Last month, New York Times writer Maureen Dowd traveled to Colorado to investigate the state's new commerce in legal marijuana for recreational use. She wound up lying paralyzed in a hotel bed while locked in a psychological staring contest with the grim reaper (or at least someone in a very convincing grim reaper costume). The cause of Dowd's morbid paralysis: just a few nibbles of a marijuana-enhanced candy bar she'd gotten at a Denver dispensary, the surprising strength of which led to widespread discussion of the dangers of ingesting pot.
These dangers are real. Yes, Maureen Dowd could've done more to investigate proper dosage, and yes, the clerks who supplied her with the multi-dose candy bar could've done much, much more to adequately serve the needs of their customer. But until the day comes when marijuana sellers take proper responsibility for the experiences of their customers*, and/or personal marijuana dosages are as ingrained as those of coffee and alcohol, how to enjoyably experience edible pot is something all users must figure out for themselves. Here are some tips.
Know What You're In For
Eating pot is very different than smoking it, with an edible high taking up to 90 minutes to hit and lasting much longer than a smoking high. Edibles typically give three to four hours of peak stonedness, compared to an hour or two from smoking. If you're looking for a quick-hitting high that's gone in a couple hours, stick with smoking.
Figure Out Your Dosage
In the past, getting a precise dose of edible pot was complicated, if not impossible. Previously, edible marijuana popularly took the form of pot brownies, in which the THC followed the butter, to be spread among the batch willy-nilly: One brownie might be weak, another could be strong, and who knows the strength of the pot that went into the butter in the first place? But thanks to advances made in the medical marijuana sector, getting a precise dosage of edible THC is now totally doable.
Case in point: medicated gummy bears, each one of which is infused with exactly 10 mg of THC and packaged in bags containing 10 or 25 bears. Thus are customers given precise buildings blocks to construct their preferred high.
Think of 10 mg of THC (i.e., one medicated gummy bear) as one serving—say, a single shot of espresso. Some people like double espressos. Some like quadruple espressos. Some have the smallest sip of an espresso and stay up all night pooping. I can't tell you how to feel about this espresso metaphor, I just want you to understand the math:
10 mg THC = "one serving" (particularly for new users).
HOWEVER! Even within this precisely dosed world, there are vast differences in experience. A friend of mine—a non–pot smoker—eats just the feet off a single gummy bear and goes somewhere sweet and happy and totally navigable. Another friend, an occasional pot smoker, eats two bears and does the same—but the time she tried three bears, she crossed over into over-stonedness. A friend who is not a pot smoker impatiently ate five bears and spent an entire night having what she described as "rolling orgasms." The average pot smoker typically gets a good, strong, memorable experience from three to four bears. Start with one and build up.
This cannot be stressed enough, especially since "getting high" is not typically an endeavor associated with careful impulse control: Nothing will send you toward the hell that swallowed Maureen Dowd faster than overdose-by-impatience. Whatever size of dose you decide upon, it will take roughly one hour to hit. So if you're sitting there, waiting for your high and thinking, "Maybe I didn't take enough..." STOP. Make sure you've waited a full 60 minutes before you even consider upping your dose. Set a timer. If you forgot to set a timer when you first ate your dose, start the full 60-minute countdown as soon as you remember. Not 50 minutes. Not 55 minutes. Not 59 minutes. Sixty fucking minutes. Don't let impatience send you to a hell of your own stoned making.
Beyond all the above warnings lies the fact that, in terms of ease of use and duration of effect, edible marijuana is a total dream, perfect for rock concerts, sporting events, cultural festivals, the cinema, high-school reunions, nature hikes, weddings, funerals, Bumbershoots, and any other place you want to be high for several hours straight without having to duck somewhere for a puff. (And if you're a parent, hide your medicated gummies like they were loaded guns—kids are designed by God to eat any candy they find anywhere.)
* I’m not talking about anything huge, just a pot-store equivalent of a food server saying, “Hot plate.” It’s in a business’s best interest to send customers away happy, not psychotic and burnt, and hopefully marijuana capitalists will implement industry-wide standards ASAP.