How times have changed…What was once considered taboo and illegal by society has now become recognized as neither by an ever-growing majority in Colorado. Since Amendment 20 passed in the year 2000, the consumption of cannabis for medical use has been legal in the state. On November 6th, 2012, recreational use of marijuana become legal with the passing of Colorado Amendment 64 (going into effect in January 2014).
Over four years later, we are able to enter Recreational Dispensaries throughout the region and treat ourselves to a wide variety of products. Those who visit these establishments for the first time may feel a bit overwhelmed by the experience. We can empathize, and want to assure you, there is nothing to fear! As Dispensary Marketing grows, let’s take a closer look at what you might want to know before you enter a Colorado recreational cannabis dispensary for the first time.
Before You Head Out
At one time, you had to be issued a Medical Marijuana Card, or Red Card, in order to purchase cannabis products. Since 2014, those of us who are 21-years or older are able to have access and make purchases from recreational dispensaries with just our valid government-issued ID or license. Think of it in the same way you would visiting a liquor store to buy alcohol; no ID, no sales. Even if you are not purchasing anything, you must be 21 to enter, and your ID must be on hand at all times.
Typically, the friendly staff at the front of the store will check your ID, maybe sign you up for a loyalty program to earn points on your purchases, and ask if you’ve been in before. Alternately, you could have your ID checked by a third-party security guard. Don’t worry, they are there for your safety and protection!
Lastly, don’t forget your cash. While Colorado (and an increasing number of states) have made recreational use of marijuana legal, the Federal government still lags behind the times. To put it blunt-ly (haha), banks aren’t willing to take the chance of handling transactions through credit or debit cards while cannabis remains illegal on the federal level. While most establishments have an ATM on site, it is a good idea to bring cash with you, even if just to avoid the ATM fees.
First Time Users
When it comes to recreational cannabis, two of the most popular methods of consumption are eating and smoking. There are differences in both, and your budtender will be able to help you decide which to try first, as well as review the types of feelings (head high, body high, energy, couch glue, etc) you can expect to have with different strains and products.
Edibles are attractive due to the fact that they do not smell like you’ve been smoking, their effects can last for hours, and they are more discreet. Edibles can vary in THC concentration depending upon a variety of factors, including how they were made and what strain was used. It can take between one and two hours for you to feel the full effects of your dosage, so until you understand how cannabis affects you, flower (smoking) may be the safest route for first-time users.
Smoking marijuana is what most people associate with when they think of consumption. There are different ways to smoke cannabis including bongs, blunts, joints, pipes, and vaporizers. As a first time user, you may want to try different strains before investing into a large amount of flower, but luckily, grams and pre-rolls (joints) are inexpensive and offer you variety. Again, don’t be shy to ask your budtender for their favorites, they are there to help you make the most of your experience!
First time and occasional users need to remember, slow and easy. Consuming cannabis can increase anxiety and paranoia, as well as cause sleepiness. When smoking marijuana, take a small puff and wait. The full effect should be felt after approximately 15 minutes. If you wish to increase the effects, take another small puff. The beauty of legal, recreational cannabis is that you can experiment with all kinds of strains to find your perfect match!
Types of Cannabis
In recent years, marijuana cultivation and education have increased dramatically. Different types of cannabis plants have been identified, along with the effects from their consumption. A closer look at the three types of strains should help you to decide what you are looking to experience.
Indica: The Indica plant produces a stronger body high. Feelings will include relaxation and sleepiness. Uses include relief from anxiety, body pains, headaches, spasms, seizures, and stress. Strains from this plant include Kush and Northern Lights.
Sativa: The high produced from the Sativa plant is characterized as a more intense mental experience, best described as energetic or uplifting in nature. Feelings may include creativity and energetic bursts. Uses include relieving depression, increasing creativity, focus, energy, and feelings of at-ease and well-being. Popular Sativa strains include Maui Wowie and Purple Haze.
Hybrid: Hybrids are another popular type of cannabis, and are a mix of Indica and Sativa strains. Due to the different benefits and effects of hybrids, these strains can be used to target the desired result for medicinal users when treating their illness. These strains can share characteristics of both strain families evenly, or favor one plant’s benefits over another. Hybrids will produce less extreme characteristics, but not necessarily less powerful highs for users. You can ask for a Sativa- or Indica- dominant hybrid if one strain family is better suited for your needs over the other.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical compound found in cannabis that produces the feelings of being “high”. You’ll notice during your visit to a recreational dispensary in Colorado that each strain has different percentages of THC content. CBD (Cannabidiol) is another cannabis compound that offers medicinal and relaxing properties, without the feelings of being stoned. Beginners and low-tolerance users may wish to consider lower THC levels and higher CBD levels while gauging tolerance and finding the perfect strain. This combination is often found in hybrid strains of cannabis.
Here are a few of the most popular strains that you might find when you visit a recreational cannabis dispensary in Colorado:
Lower THC/Higher CBD leveled products
Indica: Aliens On Moonshine and Pennywise strains
Sativa: Harlequin strain
Hybrid: ACDC, Cannatonic, Dancehall, Harle-Tsu, and Sour Tsunami strains
Higher THC leveled products
Indica: Plushberry strain
Sativa: Jack Herer and Maui Wowie strains
Hybrid: Blue Dream, Chernobyl, and Permafrost strains
The Amount Available for Purchase
When Colorado first legalized recreational cannabis use, residents were limited to 28 grams of product (one-ounce) and non-residents to just seven grams. As of 2016, non-residents are now able to possess the same amount as residents. Because of varying levels of THC and different types of product available, the amount you can purchase will vary depending on what you buy.
The Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) in Colorado has determined that 1 oz of Flower = 8 grams of Concentrate (Shatter, Wax, etc) or 800mg of Edibles. You can mix and match, as long as your total purchase doesn’t exceed the equivalent of 1 ounce of cannabis.
Once you’ve completed your first successful visit to a Colorado recreational dispensary, you may be eager to rip open your exit bag and start enoying. But wait! Cannabis consumption laws in Colorado are strict, and you can get a citation or DUI for driving while high, or for smoking in public. There are very few places where you can openly and legally consume, but laws are always changing and cannabis lounges are on the horizon. In the meantime, keep your cannabis products sealed and out of the front seat of your vehicle. Wait until you get to a private residence to consume, and don’t drive until you are completely sober. Same as alcohol, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, and cannabis citations are a real thing.
Now that you have a better idea of what to expect and look for, head down to your local recreational cannabis dispensary and shop around with confidence! Make sure to speak with your budtender in order to find the strains you are looking for. Find yourself a proper location that is safe to indulge, and set some time aside for yourself. Most importantly, enjoy this new era of legal recreational cannabis!