Consumers of legal marijuana will be confronted with more choices than were ever imagined back when Deadheads got their buzz from joints and pipes.
Sour Diesel, Trainwreck and Blue Dream are some of the vivid names for marijuana strains that reportedly make you want to pucker up, duck for cover or float away to a South Pacific island.
For pot users who don’t want to inhale, there are edibles such as cookies and brownies, as well as tinctures that can be taken under the tongue or in tea.
Cannabis oils such as Sour Harlequin are a potent way of ingesting a minute quantity with a powerful punch. A pound of pot is essentially boiled down to a concentrate of just over 2 ounces. A drop the size of a pin is all a medical marijuana patient needs to get a dose of medicine.
Other oils can be smoked or “vaped” using a wide variety of electronic devices that heat up the cannabis to release vapors containing its active ingredients.
Dispensaries sell lotions that contain substances derived from cannabis that are touted for use in treating inflammation and arthritis symptoms.
When sales of recreational pot become legal in Oregon in 2016, marijuana will hit the marketplace as a fully formed industry with seemingly endless varieties of highs, ranging from cerebral and artistic to happy and relaxing. Afghan Buddha reportedly induces “couch lock” and a good night’s sleep, whereas Sour Diesel is supposed to help quicken the mind and make users more fully appreciate Miles Davis, according to local marijuana growers.
Some of the newer strains, such as Critical Mass, are reported to relieve aches and pains without producing a high.
Many of the medical claims are based on anecdotal evidence, as research has been limited.
“We’re not doctors — we’re not prescribing anything,” says Jason Rott, owner of Pharm to Table, a medical marijuana dispensary on South Pacific Highway in Medford. “It’s walking that fine line.”
For instance, one of Rott's clients is a 90-year-old woman who is using marijuana to treat her cancer symptoms. Other clients claim it helps reduce inflammation and other symptoms of various ailments.
Many medical marijuana users, particularly those with respiratory problems, stay away from smoking, instead turning to edibles or tinctures.
Because marijuana is illegal on the federal level, there have been only limited scientific studies in the U.S. to analyze some of the medicinal claims, although other countries are looking into cannabis’ therapeutic effects. According to an April 3 article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, scientists from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have researched the use of cannabis by cancer patients as a treatment against the development of the disease itself. The preliminary results indicate cannabis might be effective in treating brain and breast cancers.
“There is science, but not a lot,” Rott says.
Some of the patients at Pharm to Table believe cannabis is safer and more effective than prescription drugs, Rott says.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, however, warns that smoking marijuana can irritate the lungs, increase heart rate, hamper brain development in teenagers and pose health risks for fetuses. Long-term marijuana use has been linked to temporary hallucinations and paranoia in some users, the NIDA says.
Brie Malarkey, owner of Breeze Botancials in Ashland and Gold Hill, says there are about 10 different types of pot on the West Coast but with many different names, depending on the grower.
In the black market, anything with the word “kush” gets a higher price, Malarkey says. OG Kush is a popular strain on the West Coast and even has been featured in rap songs.
Cannabis contains a class of chemicals called cannabinoids, which produce the various effects pot users seek. Most people are familiar with THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces the high. Some pot strains have higher amounts of CBD, cannabidiol, that some claim are better for patients with aches, pains or who want to relieve anxiety or depression. For patients looking for a painkiller, muscle relaxant or digestive aid, they may turn to pot that contains CBG, or cannabigerol.
Cannabis contains more than 80 cannabinoids, as well as other chemicals, but not all the properties are well understood.
The odor from marijuana is produced by terpenes, which have been described as everything from floral and fruity to skunky. Some patients claim the terpenes also have beneficial effects for health problems.
The safety of marijuana is still up for debate, though Oregon is planning to develop a standardized system to detect molds and other issues. Recent news reports indicate that some pot found in dispensaries in both Oregon and Colorado has higher levels of pesticides than is considered safe.
In the world of weed, the type of high varies from user to user and strain to strain. Smoking pot produces a much different high than eating it.
Consumers of pot report that ingesting it can produce a strong body high that can be incapacitating and unsettling for newcomers. Smoking pot produces an almost instant high that is generally more cerebral but can still be intense for novices. Curious pot tourists in Colorado, where sales of recreational pot have been legal since 2014, have reported becoming sick or disoriented from ingesting or smoking too much pot.
Ingesting pot can be difficult to dose because it takes so long for the body to metabolize it. Some newcomers in Colorado complained of getting too stoned because when they ate a portion of a pot-infused brownie, nothing happened, so they ate more. Two hours later, when the drug hit their system, they became extremely intoxicated.
Oregon lawmakers and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission are working on regulations for edibles and other substances that are derived from cannabis. Some have called for packaging that is childproof; others want packaging that doesn’t attract the attention of children.
A new lexicon has formed around pot with names such as “squib,” “wax,” “shatter” or “crumble.” Squibs are a little like gummy bears that contain THC. Wax is a gooey mix that can be smoked in a vaporizer. Shatter looks like shards of glass or hard toffee that can be smoked. Crumble is a powdery substance that can be smoked.
Marijuana aficionados advise those who want to try pot for the first time to ask questions, proceed with caution and start by smoking a small amount or ingesting a tiny portion. Many first-time pot smokers say they don’t feel high at all. Others complain that they get too high and experience anxious or paranoid thoughts. Still others say it just puts them to sleep.
“Our motto at Breeze Botanicals is you start slow,” Malarkey says.