by Shannon McMullin
‘Tis the Season for gathering, giving and sharing! The joy of seeing family and friends during the holidays often can come with a reminder that stigmas surrounding cannabis use are still prevalent in many circles, many being misconceptions left over from Prohibition. On the other hand, many former naysayers have been becoming more curious since legalization, but don’t know where to start. No matter which side of the canna coin your loved ones may fall on, we’ve got you covered with a guide to talking cannabis while keeping spirits bright!
CLEARING THE AIR:
Your loved ones may have a plethora of reasons for opposing cannabis use. Whether it’s personal, cultural, or just misinformation guiding their decisions, the best way to combat any disparaging comments or judgement is to “kill ‘em with kindness,” but also with the facts. As in any conversation, it is important to keep everyone’s comfort and boundaries in mind by choosing an approach that best suits them. Begin by asking simple questions to gauge what they know about cannabis, and also why they disapprove. Be patient and keep an open mind while attentively listening to their concerns – though they may demonstrate bias, it’s important to make your loved one feel heard and understood. This also allows us to tailor our talking points in a way that makes the most sense to them, while demonstrating that you are speaking from a good place.
Once you’ve established a foundation through attentive listening, use their listed issues as your first facts to check. If you’re confident enough in your own cannabis knowledge to address their concerns, go forth using language they best understand. If you need some assistance in answering some of their questions (or are being asked to cite your sources,) websites like Leafly and NORML are trusted resources that share the truth about cannabis in a way that makes sense to the general public. In your fact-checking and educating, remember to keep it simple; the idea is to get people to come around to cannabis, not to train a new budtender!
Education can be our best tool against cannabis stigma. However, especially during the holidays, a personal touch can really help our loved ones warm up to our own cannabis use, and even build the bridge from skeptic to canna-curious. Talking about what cannabis has done for you can be a great way to break down barriers – has cannabis helped you curb some bad habits in your life? Have you incorporated it into your wellness routine? These are just a couple anecdotes that can be useful in helping others better understand our favourite plant.
Alternatively, asking questions about things they enjoy and making reasonable comparisons when appropriate could do the trick. Do they enjoy a glass of wine every night? Ask them exactly what they get out of that, and compare it to what you get from cannabis. Are they not to be spoken to before a cup of coffee? Ask them why they believe it helps them, and remind them of the benefits you receive from cannabis. The key to making these comparisons is to not hold one substance as superior or inferior, and not to pass any judgement on their choice. As consenting adults, we all have different chemical compounds that help us relax, motivate, or enjoy, and none hold any inherent morality or lack thereof – it’s our relationships to them that matter.
If you’ve already successfully bridged the gap from critical to curious, it’s time to plan your loved one’s debut into the world of cannabis! Before you take them on their trip, here are some important things to consider:
Much like when setting out to break cannabis stigmas, the first step to introducing someone new or very inexperienced to cannabis is asking questions to gauge their comfort level. This is the best way to find out what consumption method they are most comfortable with trying, as well as an appropriate dosage.
For many newcomers, edibles are one of the most accessible ways to try cannabis. Unlike products from legacy markets that can often be intimidatingly and incorrectly dosed, edibles from the legal recreational market provide small, measured doses in a familiar, bite-sized package. The average onset is gradual, taking between 45 minutes to 2 hours for effects to be felt. The benefit of a gradual onset is that it allows one to be more comfortable with slowly feeling high, as opposed to the potentially overwhelming instant high that comes with inhalation.
When selecting an edible to try with your loved one, dosage and onset are the two biggest factors to consider. Make sure to read the label or ask your budtender about how certain edibles are dosed, and how it is distributed in the package. Edibles labelled “rapid” or “quick” will take less time to kick in than traditional edibles (20 minutes to 1 hour) and the high may be more intense, but also shorter. Choosing products that are split into smaller doses (many companies provide 5 pieces of 2.5mg THC dosed gummies in a pack) will also help ensure the best experience. Additionally, edibles that contain CBD in addition to THC can help offset some of its less desirable effects.
Smoking may be more aromatic and harsh to inhale than vaping, but provides a more well-rounded experience than the intense concentrated cannabinoid blast that may come from vapes. Because of this, smoking is recommended over vaping for first-timers. Whether your loved one is more comfortable getting into smoking or vaping, choosing a strain that is lower in THC, or even a one that balances THC and CBD is the safest route to take in ensuring they have a pleasant experience.
For first-time smokers, taking long, slow inhales is key. Drawing the smoke right into your lungs will provide the best cannabinoid absorption, as opposed to holding it in your mouth like many beginners often do. Joints and pipes are usually easier to draw a small inhale from over bong hits, which involve a bigger inhale. Since vaping can be more intense out of the gate, the opposite applies; shorter, shallower inhales are recommended to avoid coughing and an unpleasant head rush. Walking your loved one through a few deep breaths before smoking or vaping will help alleviate any nerves they may have, as well as make them more conscious of their breathing pattern. Coughing and irritation is common for first-time and veteran smokers alike, so make sure to have water on hand, or even lozenges for their throat.
SETTING THE SCENE:
The setting of someone’s first foray into cannabis can make or break their experience. A crowded party or public event may be a bit overstimulating, so planning to partake as a gathering thins out, or even hosting a smaller, more intimate affair is a wise choice. As with any guest, be kind and courteous! Making fun of their reactions or apprehensions may turn them off cannabis altogether, as will pushing people outside of their comfort zone. Assure your loved one that they are safe with you, and ask them what could be done to make their experience more enjoyable.
If you’re choosing a product with a gradual onset like edibles, make sure your loved one stays stimulated and comfortable while it kicks in. Being bored before an onset can often make someone feel like an edible isn’t working, which may encourage overconsumption. Put on a familiar movie or show, or begin a gentle hobby like colouring or cozy video games, and get comfy while you wait to take off.
While you enjoy together, check in with them occasionally to see if they’re enjoying their high, as well as to look for any signs of overconsumption, such as anxiety, dry mouth, munchies, or fatigue. Proper dosing should help avoid this, but everyone processes cannabinoids differently. There are plenty of ways to mitigate any potential negative effects of cannabis. Havingplenty of non-alcoholic drinks and snacks available will help to quell dry mouth and munchies. As well, having something to eat and drink provides a shift in focus that can prevent some anxiety.
If things take a turn and your loved one begins to have a negative experience, there are a few things that can be done to help them “come down.” Reassure them that this feeling is temporary, that you are right here for them, and that they will be alright. Keeping them comforted and distracted by things they enjoy can also help shift their focus – a live recording of their favourite artist, or a familiar sitcom are great options for this.
If they’re still not doing well, an old trick that many cannabis enthusiasts swear by is to deeply inhale or chew black peppercorn. The main terpene in black pepper, caryophyllene, interacts uniquely with our endocannabinoid system and helps provide a calming, grounding feeling that can help offset any anxiety or paranoia.
Even with a comfortable setting, a beginner-friendly dose, and a thoughtful host, cannabis simply isn’t for everyone. If your loved one did not enjoy their experience, or still isn’t convinced about it, that’s okay! Embrace the silver linings that you’ve been trusted by your friend or family member with something unfamiliar to them, and that every small step to normalize recreational cannabis matters.
Introducing cannabis to your loved ones can be the start of fun new holiday traditions, or at the very least the start of exciting new conversations as we gather with family or friends. Before your next gathering, ask your budtender for their favourite beginner-friendly picks!