Finding the Right Cannabis Strain for You
In this post, I am going to walk you through just how to choose the right cannabis strain for you. This content is going to be extremely high-level, and is recommended for beginners who are either just getting started using cannabis or maybe have taken a weed hiatus and are stepping into the legal marketplace for the first time.
In either scenario, shopping for cannabis can be a little bit overwhelming knowing that when you go to the store, you can’t just say, “weed, please!” It turns out that you have to be a little more specific than that. And new terms like CBD or indica or sativa can mind-boggling to somebody who's new to this topic, but no worries - I'll do my best to give a high-level perspective on on how this all works! My goal is to provide you enough context so that your next cannabis shopping trip is a successful one!
Plant Types: Sativa and Indica
Essentially, there are two different types of cannabis plants; there's the indica plant (which grows a little bit shorter with chubby leaves) and then the sativa plant (which typically grow taller and has skinny leaves).
Oftentimes, sativa is going to provide someone with a more energetic feeling; sativa is what I like to smoke if I'm going to take a walk outside or if I'm going to get on my indoor bike to exercise a little bit. Cleaning after consuming sativa is amazing - your house will be spotless!
Whereas indica provides a more mellow experience. A lot of times, you will hear folks explain the effects of indica as “in the couch” - alluding to the fact that smoking indica can lead to overall body “heaviness” as well as sleepiness. I’m not as big of a fan of indica, although I know that indica strains work wonders for people that have trouble relaxing or getting to sleep at night. So, when thinking through whether to select a sativa or indica dominant strain, it is wise to consider what desired effects you are looking for.
A quick note - Since this is a high-level review on how to find the right strain for beginners, I am using very broad terms - sativa and indica - to describe how to speak about the variations between disparate marijuana strains. These are the core terms that people have used for decades to describe different cannabis strains. However, now that researchers and manufacturers understand more about the broad spectrum of cannabinoids and terpene profiles found in cannabis, there are many people within the cannabis industry advocating for a change to the language we use to describe weed. For more information on this ongoing discussion, see here.
Cannabinoids: CBD and THC
Something else you will need to consider before purchasing cannabis is to understand the difference between CBD and THC. Most of the cannabis products that you will find at the store are going to contain both of these cannabinoids, but let me do my best to define the two cannabinoids, discuss how they differ from one another, and highlight why people are talking about this distinction so much right now.
The truth is that there are actually many different cannabinoid molecules contained within the cannabis plant (beyond CBD and THC, some cannabinoid names include THCA, CBG, CBN, and more). Every cannabis strain - really every cannabis plant - is going to have a slightly different cannabinoid profile depending on the genealogy of the plant. However, the two main cannabinoids are CBD and THC. Most samples of cannabis are going to contain both, but it’s possible to obtain CBD-only products or products that are CBD-dominant/THC-dominant.
The reason CBD is becoming so popular right now is that CBD (aka cannabidiol) is the cannabinoid that's being marketed as non-psychoactive. Because CBD, on its own, is not psychoactive, people can take it can benefit from the healing components of the cannabis plant without getting the infamous cannabis “high”. CBD has been hailed for its ability to help with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, because CBD will not alter one’s faculties, CBD is being added into dog and cat treats, allowing people to provide pain relief and the benefits of cannabis to their pets without dosing them!
Manufacturers can extract and isolate the CBD cannabinoid from the plant, allowing this ingredient to be added to pills, salves, and topicals. In my home state of Washington, you can actually find CBD products at one of our local pharmacies. While I am not sure how prevalent this is becoming across the country, I'm assuming that as consumers start to become more comfortable with CBD and legislation changes, the availability of CBD-only products will only become more prevalent.
So yes, CBD is great! However, this is not to say that its sister cannabinoid, THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is not also wonderful! THC has this really great quality of making you question - and, I would argue, question for good. I'm a big fan of THC myself as THC is the component within cannabis that contributes to a consciousness altering state. Personally, I love this part of cannabis. Consuming THC encourages me to reflect on the frameworks I live within… that we all live within. It encourages me to question: Why is society like this? What’s the history of this particular group or organization? How did we get here?
Equally important, consuming THC encourages me to look internally. Without the normal mental blocks associated with self-reflection, I’m able to question: How did I get here? Why am I the way that I am? How can I improve my life?
When consumed together, CBD and THC breed a really beautiful experience. I am a fan of what's called full-plant cannabis medicine, meaning that rather than leaning toward an isolated portion of the cannabis plant, I prefer to consume a distillation of all of the plant’s components.
With that, I would encourage you to explore the full array of cannabinoids. If your job doesn’t restrict the use of THC, and you’re not planning to drive for the remainder of the day, go ahead and smoke a distillation of the full plant. Or, go ahead and pack that full-plant flower in a pipe or a bong and experience the entourage effect that comes with mixing the various cannabinoids. This is the plant experience that humans have been experiencing for thousands of years!
If you’ve read this far, you now know the basic differences between the two main plant types (sativa and indica) as well as the primary cannabinoids (CBD and THC) contained within the cannabis plant. You’ll want to keep these terms in mind when you enter a shop and speak to a budtender (the retail worker in the cannabis shop). So… what’s next?
Finding a Shop and Getting What You Need
First things first - before visiting a cannabis shop, I recommend that you do a little bit of research on the different stores in your area. State by state laws differ, so acquaint yourself with how cannabis shops are organized in your locality. For instance, in my home state of Washington, there are no dispensaries that are separate from recreational cannabis shops; when cannabis became legal in Washington, all existing dispensaries were either closed or converted into recreational shops. However, I know that in other states (such as California), there are medical dispensaries that are separate from recreational cannabis stores.
Whether you plan to visit a recreational shop or a more traditional medical marijuana dispensary, what is great is that cannabis shops are all legitimate businesses at this point (as long as you live in a legal state). Hop on Yelp and read some reviews before your visit. If a beautiful ambience and setting is important to you (I know it's important for me), then visit the shop that looks pretty in the photos. If that's not something you care about and you are more intent on finding a budtender that can walk you through the buying process, then be sure to visit a shop with a high customer service rating.
Similar to the grocery store market, there are different tiers of cannabis stores. For example, here in Seattle, we have our high-end grocery stores such as Metropolitan Market, PCC, and Whole Foods. And then of course, there’s middle grade, more run-of-the-mill grocery stores such as Safeway or Fred Meyer. And finally, you can decide to shop at a discount grocery store, such as Winco or Grocery Outlet; not that there’s anything wrong with discount shopping, no - shopping here promotes an economics-first approach so buyers can get more bang for their buck. The same type of variances exists within the cannabis store marketplace. I’m confident you will be able to make the best decision for you after just 10-15 minutes of internet research on your local options.
Once you have decided on the right cannabis shop for you, you will want to do some premeditated thinking about the effects you are hoping to experience through cannabis consumption.
One easy question to ask yourself is, what perceived effect of cannabis made you interested in trying it in the first place? The answer to this question should point you in the right direction. In fact, cannabis brands are even starting to market their products for specific moods and feelings. For instance, if it’s pain relief that you are after, then it is likely that you will be in the market for a CBD-heavy product once you go shopping. Or, if you in the market for some of that “consciousness altering” I was mentioning earlier, than you will want to purchase a product that has a high content of THC.
Once you know what effect you are truly after, you will be in a better position to tell the budtender what you need. For instance, you can say, “I want to get tired at 10:00 every night and be able to go to sleep by 10:30. Can you help me do that?”. Being direct about what you would like to accomplish through cannabis use is going to be the best way to help the budtender select the right product(s) for you.
Another positive aspect of working directly with your budtender is that you will gain from their extensive knowledge about the cannabis plant. They may even be able to provide a different perspective on your cannabis consumption that you had not yet considered. Say you think you are in the market for a sativa and you typically smoke the plant. Well, based on your desired effects, they maybe to suggest an alternate consumption method that would lend better to your desired experience. This matters because with cannabis, the consumption method can actually change the overall experience.
Another thing that I really like about working with budtenders is that they can help you navigate unique nutritional challenges. For instance, I am currently ascribed to the keto diet (when I’m on plan!) which is essentially low-carb and no sugar. My favorite way to injest cannabis is to eat edibles, but I was running into a problem with this because a lot of the edibles on the market are akin to candy and chock-full of sugar. To address this issue, I went to the cannabis shop and explained that I like edibles but did not want to consume sugar, and the budtender I spoke to was quickly able to suggest capsules, sugar-free mints, and even a sugar-free sparkling water - the latter is totally my favorite cannabis product right now! I’m thankful that by explaining my unique needs to the budtender, I was able to come up with options that would achieve my desired effect and also help me maintain my other health goals.
To summarize the above, here are my 3 recommendations before stepping into a cannabis shop for your first purchase:
Research the right cannabis shop that's in your local area that you feel comfortable going to
Before your visit, think a little bit about the effects that you're looking for; don't start thinking about it when you go to the counter :)
Ditch any fear that you have about talking to somebody openly about what you need; be ready to speak openly with your budtender and explain what you're looking for
There are also many other resources online that can help to prepare you for your first cannabis purchasing experience. Please know - I would also love to help you if you have specific questions! If so, feel free to leave me a comment, a DM on Instagram, or contact me from the “Contact” page of this blog. I have actually been helping a lot of my friends and family members go through this process recently and it is a process that I get really excited about. I’m all about helping people achieve their best life!
The information contained in this post corresponds to a YouTube video I have just added to the bud & blossom Youtube channel - my first foray onto Youtube ever! Truth be told, I’m totally nervous to be posting my first video, because it’s far from perfect. The lighting is off, and I’m looking all over the place in the latter half of the video as opposed to directly at the camera! This is probably the last time I’ll film with my iPhone… Anyway, I’m telling myself (through gritted teeth) that it’s good enough to post for now. Progress over perfection… and I know that my next video will be a step in the right direction. For right now, I have to remain focused on taking the small steps that enable me to share about cannabis and self-care with all of you!
So please, if the content delivered in this post (or video) was helpful to you, leave me a comment and let me know! I’ll continue to produce educational how-to videos aimed at helping you become more comfortable with cannabis use. Looking forward to continuing to grow together <3