The air is hazy and the room—with its brown futon, “annual campus poster sale” posters (hell yeah dude, I love The Dark Knight!), and crowded coffee table—is illuminated only by the glow of a few strips of LED lights. Someone is playing The Weeknd, and someone else is saying, between coughs, that they don’t normally like The Weeknd, but this song is “actually so good.” And you, dear reader? You’re silently freaking out because the bong is coming your way... but you don’t actually want to hit it.
That’s a vision of yester-year’s weed-smoking situation, the kind that perhaps turned you off well into adulthood. But now that cannabis is nice and legal, even people who haven’t partaken in years might feel a little curious about what the brave new world of weed has to offer—while also feeling freaked out, and then embarrassed for feeling freaked out.
The good news is that the recreational cannabis industry has changed things a lot: In 2011, you had to buy mids from a 22-year-old in a 7-11 parking lot. In 2021, in at least 16 U.S. states, you can get a tin of mints with a perfectly balanced THC:CBD ratio couriered to your house. You still might need to make conversation with a weird guy named Adam somewhere in the process, but at least you won’t have to sit in his car (unless you want to)!
Basically, the weed experience—from consumption to purchase to the actual high—is a lot less “one-size-fits-all” than it used to be. But it’s also not weird or unusual to be basing your opinions about consuming weed on your earlier experiences with it, or even on all the anti-drug messaging you received growing up. Getting into weed takes patience, and a good amount of trial and error. “I think part of the issue with a lot of folks feeling like cannabis isn't for them is that we have this instant gratification culture—we're used to having something solved right away. But [with weed], you have to tinker a little bit and see what works for you,” Beca Grimm, cool stoner extraordinaire and Dope Girls co-founder, told VICE. If you want to like weed but still feel freaked out, here’s what might be going on.
You’re not getting fully comfortable before you get high.
Experienced stoners will happily smoke weed before interacting with the U.S. military at their FEMA-run COVID vaccination site—but in general, and especially for beginners, the setting makes a massive difference when it comes to getting high and having fun afterward. Even once you’re fully vaccinated against COVID, it could be worthwhile to totally decouple weed from socializing if you find your past bad experiences coincided with things like a not-so-fun party, a night in with a roommate’s partner who was kind of pushy about sharing the joint, or a set at a music festival you’d rather forget.
Grimm recommended checking in with yourself about where you feel most “in your groove” and then adding cannabis into the equation. “If that means you're throwing together a badass stir fry, or you're weeding your garden, or you're taking your dog on a walk, or you’re jumping into a bubble bath, just get into your own element,” she said. A solo session could also be a relief for people who are worried about how they’ll act when they’re high. “Put yourself in a place where you aren't necessarily going to be subject to other people's judgments,” Grimm said, although also try to remember that no one is looking at you, and if they are, they probably don’t care that you’re high “Even if you are a server at a restaurant and you think your table is stoned, have you ever been mad about that? I never have! I'm like, OK, that's fine. Enjoy!”
You’re sticking with the same old consumption methods (even though you hate smoking anything).
The act of smoking can be a big turnoff—coughing sucks, having a dry mouth sucks, and bongs are low-key intimidating. But there are a lot more ways to get weed in your system than just smoking it. In states where weed is legal, there are specific strains of cannabis flower for sale with ample information about the high they provide, plus carefully regulated edibles, topicals, sublinguals (as in: pop it under your tongue!), lubes, vaporizers… the list goes on and on, and it’s worth shopping around until you find something that speaks to you. (And, to be honest, in states where it’s still illegal, dealers probably have a lot of that stuff on deck too.)
Grimm said she really enjoys the ability to track what she’s consuming, especially with gadgets like the Dosist pens that vibrate every time a user takes a full hit in order to help with self-regulation. “You can get one martini and that's one drink, right? Or one bottle of beer, that’s also a drink. It's so much more nebulous with cannabis,” she said. But weed is typically dosed in terms of THC content, so keep an eye out for markers related to milligrams of THC so you can learn your way around this just like you did around, say, ABV.
If you are going to invest your time in trial and error, Grimm also suggested some freeform journaling as a way to keep tabs on what works best for you, “especially keeping in mind that, you know, the stoner brainspace being very forgetful is not just a stereotype,” she said. “Just [note things like], ‘I smoked Durban Poison and I crawled up the wall and almost canceled my lease—don't do that again.’ or ‘I vaped Blue Dream and then I texted this hot guy and we had like amazing sex in a stairwell—yeah, let's do that again.’ Getting to know yourself is helpful!”
You don’t like being bad at things, and you feel shy asking for help.
You don’t have to navigate the wild world of legal weed alone—in fact, you’ll probably have way more fun if you turn to an experienced friend or a professional. “Think of budtenders [people behind the counter at dispensaries] as the opposite of record store employees,” Grimm said. “You should really feel OK being like, ‘Hey, I don't know what the fuck is going on, here is what I feel comfortable with and here's what I am looking for’—help them tailor-make your experience.”
Grimm said she’s also served as a “weed doula” for curious friends, guiding them through a high and making sure they have snacks, seltzers, and good TV at the ready in case of emergency (as in, getting a little too high and getting a little nervous). Ask your coolest cousin, or your roommate who still secretly watches Rick and Morty—someone you love and trust who also loves weed. Don’t be afraid to let your weed doula know if you’re freaking out, either—because even the most experienced stoner has been there in a big way. A good friend will know to hand you a glass of water, rub your back, and remind you that you won’t be, hypothetically, too high at a Gucci Mane concert or scared at a Taco Bell for the literal rest of your life.
You just… don’t like weed and you never will.
Some people and some substances just don’t mix. If you’re one of the people who inevitably gets anxious, super tired, or even nauseous after eating, vaping, smoking, whatever-ing weed, it’s totally fine to just say no to this particular drug. Stick with stuff that doesn’t make you nervous that your cat “knows” something, or too lethargic to even order delivery. “If you keep running into all these weird walls or you have some sort of aversion, it's OK if you want to pull back,” Grimm said. “Ultimately, weed should be fun. If it's making you really freaked out then you don't have to do it.”
It’s also key to note that nobody worth spending time with will care—even if they love weed. “I have plenty of friends I fuck with heavily that don't smoke weed and it's fine, as long as they don't care that I smoke weed,” Grimm said. “People who are like really, really pressuring other people into it—it's just a reflection of their own insecurity. They need somebody else to validate the choices that they made with their lives.”
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