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Monday, April 20, 2015

Recreational Cannabis 101 In Washington State: A Primer For Those Curious

Happy 420 Day! (or Stoner New Year 2015),

Today, I'm going to give folks in other states and around the world a primer into the world of legal marijuana here in Washington State. In Colorado, the rules and particulars are pretty much the same with not too many variables. And future state legalization laws and the cannabis sales systems in other states will likely follow ours and our friends in Colorado's example.

Support for legalizing recreational marijuana is spreading. And there is a lot of curiosity about it. Especially amongst those who are completely inexperienced with cannabis. Or haven't used it in many years in other states and countries. Or haven't used in many years, or even decades.

To help give cannabis users of all stripes an idea of the new world of legal recreational marijuana that is coming nation wide. And yes, that includes new users too. I'm going to talk about legal marijuana here in Washington State. Consenting adults have the right to choose and have proper information given to them to help make informed choices. "Just say no" is not a choice. (And terrible manners too. Why not just politely say "No, thank you"?)

I-502 And it's Effect 

Recreational marijuana has been legal in Washington State for nearly three years and we've learned this much:

1. The world didn't end.

2. Marijuana is safer than alcohol

3. The crime level has fallen significantly.

4. The state economy is booming with thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses. With more opening weekly.

5. Tourism has increased.

6. Drug and alcohol overdose rates have fallen dramatically.

When marijuana was legalized in Washington State, social conservatives automatically assumed the worst. They predicted millions of stoners laying about on the dole, eating chips and watching Netflix all day long. And stoned out drivers clogging up the highways. And the stoners would be demanding the legalization of cocaine, heroin, crack and meth.

Absolutely NONE of that has happened here.

And as far as the so-called "gateway drugs" are concerned, that's usually the salt, sugar and high fructose corn syrup in nearly everything and/or the caffeine in coffee and sodas. To say nothing of alcohol and tobacco. Are we going to ban these things?

Good luck with that.

Bottom line; The legalization of recreational cannabis in Washington and Colorado in 2012 was an experiment in social freedom gone wonderfully right. And the critics were wrong.

More states have legalized. Alaska is the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana. Washington DC has also legalized it and California and Vermont may be next. Expect more in all but the most extremely conservative states in the next 10-20 years. But even they will fall with time.

And finally, marijuana is a plant. It is NOT a "drug". Coffee is a plant. It contains a mind altering, sometimes disorientating substance (caffeine). Yet coffee is not called a "drug". Why is cannabis?

You can effectively end the underground black market, the dangerous synthetic drugs, increase tax revenue and help stamp out the gangs and drug cartels while SAVING resources, untold billions in tax dollars and unclogging courts and prisons. With common sense regulations and taxation. Like here in Washington State.

And I'll admit while I-502, which legalized recreational marijuana in Washington State was an excellent decision on the part of voters, the bill left a LOT to be desired and it's very heavy handed, I'm hoping the law will eventually be amended to reflect the actual realities of today's cannabis user rather than decades of false and negative stereotypes.


An excellent source of information, including dispensary menu prices, selection and where to buy is Leafly. Leafly is one of the very best sources of information about cannabis and related products available online and your first stop before you shop. It's full of information on the various strains/products, their availability, dispensaries in areas around the US where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal, plus current news and feature articles.

And the Leafly information pages on the various cannabis strains/products are generally spot on with the descriptiveness of them and their effects.

There is also WeedMaps, which is more Washington State specific.

They often have the menu selection for each dispensary. Be aware that some dispensaries that affiliate with Leafly may not have menus available on WeedMaps or vice versa. And some dispensaries don't publish their menus online at all. Or keep them updated. But most do. Also read the reviews for each dispensary.

(Note: Some dispensaries also do not publish their prices online. That's because prices can also fluctuate depending on availability of some products.) It's not like a convenience store, where you can find the same products in each store day after day.

The Dispensaries:

First, many of you who smoke pot illegally in your state have probably never seen an actual recreational cannabis dispensary. Or have any clue of what one looks like.

Most look something like this.

The big video screens in most dispensaries have the current menu selection and other information. Worth a glance.

They are professional retail establishments. But mostly obscure, hidden in light industrial zones and office parks. You'll never see big flashy signs, they're required to keep a low visual profile on their facades. But they are very clean and very safe. Not much different than a finer shop of any kind. Their staffs are often really friendly people.

The products are always sold from behind the counters. There are no consumer accessible shelves. This is for security reasons. And required by law.

Recreational cannabis can be an intimidating thing to buy if you're not used to it. Even for longtime cannabis users like myself were when I first started shopping at a legal dispensary. On the streets where it's illegal, you got what you could get off the streets with questionable potency (too low for some people, too high for others.)

Now we have a full market selection of not only THC levels, different strains and even flavors of pot to smoke. But the different gourmet food and drink products as well as concentrates.

You can vape it in special oils through an e-cigarette. You can eat it in specially made candies and cookies. You can drink it in infused drinks. And there are other cannabis products.

If you're new to dispensaries:

- You MUST be 21 or older to purchase at or even enter a recreational marijuana dispensary in Washington State. There is a doorman/woman at most dispensaries (some have locked access doors and they have to unlock it before you can come in.) They are there to make sure you're of age. Legal marijuana dispensaries are very classy, upstanding places and they pride themselves on maintaining that image.

 - Don't be shy. Or scared. You don't need any special card. Or have to sign up for anything or join any club. After you're screened at the door, just walk in. Someone will always greet you.

- Most dispensaries also sell heatproof glass smoking pipes, bongs, vaporizer systems and of course, lighters. If you prefer pre-rolled, they have those too in selected varieties (they cannot open a bag and roll any for you. However you can buy a grinder and rolling papers at most dispensaries and do it yourself at home.)

- Don't be embarrassed by the selection. Marijuana comes in many varieties. Each strain of cannabis or cannabis infused product has a different effect and level of THC content. Pre-rolls tend to have the lowest. BHO waxes the highest.

There are three main varieties of cannabis that you should know about.

Hybrids - Hybrids are "the best of both worlds". They have both distinct body and head highs and can vary from one type to another.

If you're not sure of anything, ask for the best sellers on the menu.

Be aware of this:

- You can't legally buy more than an ounce of smokable recreational marijuana from a dispensary. There are also limits to edibles and concentrates. Always ask before you buy a larger amount of these.

- There are also no free samples. Don't ask.

- Please be aware that the dispensary staff cannot legally give you any medically related advice. So don't be offended if they rebuff any medically related question. That's not what they are there for. Only your doctor can help you in that category. Please understand and respect this.

- Taking selfies or photos in/of the interior and around the premises without express permission from management is frowned upon. Always ask first before you whip out your phone. Even though cannabis is legal here, many users are still sensitive to their privacy. Please respect that.

- You also can't consume cannabis in any form anywhere on or near the premises of a dispensary. They are not hangouts. Feel free to browse the selection, ask questions and buy. But you can't stay and consume anything there.

The Selection:

Pre-packaged recreational cannabis and cannabis product come in thick plastic, foil backed, vacuum sealed packages. It preserves the freshness of the cannabis and unopened, it can keep for a few years. They are also foil-backed for security reasons.

A filled, sealed 2gram bag Photo: The Stashbox LLC


You have to remember this is not your uncle's stash. This is Top Shelf stuff. No stems or seeds. And quality product. All prices include tax.

You might notice 3.5 grams (on the streets, it's called an "eighth" or 1/8th of an ounce and the standard street distribution amount) for $60 for some popular strains is a LOT to pay for good cannabis (on the street, eighths usually sold for $40 and there are eighths that still sell for $40 at most dispensaries.) Some products however do not come in sizes higher than 2 grams. Check for availability.

But the good thing going in the legal market out here is you know exactly what you're getting, it's very high quality and the weight is correct. Plus you have a wide selection of products and prices. So you're not getting ripped off. If $60 is too expensive, look for lower cost eighths. But $40 is usually the lowest price for an eighth of cannabis in most recreational dispensaries.


Also called "buds", this is the prime cannabis product and the vast majority of what is sold. There are hundreds of varieties of sativas, indicas and hybrids to choose from. They are sold in 1 gram, 2 gram, 3.5 gram and 7 gram (quarter ounce) packages and also in pre-rolled packages. Again sizes and availability differ from product to product and place to place

Storing Cannabis

Cannabis, like tobacco, tea, coffee or any other plant based material needs to be stored in an airtight container and in a cool dark place away from sunlight. Black plastic 35mm film canisters were often the best for storing small amounts. But any good, airtight container will do.

Advanced Cannabis Products 

Eating Cannabis Infused Products:

If you've never tried them before, eating a cannabis product is like eating any other brownie, cookie or candy. Kick back. Relax....You won't feel a thing at first. But depending on your metabolism, you'll be feeling the effects anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. And when you start to feel it, it will be instant. Like "Hit you like a train" instant. You'll be talking with someone in mid conversation and suddenly, everything will get funny. Or you'll forget what you were just talking about.

It might not be the thing you want to happen in public though. The sudden high can go in any direction. But some people can get panicky and/or really disoriented (and sometimes both when you're in a crowded party full of strangers.) It can get really scary and bum your whole trip. So stay in a nice comfy place with good friends or by yourself if you're new to the edibles and drinks.

Be aware the edibles are usually very expensive. But they're usually also very potent. You may think four small candies for $12 is crazy. But eat just one of these and you won't.

Vape Pens:

The vape pen concentrates are not for lightweights. With a 40% - 80%+ THC content, it's for the advanced stoner.

The packages containing vape oil cartridges look like hardly anything (the photo of the vape cartridge above is only slightly smaller than actual size) and a total rip off for $35-60 or more. But this isn't plant material, it's concentrated THC.

Since pure vaping oil is VERY thick, use a 350 mAh, 510 thread e-cigarette battery, which is the best power for these cartridges. Higher regular e-cigarette ones, 650 mAh and above, can ruin them. You can find these for cheap on eBay and other sources for $7-25.

These are pure cannabinoids you're inhaling, not burning plant material or e-liquid. So the clouds won't be as fluffy when you exhale like with e-cigarette liquid. Take gentle tokes and inhale it slowly and hold it as long as you can. You may not even see any significant vapor when you exhale, but give it a few seconds and you WILL feel it.

The vaping oil cartridges are very strong concentrates. And stealth too. You can puff them almost anywhere discreetly. That's why they're so popular today. But as always, be careful.

BHO wax

BHO (or "dabbing") is smoked through a special pipe that requires a blowtorch. I don't have any personal experience with this method. Besides, that's a lot to buy and prepare when all you simply want is a good stone.

For this, I defer to the Ultimate Cannabis Authority; High Times magazine.

Another thing to remember is BHO waxes are extremely strong, 70% THC and beyond. It's absolutely not for the squeamish.


If you're a cannabis user living in a state or country where cannabis is illegal, join a pro-cannabis legalization group (Google for the ones in your state/country.) Get to know your state/country's laws on cannabis and volunteer to collect signatures to put a legalization bill on the ballot in your state/country. Or donate money to help the cause.

We live in changing times today. Public attitudes about marijuana are changing in favor of legalization. And it's important we keep fighting the good fight for cannabis legalization nationwide and around the world. And vigorously defend our rights once it is legalized.

And the best defense is to always set a good example of responsibility.

There are forces who will do anything to push us back into the dark ages of prohibition for nothing more than vicarious control over the lives of people who disagree with them and we must never allow that. Because if they can succeed in doing that, they will be emboldened to attack other rights we fought long and hard to gain (such as LGBT rights, which they already are.)

But for now, let's light up and celebrate what we have gained. Which is a LOT compared to even 3 years ago. But never give up the fight.

Happy 420 Day!

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