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A Nice Bowl of Weed

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Aside from High Times and the Denver Post’s nascent Cannabist section, there are few knowledgeable resources for the marijuana connoisseur. The former suffers from a giggle-and-cough vibe—if High Times were a magazine for drinkers, it would offer the best methods for stealing from your parents’ liquor cabinet—while the latter assumes too credulous a readership. Yes, under ideal testing conditions (HEPA-filtered room, virgin vaporizer, Neti-potted nose) Afghan Kush may indeed offer notes of cardamom, but this occasional cannaphile suspects the emperor wears no hemp clothes.

It is a curious problem, not only because weed has been cultivated by humans since at least around 3,000 B.C.E., but because using marijuana is so much fun. More fun than drinking and more fun than other recreational drugs, all of whose potential for abuse mitigates whatever brief euphoria might be found in their swirling depths.

When I think about my experiences with cannabis, I find no fewer than 10 outstanding rules for enjoying the perfect bowl of weed. Orwell had 11 rules for his cup of tea, and he claimed at least four were controversial; I have no comparison. Controversy, as one would expect among marijuana enthusiasts, is soon lost in a warm, smoky haze. Or vapor, if I’m being literal.

Here are my 10 rules, every one of which I regard as both unassailable and subject to dismissal:

  1. Firstly, if possible, choose Cannabis sativa over Cannabis indica, unless you are using marijuana for pain relief. Sativa invigorates, uplifts, and inspires. Indica dulls, muddles, and caresses. Indica is more common, due to its short, dense, bushy plants (making it easier to grow incognito), and pure Sativa is rare as moon rock. Still, insist on hybrids with at least a 70–30 split, in favor of Sativa. Music will never sound better, peanut butter never more peanut-buttery.
  2. The weed should be strong. Economics aside, if you are inhaling anything, you want maximum effects with a minimum of irritation. Two puffs are superior to three—anything more, and you risk a scorched throat. Anything less, and the ritual is truncated. Smell is no indicator of potency, nor is the presence of orange hairs, red hairs, purple hairs, or glistening trichomes. How to determine potency? Sampling. Take nobody’s word but your own.
  3. A wooden pipe is aesthetically the most pleasing way to inhale marijuana—especially a well-burnished Savinelli churchwarden—but the flavor is awful and the smoke is harsh. Forget those silly glass pipes; fragile, awkward, and difficult to clean, they are always overpriced and often decorated with embarrassing graphics. Same goes for ceramic “sculptures” of dragons, skulls, Buddhas, et al. You would not drink wine out of a llama’s hoof. Do not smoke weed out of a frog’s ass.
  4. Fourthly, rolling the perfect joint is a welcome skill across generations, social classes, and political affiliations. The perfect joint is made from one sheet of rolling paper, filled with no more than three grams of finely chopped weed, is free from seeds and stems, packed to medium density, and twisted shut, with a stiff tail providing a wick for lighting. Organic fibers and glue are a luxury, not a necessity. Avoid filters—they remove T.H.C., not particulates. The perfect joint, coupled with a potent strain of Sativa, can entertain a party of five.
  5. Forget bongs. Without exception. They are the sound of unemployment.
  6. Sixthly, weed should not be ground but rather chopped with a sharp, well-balanced kitchen knife. Grinding scours resin off the bud, making your bowl/joint less potent. Kief-collection screens are inefficient and difficult to harvest. Instead: chop your batch on a glass surface, then use a playing card to collect the psychoactive dust. Sprinkle as needed.
  7. Seventhly, remember that marijuana magnifies the user’s mood. A more poetic way of saying this: weed reveals and obscures the group’s intentions. Buried resentments will surface; sublimated desires will materialize. Choose your companions with care—avoid especially the excitable novice who delights in pointing out, ad nauseum, how high everyone is. Marijuana narrows bandwidth, which is terrific for artistic and sensuous pleasures, and terrible for conflict resolution. Keep it light.
  8. And if paranoia strikes, remind yourself that overdosing is impossible, as most medical experts agree. Retreat to a warm, quiet place, and sip something sweet. A hot bath can help, along with dark chocolate. Relinquish control. Let your emotions flow and visualize muddied water pouring from a spigot; eventually, it will run clear.
  9. Vaporization is the exception to the rule that the oldest ways are often the best ways. A brief primer: vaporizers heat the marijuana just enough to extract its psychoactive compounds, but not enough to reach combustion, meaning that vaporizing will get you high without smoke. Proper vaporization (no hotter than 365 °F) offers the ideal experience: minimal coughing, minimal residual smell, maximum efficiency, and increased flavors (yes, even cardamom, if given the right strain). Portable vaporizers are easier to operate than desktop models, while desktop models are ideal for childless households, where the vaporizer may take up semi-permanent residence alongside other helpful appliances.
  10. Lastly, eat marijuana with caution. Aside from titration difficulties, the effects are so long-lasting as to be uncomfortable, and what begins as potent fun usually becomes tedious. Pot brownies should be reserved for open weekends, not dinner parties.

Whoever said, “A little marijuana warms the heart, but too much burns the soul,” was refreshingly self-aware. Do not get high at the expense of social interaction. Do get high with your significant other. Do listen to excellent music and eat excellent food. Do share your stash, as such generosity is always appreciated and often rewarded. Do watch movies but do not recommend them to your friends unless you’ve seen the movie sober. The perfect bowl of weed is limited more by the user’s essential nature than any other factor; adjust accordingly.

Micah Nathan is a novelist, short story writer, and essayist.

Orwell had his 11 rules for tea. Here are 10 for another kind of afternoon ritual.

Cannabis IQ: Almost half of Canadian pot users say they use daily. Here’s why regular use is risky

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Most Canadians don’t use pot. But those who do seem to use it a lot.

According to an exclusive survey for Global News by Ipsos, 21 per cent of Canadians say they currently use cannabis.

And while that number won’t change drastically post-legalization — only one in 10 of those who don’t currently use pot said they were likely to start after Oct. 17 — the overwhelming majority who consume marijuana use it regularly.

Forty-three per cent of users say they consume it daily, with another 29 per cent saying they partake once a week or more.

People who use marijuana that frequently may be increasing their risks of various health problems, according to Jason Busse, associate director of the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University.

It’s hard to list all the negative effects, as marijuana research has been so hard to do while it was illegal, so there simply aren’t enough strong studies to know everything about it, said Busse. Still, he doesn’t think consuming marijuana daily is good for you.

“It’s going to depend on the potency of the product, the experience of the individual, their metabolism, but it seems difficult to conclude that daily use is a very good idea.”

For one thing, smoking marijuana is associated with respiratory issues, he said, including a higher risk of chronic bronchitis. “We know that if you don’t smoke it, you’re not going to suffer the same risks of the respiratory effects.”

Unfortunately, according to the survey, 86 per cent of people choose to smoke their marijuana at least sometimes. Using edibles, oils, or even a water bong may mitigate some of those respiratory risks, Busse said.

Marijuana is also associated with some cognitive difficulties, particularly in young people. “There’s at least some studies that have suggested chronic marijuana use can be linked to lower educational attainment when smoking or consuming cannabis starts in adolescence.”

While it’s hard to say if that is exactly a causal relationship, there does seem to be a link between the two. Young people who are predisposed to psychosis might also have an earlier onset of symptoms if they’re frequent marijuana users.

There’s also some evidence, said Busse, that frequent marijuana use can change the structure of the brain.

“What we don’t know is, how long do those changes last? Are they linked to true changes in behaviour, and do they reverse after a person stops using the drug?”

The Canadian Psychiatric Association was concerned enough about the potential effects of chronic marijuana use on young people’s brains to issue a position statement in 2017 recommending that the legal age be set at 21 and that restrictions be placed on the amount and potency of what people can buy until the age of 25. These recommendations have not been followed.

WATCH: What Canadians need to know about recreational marijuana come legalization

Busse is concerned by the survey’s finding that nearly half of adults who consume marijuana daily have children in their households. “We don’t know enough about the effects of second-hand smoke.” Also, many edible products, like candies, can appeal to children and increase their risk of overdose.

While overdoses aren’t fatal, they could involve hallucinations and warrant a visit to the emergency room, he said.

Also, the more often you use marijuana, the more likely you are to become dependent, he said.

“Once you become a chronic user it’s often hard to step away from that chronic use.”

Around one in 10 chronic users will become dependent, he said. That means stopping the drug would be difficult and people may experience withdrawal symptoms like loss of appetite, anxiety and sleep disturbance.

So how often should you consume marijuana, to mitigate these risks? The science isn’t there to tell you yet, Busse said.

“I do think that if individuals are able to reduce the frequency of consumption, it stands to reason that they would also be able to lower their risk of some of these adverse events.”

He’s happy to see that most people are unlikely to start using marijuana if they aren’t already. According to the Ipsos survey, 84 per cent of people say their frequency of use will remain about the same after legalization. Most people who aren’t currently using it say their habits won’t change.

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.”

This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 2,000 Canadians conducted between Oct. 5-9. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Frequent use of marijuana may raise your risk of cognitive impacts, respiratory issues and dependence, researchers say.