A User’s Guide to Getting Started With Cannabis

This new world of cannabis products can be daunting to understand. Given that cannabis is a frontier industry at the moment, there are many companies out there that will sacrifice the quality and integrity of what they are selling to turn a profit. These compromises can potentially have profoundly negative impacts on your overall health. To the end of curating a more informed cannabis community, this guide will arm you with the tools you need to have a good idea of what to look for in this brave new world. 

In order to grasp what influences the quality of a cannabis product, one must understand what the industry looks like from seed to sale. First, let’s examine the growing and sourcing process.

Cannabis is typically sourced from two different kinds of growers. One type will grow directly for a company that needs cannabis from a local grow, and these operations are generally very small in scale. The other type is a wholesale grower that produces large quantities of different strains to then sell to retailers or extraction companies in the cannabis industry. These growers must assign different codes to each crop they interact with to track it as it moves. The codes include important information such as the weight, date of grow, strains used, and, of course, the THC warning. This coding system is exceptionally important, as these fledgling businesses can get shut down for not keeping track of where their cannabis is going. 

After the crops grow to a predetermined maturity, they get “trimmed.” This is a process where trimmers will come in and essentially shuck the plant. Trimmers are responsible for making the resulting flower look presentable and disposing of unusable plant material. From there, the harvested cannabis is placed on drying racks within a cool dry room. This is done to cure and dry the cannabis to increase the longevity of its usability. At this point, now that the grower has done their part, they can sell the freshly grown cannabis to retailers, or send it off for extraction to be made into all manner of other things like distillate, oils, resin, and much more. 

So that’s all well and good, but what can you expect to find when you walk into a store that sells anything cannabis-related? This is going to look very different based on what kinds of cannabis you’re looking for. Marijuana cannabis is found in dispensaries of recreational or medical varieties, whereas hemp cannabis can be put into just about anything – so long as the THC content is below 0.3% by dry weight.

With all of this in mind, you’ve decided you want to give cannabis a try. So what’s next? Scouting out a location, of course! Before you head in to a retail store, make sure you grab some cash, as this is the best way to avoid massive fees associated with using a credit card. This is because current legislation discourages many banks and credit card processors from working with hemp and CBD companies (we’re trying to change this, and we could use your help). 

When ordering things like hemp or CBD products online, be sure to check that the website you navigate to is legitimate before you enter in any card information. Particularly with marijuana, when you walk into a dispensary for the first time, you’ll be greeted at the front of the shop by a receptionist. They’ll take a look at your ID to confirm that you’re older than twenty one, and clear you to enter the main area. After that, you’ve done it! Welcome to the cornucopia of cannabis! But not so fast, as there are a number of things to carefully examine before making a purchase. 

First things first – relax. Some may feel anxious when examining their cannabis options for the first time. Try not to let yourself feel rushed, as it’s important to take your time, particularly on your first visit. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of leeway to ask questions and make informed decisions on what you’re buying. This is also true for companies that deal in hemp CBD where you might be talking to customer service to find out more about what you’re buying. Remember that they are there for you, not the other way around. This is especially true with our own Bluebird Customer Care Representatives! 

Next, you’ll want to explore the different ways to ingest cannabis. Feel free to take your time and ask your budtender or customer service representative any questions about things you’ve never seen before, such as the differences between indica and sativa, extraction methods, and the  various ways to ingest cannabis. You can be sure that they are more than willing to give you the rundown on anything they have to offer there and potentially beyond. After you’ve selected a method of ingesting your cannabis, the most important decision you have to make is which product to go with. There are many things to consider when selecting a cannabis product, so let’s break down the pitfalls to avoid when first breaking open the bud.

Pitfall #1: Pesticides in Cannabis

Just like any other crop, cannabis has a knack of attracting all manner of various pests. In fact, it’s a known bioaccumulator, which means that it has a high propensity to absorb anything from the soil it’s grown in. In order to keep these pests and contaminants away, for better or for worse, growers have applied the same methods that your average farmer might use for keeping their crops pristine. The worst of these methods that can have a significant impact on your health are non-organic pesticides. These harmful chemical cocktails are often sprayed onto the crop to kill and control the pests that will infest.

Always make sure that wherever your cannabis came from, it was not grown with the use of synthetic, harmful pesticides. Keep in mind that some form of pest control must be utilized to preserve the quality of the crop, but there are several organic ways to do this - including with ladybugs!

Pitfall #2: Powdery Mildew

There is a form of powdery mildew that can infest entire crops of hemp or marijuana. It has a very fine milky white appearance that can be mistaken for frosty flower. However, you can distinguish the difference by seeing whether the substance explodes out of the flower when broken up and hangs around in the air. If you ever receive cannabis with this white coloration, question it immediately. This mold could cause some major health problems and is commonly masked by infested crops being obscurely utilized in products like distillates, wax, resin, or shatter. When it comes to hemp-based products, unfortunately, the only way to tell is with a good third-party lab result showing no microbiology present in the products.

Pitfall #3: Uneducated Staff

When selecting a cannabis product, it’s important to see how knowledgeable the staff is. Whether consulting with a budtender or a customer service representative on the phone, ask them about their experience in the field and their knowledge on the products. Pick their brain and look for passion and pride in their responses. If they know very little or prove to be unhelpful, it may be best to consider a different vendor.

An especially important piece of advice: Ask the staff what it is like for them to work where they do. Are they happy where they work? Do they personally use the products they’re selling? What distinguishes a high-quality cannabis product from the rest? These are all really important questions that they should be able to answer at the drop of a joint. The staff you interact with are a valuable resource to help you make an educated decision about what you’re buying, so make sure they know what they’re talking about.

Pitfall #4: Corporatized Cannabis

Due to the nature of our American corporate environment, the cannabis industry is not immune to the many shady business practices out there to cut costs and maximize profit margins at the expense of quality or even safety. On the marijuana side of things, generally, it’s best to look for small-time local dispensaries that do local grows for their cannabis. This is going to be the best way to ensure that what you’re getting is well quality controlled, and has the most effort and love in its production. Try to avoid any products that come from wholesale growers if you can find out the source, as some, but not all of these tend to have lower-quality cash crops that are meant to turn a profit, not give you a good experience. 

When examining hemp CBD products, companies almost exclusively turn to wholesale growers that can keep up with the large demand that is required. Generally, these are high-quality wholesale growers that practice organic growing practices and comply with all of the regs defined by the Department of Agriculture. While not commonplace yet for marijuana products, third-party lab tests are going to be what you want to look for in hemp products. These kinds of tests will ensure things like biological material, residual solvents, pesticides, and heavy metals don’t end up in the final product.

After taking the time to ensure what you’re getting is on the up and up, that’s about all there is to it! You make the sale and can enjoy your cannabis at your leisure. If there is one takeaway from this whole article that I can impart to you, dear reader, it’s that cannabis is complicated but you have the power to make informed decisions about your health. Keep asking questions, keep doing your due diligence, and most importantly, partake responsibly.