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Festival Harm Reduction

How to Get Stoned But Not Too Stoned

It's all about calibration.

Joel Warner

Tommy Flynn/Getty Images

In The Festival Harm Reduction Project series , we examine drug use at music festivals and clubs across the globe, and explore what artists, organizers, harm reduction groups, and concert-goers are doing to make nightlife safer.

Getting too stoned is the worst. While you can't overdose on marijuana—there is no known lethal dose of cannabis—you can find yourself overly high, with all the resulting anxiety, confusion, discombobulation and other unpleasant symptoms.

It's not surprising that many of the legal cannabis options for sale these days are all about potency, packing far more psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) into each product than you'd ever get from a joint 20 or 30 years ago. It's like if you walked into a liquor store and every bottle of booze was a variation of Everclear. "This is a new industry and there is a lot of green-rush mentality out there," says Holly Alberti-Evans, CEO of Healthy Headie Lifestyle, an in-home direct sales company for cannabis products. "People are not using this plant as it was intended to be used. So it makes sense to go low and go slow."

Happily, there are many products, services, and accessories out there for people who want more control over their high. Think of it like marijuana with training wheels, methods that let you ease your way into cannabis in ways that are safe, subtle, and discreet. But still fun.

For starters, if you want to smoke old-school marijuana buds, learn to read cannabis labels, which break down the potencies of various strains. Look for options with lower levels of THC, such as 15 percent or less. Also keep an eye out for strains with high amounts of cannabidiol or CBD, the part of the plant that's believed to have many medicinal qualities and might help counteract the anxiety and other negative effects sometimes associated with THC. To help you with the browsing process, online strain databases like Leafly offer recommendations for rookie-friendly options.


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Those who want to avoid smoking marijuana altogether should consider portable vaporizers. Not only is marijuana vapor believed to be less harmful on the lungs, but many modern-day vape pens offer dosing controls so you don't take too big of a drag. For example, Hmbldt "dose pens," currently for sale in California, vibrate slightly and automatically shut off once you've inhaled a 3-second, 2.25-milligram hit. Those who want even more control over their high should check out the latest premium vaporizer options from PAX, which can be paired with a smartphone app to control device temperature, allowing you to program in a smooth, low-vapor dose.

Marijuana edibles might seem like a good option for beginners, but the reality is often the opposite. Since it's impossible to taste the potency and it can take two hours or more for effects to kick in, it's very easy to consume way too much before you realize it. (Just ask Maureen Dowd.) If you're really jonesing to consume your cannabis, start with very low-potency options, like Kiva Confections' Petra 2.5 milligram-THC microdose mints (assuming you can get your hands on them). Take one, then don't have another until you start feeling the effects—even if it takes a while.

Another edible option: tinctures, which are both discreet and formulated to allow consumers to carefully titrate their THC dose. Strainz Ratio Tinctures, for example, include high-CBD options to produce a calming experience with minimal psychoactive effects.

And while cultivating cannabis used to be a lot of grunt work, you can now buy (uh, where it's legal, anyway) automated grow systems like Leaf, a smartphone-enabled grow box that automatically calibrates light, ventilation and nutrient levels to produce a fully-grown plant in three to four months. While the device isn't cheap—Leaf systems will soon hit the market at around $3,000—the folks behind the tech say the machine will pay for itself after a few grow cycles.

If you grow your own cannabis and then want to make it into edibles or tinctures instead of smoking it, you'll first you have to decarboxylate it—meaning you have to activate its psychoactive and therapeutic components through heating. Then you have to add the results to butter or oil. The messy process usually involves baking sheets, ovens, sauce pans and cheesecloths, and can all too often result in an inconsistent product, meaning your resulting pot brownies could get you way too high or not do anything at all.

One way to remove the guesswork from the procedure is to invest in devices to do the work for you, such as a $210 Nova Decarboxylator, which resembles a miniature crock pot and automatically preps your weed for consumption, and a $200 LEVO Oil Infuser, which might look like an espresso machine but actually adds your marijuana to oils or butters. You can also splurge for a $300 tCheck Home Infusion Potency Tester, which will let you know exactly how much THC is in each batch of your home-baked magical butter.

Of course, no matter how careful you are with marijuana, there's still a chance you'll go overboard and find yourself way too high. If you do, don't feel bad—it happens to the best of us. Just remember, while the experience might feel unpleasant, it's not an emergency. So ride it out, man. Ride it out.

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