops are normally organized by product. Display cases show customers what some options are, but everything is retrieved by your budtender, or the person behind the counter. You can always ask the budtender for help navigating the dispensary or for sales and discounts.

First, narrow it down by product type.

While there are some exceptions, cannabis products generally fall in one of four categories: flower, oil, vape and edibles. There’s also some more specific specialty products explained later. Experts and marijuana enthusiasts have noted different effects from each product, but it still varies by person.

Based on how long you want the high to last, what kind of high and how you want to consume the cannabis, one product might be better than another. Don’t forget you can ask the budtender for help, they’ll always know the product.

Cannabis products: Flower

The classic, traditional way to consume marijuana is by using the flower of the cannabis plant (hence the term “flower”) and grinding it is the old-school course of action. Once it’s ground up, it’s used in various ways. Flower can be smoked in joints, blunts, pipes and bongs. It can also be mixed and cooked into various foods.

Loose Flower

You can buy cured, dried flower in a wide range of cannabis strains. Each strain produces a slightly different high, ranging from more energetic sativa strains to more sedentary indica strains. Hybrid strains typically lean toward either indica or sativa, but you can always ask for something that’s close to 50/50.

Flower will be available in several amounts: a gram or two (1-2G), an eighth (3.5G), a quarter (7G), a half (14G) and an ounce (28G).

Washington state law limits the amount of product a non-seller can buy at one time. You can’t buy more than an ounce of flower, 16 ounces of solid-form edibles, 72 ounces of liquid edibles and 7 grams of oil.

If you do buy flower, you also need a method to smoke it and a lighter and possibly a way to grind it, which all shops sell. You can find blunt wrappers or joint papers at the mini mart or smoke shop. Pipes and bongs can be found at smoke shops and most dispensaries.


If you want to smoke flower but don’t want to try your hand at rolling a joint or smoking a pipe, don’t fret. Dispensaries always have a preroll selection that includes mostly purely flower joints, but you can also find preroll blunts, infused joints and other specialty items. Preroll joint sizes typically range from 0.5-1 gram, and come in single or multi-tube packages. They are also sold in multi-joint packs that range from about 4 joints to up to 30, depending on the brand.

You can also ask the budtender for options that are pesticide-free, or have a charitable donations pledge for every purchase, as well as brands that are locally-grown or owned.

Because smoking cannabis flower is so fast-acting, it is also worthwhile to consult with a budtender about what might work for your individual physiology.

Joan Barnett Lee [email protected]

“Newcomers to smoking cannabis may have a picture of Cheech and Chong, Harold and Kumar, or the characters from Dazed and Confused,” Rob Mejia stated in The Essential Cannabis Book. “You know, the guys who kept smoking well after they were stoned. But responsible consumption starts with going low and slow.”

Cannabis products: Dabs

Pot shops also have a selection of various cannabis products that include extracts, also known as dabs, wax, oil and more.

Dabs are much more potent and intense than flower, so beginners should use caution when trying them out. Prerolls tend to top out at 30% THC, while dabs can reach up to 90%. THC is the component of cannabis that gets you high. The product is made through an extraction process, when cannabis is heated to produce the sticky stuff, according to experts.

Different strains produce different kinds of dabs. Some smokers prefer shatter dabs, which look like smoky glass and break apart in shards. Others prefer crystals, which are usually similar in consistency to dried-up feta cheese.

Methods of dabbing

There aren’t as many options for smoking dabs. If you buy some extract, you also need to have a rig or a nectar collector, which most shops sell. A rig is like a bong, usually glass, made for dabs. Instead of a bowl for flower like bongs have, the rig has an attachment called a “nail.” To take a dab, the nail is heated up with a torch and the extract is dropped inside. The nail then gets covered with a “carb cap” to block the airflow and push the smoke through the rig.

A nectar collector is a more portable version of a rig. They can be made of glass or silicon and look kind of like an extra large straw. There’s a metal tip on one end and a mouthpiece on the other. With a dab ready to go, the tip is heated up with a torch. Then inhale at the same time the metal tip touches the dab.

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Tri-City Herald

Cannabis products: Vape

A fairly new invention in the cannabis industry, vaping marijuana using distilled oil rose to popularity quickly. The product is distilled into a cartridge, which is then connected to a battery. This is referred to as a dab pen. They’re sometimes called vapes, but dab pens refer to the cannabis aspect, whereas vapes can be cannabis, nicotine or neither. Most have buttons that heat up the cartridge just before the point of combustion, about 340 degrees, which produces a vapor instead of smoke. Hitting the pen, or taking a puff from it, provides a cleaner hit than smoking flower, and is often described as smoother.

Dab pens are easy to use and extremely portable. Their discrete aspect is part of what has made them so popular, as no significant smell is left behind like with flower and dabs. They usually aren’t as strong as other options, but that can vary depending on the strain and the maker.

Because vape pens use a form of cannabis that is processed, and not just a plant, consult your budtender about the process each brand employs in production. Buying a more top shelf brand is typically worth the higher price tag when it comes to oil.

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A standard battery can cost under $20. Fancier batteries are constantly hitting the market, but the simplest option is available at most dispensaries. Cartridges, or carts, range in price depending on the brand. Dispensaries will also have disposable vapes, eliminating the need for a battery.

Cannabis products: Edibles

Edibles are any food or drink infused with cannabis. A classic example is the pot brownie, but dispensaries have elevated this aspect of cannabis consumption to almost a snack shop level. There are usually a large variety of candies, mints, drinks, even savory snacks and shots. The products are extremely precise, allowing for specific dosage.

The high associated with edibles is arguably the most different from other forms of consuming cannabis, because it does not involve smoking, or the lungs at all.

Why so different?

When you inhale smoke, the effects are instantaneous. Once the smoke enters your lungs, cannabinoids are absorbed into your bloodstream. With edibles, it can take up to 90 minutes to feel the effects, as your body has to digest the product. It also lasts considerably longer than the high from smoking flower, dabs or vape. This can make it easier to overdo it with edibles, as people presume it wasn’t strong enough at first and have more, but it just hadn’t hit them yet.

Users report a more calming body high after consuming edibles. But this also varies from person to person, and it can be hard to predict the effects.

Be careful and cautious

Use caution when experimenting with edibles, and be patient in waiting for the effects. Overconsuming edibles can impact motor function capability, including your ability to walk.

“Read the labels, go slowly, and don’t hesitate to ask questions when purchasing,” states Green2Go on a ‘How to recreate responsibly’ webpage. “Be careful; start with a 5 mg serving or less. Don’t take more until you wait a full two hours. Most importantly, keep edibles away from children and pets.”

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Cannabis products: Others

Pills: Taking edibles a step further, many marijuana companies have begun producing capsules with specific doses of THC, CBD or both. Take these like a normal pill and wait for it to take effect. Ask your budtender about the pills available, as some will have timed release options.

Topicals: Instead of ingesting cannabis through smoke or food, topicals are for applying directly to your skin. Depending on the dispensary, this can include lotions, sprays, patches, bath bombs and more. These are generally CBD forward and do not get you high, but are more for relief.

Tinctures: An alcohol- or oil-based extract, tinctures are a potent and efficient way to consume cannabis. Available with specific doses of THC, CBD or both, the product will come with a dropper for easy use. Simply drop the appropriate amount of drops under your tongue (ask the budtender what’s recommended to start) and wait. Effects can begin within 15 minutes, but you won’t experience the full high for up to 90 minutes after.

This story was originally published April 20, 2023, 5:00 AM.

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