By Sue Vorenberg
Cannabis Daily Record
Oregon’s early start program begins October 1, 2015 – and with it comes a host of opportunities to introduce friends to the many facets of recreational cannabis.
Legalization is so new in the Pacific Northwest (Washington’s first stores opened on July 8, 2014), that there doesn’t seem to be much of a road map out there for how to put together a party where friends and newcomers can sniff, sample and explore.
So this summer, a friend of mine in Portland and I came up with with some ideas for setting up your first legal pot party.
Some of our tips follow, and we’d also love to hear any suggestions you have for your own legalization parties.
The first thing we noticed is that there are a lot of folks interested in cannabis that haven’t tried it yet, or haven’t used it in decades because of the drug’s illegal status.
Now that some of the walls are coming down and legalization is spreading across the country, some of those folks are returning to a very different landscape of options than what they might remember from their younger days.
For starters, there’s quite an array of new products like vape cartridges, oils, concentrates, tinctures, edibles and other things out there that I’ll delve into in future Living section posts here at Cannabis Daily Record.
Of those items, vape cartridges are probably the best new-tech option for beginner parties. A few cheap chargers and one cartridge each of a sativa, hybrid and indica will let your guests check out how vapes work and what options are available.
But the main thing I’m going to talk about for this post is marijuana strains in smoke-able form (i.e. with a pipe or papers).
So, first things first.
When you go to a pot shop one of the first things you’ll notice about the menu is a very large array of options and strain variety.
All recreational strains boil down to three basic types. They are:
Sativa: Sativas are plants with longer, thinner leaves known for a euphoric, energetic “head high.” Think outdoor hiking, socializing, moving around.
Indica: Indicas have stockier, thicker leaves and are known for a more sleepy “body high” and muscle relaxation. Think sitting on the couch watching TV or sleeping.
Hybrid: Hybrids are a mix of indicas and sativas, emphasizing various aspects of the two plants. Hybrids are generally considered indica-dominant, sativa-dominant or balanced.
So if you’re planning a party to introduce or re-introduce people to cannabis, it’s nice to provide your guests with an array of strains from each general type.
At her party, my friend out an assortment of strains, pipes, lighters and rolling papers, with the marijuana pre-ground and ready to try.
She also structured her party to be as inclusive as possible for newcomers and curious visitors.
For the first two hours of her event she held something similar to an open-house. The cannabis was laid out, and visitors could look, touch or smell it, but there was no smoking (at least indoors) so that non-smokers could have some time to quell their curiosity and learn more.
That part of the event was actually the most popular. When legalization kicks in, it takes a while for the stigma against pot to wear off – and even seeing and smelling buds can be a pretty strange experience that takes some getting used to.
After the open house, she put out the pipes, lighters and bongs, along with some edibles and other things, and she let guests (strictly over age 21) sample away.
She didn’t allow any buying or selling of marijuana in her house (a wise choice considering it’s still illegal federally), but she did let guests bring their own samples and share them. She also did’t serve alcohol but allowed guests to bring it if they prefered drinking to smoking (because mixing pot and alcohol can seriously amplify the effects and she didn’t want to encourage that).
And she had space set aside for people to lie down, space out or find some quiet at the party, both as a means for them to let the effects wear off before driving and to give new consumers a place to be calm if they found the effects of smoking uncomfortable.
What she found is that nobody used it, but people still said they were glad it was available if they needed it.
She also laid a stack of my blank Strain Sheets, which you are also welcome to print out or use if you like. I designed the sheets to be a little more objective than typical reviews. The categories are geared toward making you mindful of how each cannabis strain or product makes you feel.
Personally, I use strain sheets to keep a record of how various products affect me, so I know which ones I want to try again and which ones I want to stay away from. While some of the general things about strains seem to happen to most people (for instance a strain called Headband almost always gives smokers the sensation of a band of tingling pressure around the head where a headband might reside), other aspects of strains and how they affect you are very personal.
As I’ve tried a wide array of strains, occasionally I’ve come across one that makes me feel absolutely fantastic. I try to keep a list of those, and I’ll rebuy them or try the same strain from a variety of growers until I find the absolute best one that matches my biology.
And I have an assortment of those that I’ll use for various purposes.
The sativas on my list – Cinex, Cali Mist and Jack Herer, I use for cleaning the house, hiking and other active things. The hybrids on my list – Pineapple, White Widow and Star Dawg, I use for taking the edge off after work, reading, chilling and playing video games, barbecuing or other activities. And the indicas on my list – Godzilla, Lavender, Afgoo and Granddaddy Purple, I use for a nightcap, settling in before I go to sleep.
But those are strains that match my personal biology. Yours may be very different, which is why it’s good to try a variety of samples before you make your final judgement about whether cannabis is right for you or not.
I think it’s pretty cool that she shared my strain sheet method with her guests – and I hope some found them useful in figuring out which strains work best.
Another thing newcomers also need to watch out for is strain potency. Products are much stronger now than they were 20 years ago. So my advice for the party was to mostly provide beginner strains – with a THC content of about 15 percent or less.
With too low of a dose, you can always take more. But one of the most common problems when people take too strong of a product is that they get paranoid, and that’s not something anybody wants.
For instance, after I returned to cannabis in late 2013 after about a 30 year hiatus, I tried some of CannaMan Farms’ products (a local Vancouver grower – purchased at a legal rec store after they opened in July 2014). The company makes some wonderful high-potency cannabis, but as a beginner the strain strength was far too much for me.
After about a year of smoking, I enjoy their products a lot more and can appreciate the nuances and quality of their strains. But when I started, I couldn’t take a small enough hit – and found I would get paranoid if I tried.
For a gourmet party with a bunch of fellow enthusiasts and experienced users, I’d probably lay out a bunch of samples from CannaMan Farms, Smokey Point Productions, Cedar Creek Cannabis, Life Gardens, Agrijuana and a few other growers that I know make some of the best cannabis in the I-502 system here in Southwest Washington, where I’m based.
Once Oregon’s dispensaries start selling recreationally to the public in October, I’ll have to peruse and recommend another set of growers in that area.
For a beginner party, though, using less strong stuff – like products from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills High or Pioneer Nuggets – is ideal.
We also talked about providing some activities for guests – board games, party games and possibly an area where people can watch TV (although TV can sometimes suck the life right out of a party), although we didn’t move forward with them. Perhaps next time.
I think in general activities are a good way to make sure your cannabis newcomers are still engaged in the party. Sometimes, cannabis can make people awfully quiet.
Do you have other suggestions for pot parties? If you do, please feel free to add them to the comments section.
Sue Vorenberg is the founder of Cannabis Daily Record. She has 20 years of experience as a journalist covering a wide array of topics, including cannabis legalization and consumer markets. She also founded The Columbian’s Cannabis Chronicles blog and spent about three months working in the industry. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org