CARBONDALE — With the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis in Illinois earlier this month, the options presented to even seasoned stoners can be kind of overwhelming.
First come the choices at the dispensary. There are strain options like indica, sativa and hybrids. There’s marijuana flower, and then there are concentrates. But then there’s concentrate forms like shatter, budder, sugar, crumble, sauce and diamonds. Then there are edibles, tinctures and capsules.
Once this menu is navigated, then there’s the question of what to do with this stuff once you buy it. The local head shop can be just as overwhelming as the dispensary. There are dab rigs, blunts, vaporizers, bubblers, rolling papers, chillums, nectar collectors and spoons. Each has its distinct benefit, quirk and user-friendliness.
But, there are some basics to keep in mind for both the product and its respective delivery method. Steve Bundy, general manager at Wellness Group Pharms, a cannabis cultivator in Anna, helped break down some basics.
Three recreational cannabis dispensaries will be open Wednesday in Southern Illinois. Here's what to expect if you plan to visit one of them.
Bundy said customers should be aware that the strain of cannabis — either indica or sativa — that they purchase will influence their overall experience. He said generally most patients will say they find indicas more relaxing, while sativas offer a more cerebral and uplifting high. Then, there are hybrids of the two, which Bundy said offer the best of both worlds.
As for the form of cannabis, there are a myriad of options. Flower is the most common — these are the buds taken from the female marijuana plant that are picked, dry-cured and then broken down and smoked.
Bundy explained that concentrates, as their name suggests, are products made by collecting the tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, from the plant and further distilling it to reach high potencies of the psychoactive chemical, some reaching as high as 90%. Bundy explained that different solvents are used to strip the plants of THC, like CO2 and butane.
Bundy said the solvents are removed using a low-heat vacuum oven — he also noted that Illinois’ tolerance for residual solvents in cannabis concentrate products is incredibly low. In fact, he cautioned customers to read ingredients in the cannabis products they are purchasing. He said this specifically about vaporizer cartridges, which have come under scrutiny because of a recent group of illnesses, and even some deaths, largely caused by black-market THC vape cartridges.
“If it contains anything other than cannabis oil and terpenes, I would stay away from it,” Bundy said.
As for things like shatter, budder, diamonds and sugar — Bundy said these are just names given to THC concentrates based on their texture. He said they are primarily used in vaporizers or in other inhalation methods.
However, Bundy said some of these concentrates are not recommended to newcomers, as they can be too strong and cause an unpleasant experience.
The shelves at Carbondale’s Legal Smile look like a cross between abstract art and futuristic plumbing. Glass pipes of all shapes, colors and sizes line the walls and fill the cases. Some are straightforward items seen in college bedrooms for decades. Others, though, require a lot more explanation.
Jacob Buckman opened the shop last year, and said it’s been liberating to be able to discuss more openly what the products he sells are actually used for — previously, he said, he had to walk a thin line with customers with the winking understanding that the pipes and other ephemera described as tobacco pipes were often used for cannabis.
It’s important to note how marijuana paraphernalia laws have changed since adult-use cannabis became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. According to Beth Hunsdorfer, chief public information officer for the Illinois State Police, there are some key points to consider. While cannabis products and other related products are now legal, they still have to be handled and transported in a particular way.
“If legal amounts of cannabis are transported in a vehicle, they must be reasonably inaccessible and in a sealed, odor-proof, child-resistant container,” she said in an email Monday. She also wrote that the same goes for pipes and other smoking implements if they have residual marijuana in them. She also said if it can be proven that a smoking device has been used for another, illicit product, it could still be considered contraband.
In October, the City of Carbondale also voted to repeal its city ordinance prohibiting cannabis and its paraphernalia. It also repealed a clause that previously made drug potency test kits illegal in the city.
One part of the law has not changed, however, and that is driving while under the influence. Hunsdorfer made this clear in her email.
“The ISP will handle driving under the influence as it always has with no change. Drivers shall not operate a motor vehicle while driving impaired (to a degree that renders the driver incapable of safely driving), this includes driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination or other intoxicating compounds,” she wrote.
At Legal Smile, Buckman said his business has seen a noticeable uptick, especially since the holiday season.
“That bell on that door, we hear it a lot more,” he said.
The Southern asked Buckman to walk through his inventory from the most common to the more specialized, in an effort to help those new to the hobby understand where to start and what to buy.
The first item Buckman pointed to was small and inexpensive — a package of rolling papers. These are used to roll joints, the colloquial term for a marijuana cigarette. There are options here, brands like Zig-Zag and Randy’s and materials like hemp and tobacco — though pot rolled in tobacco is often called a blunt.
Using these can take some skill, though, and for those not wanting to learn, Buckman also has a selection of pre-rolled cones that only require someone to fill them and twist the end off, taking the work of rolling out of the equation.
But, for those wanting to forego the paper route, Buckman moved to the next entry-level smoking device.
“Not everybody can roll, right, so that's where you're gonna go to like little little glass one-hitters, you know, like a little chillum,” he said.
Buckman said this is where he recommends beginners start — when the dispensaries have more flower available, that is.
Dispensaries around the state — including the three in Southern Illinois — have had a limited supply of cannabis flower for sale to recreational customers, but many have been stocked up with concentrates and edibles.
“I'm gonna suggest what I personally use, OK, and that's just that's just your basic chillum,” he said, thumbing a small glass pipe, blown with a fun, brightly colored pattern. He said it checks all the boxes: it’s portable, it’s simple and requires minimal effort when it comes to cleaning.
“You just hit it like you would a cigarette,” he said.
Next to this were the traditional water pipes — big guys like a bong and little guys called bubblers. These are pipes that pass the smoke through water. This happens when a user lights the flower and inhales through the mouthpiece. This cools the smoke down and, some say, acts as a filter for the smoke. But, the science is still out on that.
There is an auxiliary piece of gear for smoking flower that Buckman described as “a game-changer.” He said getting a grinder will break the buds into smaller pieces, making smoking more even and making joints easier to roll.
Next, Buckman moved to a line of products used with marijuana concentrates. Coming in various shapes and sizes, some as small as an ink pen and others needing an outlet and a table top to use, vaporizers are made to use a variety of products, from prefilled cartridges to solids like THC wax or shatter.
These heat the material to a high enough temperature to release the chemical without actually burning the substance. Buckman said these are also sometimes called dab pens. They are a smaller, all-in-one version of a dab rig, which Buckman also sells.
Dab rigs and nectar collectors are items used to heat a concentrate up, much the way a coil in a vaporizer does. But, with this more manual approach, a user heats up either the end of a pipe in the case of the nectar collector, or, as with dab rigs, a small piece of metal called a nail, which is heated with a lighter. This is then used to heat the cannabis concentrate and create a vapor that is inhaled.
Also for sale in Buckman’s shop are non-psychoactive cannabis products produced from the hemp plant, a relative of cannabis. The buds from these plants are used to create CBD products from oils, lotions and the buds themselves, which can be smoked. CBD products don't have THC, so they won't get you high. People often use them for medical purposes, but the science is still out on that, too.
Buckman admitted that there’s a lot to consider with all these methods and products, but he encouraged people to start small. Dabbing concentrates can give first-timers a bit too much for their system. Every person is different, and it can take a few tries to dial in a dose and usage method that’s right. But, Buckman added a small bit of practical advice: Start small and work your way up.
“Just remember, you know ... you can always do more,” he said.
On Twitter: @ismithreports
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