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A beginner’s guide to buying recreational marijuana

With recreational marijuana becoming available for sale on New Year’s Day, you may be asking yourself: Do I want to try this stuff?

If you have never used cannabis, or if it has been a long time since you have, you need to know that pot isn’t just consumed through joints and bongs anymore. Consumers also use vape pens, edibles and other products.

And marijuana has higher amounts of THC – pot’s psychoactive ingredient – than it once did. In the early 1990s, the average amount of THC in confiscated marijuana samples was roughly 3.7 percent, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Now, many retail strains test in the high 20s and some even top 30 percent.

In addition, edibles have come a long way since the days when homemade pot brownies were the only choice, and they can be potent as well – who can forget New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s infamous opinion piece about consuming too much of a weed candy bar during a trip to Colorado?

Luckily, there is plenty of information out there so adults can make informed decisions. If trying cannabis becomes one of your New Year’s resolutions, dispensaries selling recreational weed can point you to the products that best fit your needs and experience.

Just make the time to talk to a budtender. Like bartenders, budtenders work behind a counter and offer advice. But budtenders typically know more about weed than bartenders know about booze.

By passing Proposition 64 in November 2016, California voters legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over. While as many as 30 dispensaries eventually could sell retail marijuana in Sacramento, only a few are expected to be permitted by the start of the year, including A Therapeutic Alternative on H Street and RCP Sacramento on El Camino Avenue.

The Sacramento Bee interviewed Danny Kress, dispensary manager and staff educator at A Therapeutic Alternative, about some of the basics of cannabis consumption. Kress, who previously worked in the medical field, joined the dispensary 2 1/2 years ago because of his interest in alternative medicine. His remarks have been edited for clarity and space.

Q: First things first: What should I bring to a dispensary if I plan to buy recreational marijuana on Jan. 1?

A: Cash and a state ID or driver’s license from any state.

Q: What are the major categories of marijuana and what are their effects?

A: Indica, sativa and hybrid. Indica is generally sedative and can be used as a sleep aid. It’s known for its “couch-lock” effect (meaning it will keep you on the couch). Sativas generally produce a more stimulating mood – a happy feeling. Hybrids are a cross of indica and sativa and try to produce a combination of their dominant effects.

Strain names like Blue Dream and Girl Scout Cookies may be good for marketing purposes but tell you nothing about their effects.

Q: How can cannabis be consumed?

A: Inhaling is one way. You can buy cannabis in its raw form and get as little as a gram and as much as an ounce and smoke it in a joint or a pipe. You can also buy a vaporizer or “vape,” which uses cannabis cartridges. You can also buy edibles – candy and other food with precut portions and measured amounts of CBD and THC.

Then there are concentrated forms of cannabis such as hash and oils, the latter of which is used for dabbing – a process of heating the oil and inhaling through a large pipe known as a dab rig. Concentrates are generally not for newbies.

Q: What are THC and CBD and what do I need to know about them?

A: The effects of cannabis are heavily influenced by two compounds, terpenes and cannabinoids. THC and CBD are cannabinoids. THC is the best-known active compound in cannabis; THC levels can determine how high or “stoned” one may feel. CBD levels help determine medical benefits (such as) anti-inflammatory ... properties.

Q: What should I do if I get too high?

A: You can avoid this by talking about consumption amounts with your budtender. Start out with just one puff and see how it affects you.

A beginner’s guide to buying recreational marijuana.

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