Higher Ground: The beginner’s guide to weed in the new frontier 

The only thing my father ever told me about marijuana was that I shouldn't use it because it was illegal. He didn't say it was bad for me or anything. He pointed out that you can drink alcohol in front of the police and not get arrested. That's the kind of thing that someone who was around during alcohol prohibition — and dad was — would say.

Today you still can't smoke a bud in front of the cops in most situations. But with legal medical marijuana in a bunch of states and legal recreational moving along smartly, there are a lot of people who never thought much about it noticing green buildings popping up in their neighborhoods or maybe some really bright lights shining from their neighbor's house at night. Here's a little primer for the curious on the herb superb.

New vocabulary

There are all kinds of euphemisms that have been used for marijuana over the years: chronic, pot, weed, ganja, buddha, grass, tea, and more. But lately a lot of folks have been reclaiming the word cannabis. That's the scientific name for it and pretty much what it was called before the government disinformation propaganda campaign began in the 1930s. So a lot of reform types are using the C word in order to call it something that most folks don't have a bad connotation for. That's OK.

There are a lot of other new words popping up: cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, vaping, tabbing, sativa, indica, edibles, medibles, CBD — all I can say is anything new has its own jargon. I mean, before the Internet, who knew what a website was? And this whole selfie thing used to not exist? Don't worry about the words; you'll absorb what you need to know.

It's a plant

Next point: It's a plant, and it grows out of the ground. It would grow nicely in your yard if authorities would leave you alone about it. OK, sometimes it's grown hydroponically in basements under weird lights, but it's still a plant that's more or less harmless unless you start smacking people with the stalk. Touching it won't make you high. Nor will eating it raw. And actually it looks sort of pretty as it grows.

Cannabinoid receptors

And if you try smoking it, you probably won't feel high the first time; I didn't feel anything until my third try. That might be for a couple of reasons. One is that the high can be very subtle, and most folks are expecting something that bangs them over the head. The other is that the cannabinoid receptors in your brain and elsewhere aren't activated until you actually start giving yourself some cannabinoids. The receptors may not be tuned in the first couple of tries.

Not the gateway

I recently spoke with a woman in her 70s who told me that marijuana itself isn't so bad, but since it leads to use of other things like cocaine and heroin it should be left alone. Marijuana is not a gateway drug. Most research in recent years points the finger at alcohol. While marijuana use tends to precede use of other drugs, alcohol tends to precede marijuana.

Lowered inhibitions?

It won't make women want to have sex unless they're already inclined to. In that case, however, they will enjoy it more. I guess if it's more fun you'll want to do it more often, but that's an individual thing. Men pretty much are ready to have sex all the time.

No prescriptions

Even though medical marijuana is legal and effective, you can't buy it at the drugstore. Although reports are that the bud can keep you off of some of the noxious concoctions that are in the drugstore.

Dispensaries are good

Some folks are dismayed at seeing places popping up where people can buy marijuana. These places exist in a legal limbo where they are not exactly legal and aren't exactly illegal. These places are visible and lightning rods for attention from police and citizens who want to wipe the scourge of marijuana from the earth — or at least their neighborhood. They should think about this: Despite the time, money, and effort put into prohibition, marijuana has not been stamped out. Wouldn't it be better for this marijuana business to take place openly in a secure, well-appointed facility rather than from a house down the street, at the local park, or on a street corner?

Kowabunga, dude!

Yes, a lot of the stuff that's out there right now is more potent than most of the stuff out there now. Anyhow, amateur and professional botanists have been breeding and crossbreeding marijuana for maximum THC explosion in the brain, and they've done a pretty good job. However, there are numerous varieties of varying strengths out there, and with varying qualities.

As medical research advances breeding to bring other cannabinoids such as CBD or CBN to the forefront, the varieties and effects will seemingly be endless. And remember, a little bit can go a long way.

We know plenty

The old paean that we don't know enough about marijuana is bullshit. Only the people who have been hiding their heads in a hole don't know enough about it. There are tens of thousands of published medical studies, not to mention several thousand years of human experience, not to mention some millions of long-term users worldwide right now. If there were something really bad about marijuana, we would have noticed it by now.

Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for the Detroit Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.

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