The first visit to a dispensary is often overwhelming, and can create a little uncertainty when you’re not sure what you are buying. You’ll typically turn to the dispensary staff for assistance and some are definitely better informed than others, which can make things even more confusing. Whenever you are buying cannabis products, there are 4 things to consider:
1. Safety: Ask to see the lab results to confirm the product is safe, without pesticides, mold or bacteria. Reputable companies will lab test their products and will post the Lab Report on their website. If the company does not lab test their products, does not make them readily available, or they post expired lab reports, do not use that product! There are companies that see cannabis as a “get-rich-quick” opportunity and quickly bring low-quality products to market, especially over-the-counter CBD/hemp products. Buyer beware!
2. Cannabinoid Profile: There are hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes (therapeutic compounds) in cannabis, the most popular being THC, CBD, THCV, CBN etc. Each cannabinoid has its own therapeutic effects, although their effects often overlap. For example, THC and CBD both alleviate pain, but if your pain is severe, you will want to use more THC than CBD because THC is more effective than CBD for severe pain. It is a good idea to consult a cannabis nurse for education and consultation on cannabinoid and terpene profiles that best relieve your symptoms.
3. Method of Administration: The method of administration is not just a personal preference. Each method has its own time to onset, duration of action, and bioavailability. Many times, a patient will use more than one method. For example, for immediate relief of nausea, pain, etc., vaping is the best method, because the time to onset is within 15 seconds, but lasts for only a couple of hours. For sleep, you may want to use an edible because, although they have a slower onset (up to 2-3 hours) they last the longest, up to 6-8 hours. So, if you take a low dose edible a couple of hours before bed, the sedation will last throughout the night, and help you stay asleep. And, if it’s dosed appropriately, you will not have a hangover, or be groggy when you wake up. Make sure you use an Indica at night, and Sativa during the day.
4. Cost: Medical cannabis can be very costly, and insurance doesn’t reimburse. So, how do you know if a product is overpriced? Figure out how much you are paying per milligram of cannabis. For example, if a 30ml tincture has 500mg of cannabinoids (THC, CBD, etc.) and costs $50, you divide the cost by the number of milligrams, which in this scenario comes to $0.10/mg. The average cost per milligram for tinctures/sprays is between $0.10 – $0.20/mg. For full extract cannabis oil, the average cost is between $0.03 – $0.06/mg. Expect to pay more for CBD-rich products than for THC-rich products.
If you follow these steps, you will considerably narrow down your choices. Cannabis works differently for different people. It takes some experimenting with different products, doses and methods of administration, plus a little patience, to discover the best product, dose and method of administration that works for you. In my opinion, it’s worth the effort!
I hope this simplifies your cannabis journey of discovery!
Susan Marks, RN, BSN, PHN, is a cannabis nurse and a member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association. She works with medical patients who want to include cannabis therapeutics in their health management program. Susan is a native Californian and received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Mount Saint Mary’s College. She has clinical experience in Adult Medical/Surgical; Pediatric Oncology/Hematology; Home Care; Case Management; Disease Management; Quality Improvement; and Risk Management. Susan has received certification in the following subspecialties:
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ)
- Public Health Nurse (PHN)
- Legal Nurse Consultant (LNCC)
- Catastrophic Case Management and Life Care Planning
Susan was inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, International Nursing Honor Society. She is passionate about the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. She is a medical cannabis patient. She has a progressive neurological movement disorder, and cannabis (high CBD, low THC) has allowed her to stop anti-seizure medication and the intolerable side effects.