Make Your Choice

28 November 2016

How to Select Cannabis

Picking strains that you like is a very personal thing. Here are a few thoughts to consider when selecting your cannabis.

We have a huge variety of named strains available from many providers. Some of these offerings are excellent – and some are not. Being able to make an informed decision matters. Everyone is looking for something different. Some patients want to minimize the psychoactive effects while others seek the shift of perspective that cannabis can bring.

So what are you looking for? It seems there is an infinite range of effects within the cannabis spectrum. Uplifted or sedated, energized or calm, clear or confused are all in the cards. Put first things first. Decide which effects you are looking for.

Indica, Sativa or Hybrid: Almost all strains are hybrids nowadays. However, these labels are still good for describing effects. Generally, an Indica will provide a heavier, more physical experience. A Sativa will bring a lighter, more energizing high. Hybrids bridge these two worlds with traits from each.

It is hard to find a single strain to do it all. A selection of different strains is appropriate for different occasions. I find that having three regular strains lets me know what to expect while still providing variety.

I like a strong Indica for relaxation and its calming effect. A heavy Indica is not good for early in the day, though. Then I like a hybrid to balance out the physical and mental effects. My third choice is a high quality Sativa. OK, so all I have to do is pick three strains and I am good to go, right? Not quite so fast.

Most strains present a number of phenotypes. Super Lemon Haze, for example, will throw some examples that smell more like lemon and some that are sweeter. One plant may have yellow pistils next to a sister with red ones. The effects vary with phenotype as well. Luckily, a lot of the selection work is done for you by the grower. Mother plants are identified (a process that takes months) so that clones can be taken. This ensures a consistent and repeatable product for both producer and consumer. Quality is determined first by genetics and then by the growing environment.

How can reviews still be relevant with all these factors? It turns out that most people experience similar effects from the same strain. Decide which traits you favor and check some reviews on Lift Cannabis to narrow down your choices. Remember that reviews are subjective. Focus on what you are looking for.

Cost is always a factor. Do an initial cut to reduce the number of choices, then pick a few to try. Buy small samples. You don’t want a bunch of pot sitting around that you find you don’t like.

OK, so now you have some cannabis to try. It’s time for a test! This truly is an art as much as it is a science.

It is not possible to give a sample a fair evaluation after consuming other cannabis. Therefore I like to try any new strain first in the day. It can take time to fully assess a variety. However, I find that first impressions are most often correct. One puff can be enough to tell you if it’s good or not.

Trust your first impressions. Here are some characteristics to evaluate, too.

THC and CBD Levels: These numbers are an indicator of what to expect. High THC (over 20%) increases strength and duration. High CBD (over 4%) brings physical relief. However, overall effects are determined by the many compounds in cannabis working together, known as the “entourage” effect.

Don’t fully trust the numbers in any case. Cannabinoid levels vary throughout the plant as well as from plant to plant. The numbers are likely not correct (certainly not to two decimal places!) and don’t tell the whole story. Use them as a guide in making your selections but form your own opinions.

Appearance: Visible factors are the bud size, shape, density, trim and color. Bigger buds yield more but small buds work, too. Firm, fairly dense flowers which break up easily are my preference.

Trimming removes large leaves and refines the shape of the bud. I like to see any leaves with a stem removed and the larger sugar leaves clipped. The bud shape will change depending on the trimming and drying methods used. Flowers that are hand trimmed and hung to dry maintain their natural shape. Machine trimmed product can look shaved or uneven. Buds that are dried in trays may be flat on one side or even crushed. Presentation is a good indicator of the care that was taken in growing.

Cannabis is usually green with the pistils or hairs adding a colorful highlight. A variety of colors can appear in the pistils as well as on the surface of mature top buds. General appearance does not determine potency but is a good indicator of quality.

Resin can be seen gleaming on the bud surface with the naked eye. Frosty bud means lots of resin and is a sign of potency. A 30X hand magnifier will reveal the resin bearing trichomes in all their glory. The ball heads shift from clear to cloudy to amber as the plant matures. Cannabis harvested with clear trichomes provides a more up or heady effect. Plants that have been allowed to fully mature have amber trichomes and a more settled or body effect. I like to see mature resin glands which are cloudy or amber.

Curing: Curing improves cannabis. It reaches its prime a few months after harvest. Chlorophyll breaks down. The taste and smell improve. Most commercial product doesn’t get much time to cure after drying. You still don’t need to consume green pot. A few weeks in the jar can do wonders. Cannabis that has been stored for a while actually tastes better. Check the dates on the container to see when it was packed. Rotate your stock “first in, first out” to let it age a bit.

Smell: Smell is far and away the number one factor you can assess before actually trying a sample. Scent is also an indicator of genetics. Each family such as the Skunk, Kush and Haze clans has a distinct odor profile.

Most importantly, does it smell good to you? Terpenes create smell and influence the effects. You will soon discover there are certain smells you like best. Often the smell will let you predict the quality and the taste. I prefer a sweet and fruity odor with earthy or hash tones below.

Preparation: How well does the bud break up? Does the humidity seem right? It’s too dry if it disintegrates into powder. It’s too wet if you need a grinder (or scissors) to shred it. I prefer my flowers a bit on the dry side so they break up more easily. Good bud will be slightly sticky with resin when handled. Back to the smell; does it release a burst of scent when crushed? Can you smell it on your fingers? And does it smell the same as it did in the container? Any golden dust which collects at the bottom of the pile (or grinder) will be mostly resin.

I like to prepare cannabis by hand rather than using a grinder. It is possible to get more of the sticks and stems out by hand. This improves the quality and also keeps them from poking holes through the rolling paper. Sticks and stems contain almost no resin so it is no loss to throw them away. You should find no seeds. If you do, throw them away, too.

Consumption: Finally, we get to try the pot. Assuming you are smoking or vaporizing, how does it taste? Does it fire up OK? Does resin stain the rolling paper in a joint? What color is the ash? A light or white color is preferable; dark ash or a harsh taste often indicates poorly flushed product with fertilizer still present. A joint or bowl that keeps going out is a bad sign. And snap, crackle and pop belong in your cereal, not in your pot.

A smooth and sweet taste with a rich flavor is my preference. Coughing on harsh smoke is bad. Coughing which gently clears the airways can be good. I most often smoke joints. These are low tech, easy to carry and discrete to use. A half gram joint will provide two quarter gram doses. A quarter gram dose is enough to tell you what any cannabis is like. If it takes more than that to achieve the desired effects, stay away.

Effects: Ah, finally the important part, the effects. Around this point I should mention – take notes. You may not be writing a review but record your impressions anyway. You will be glad you did after you have tried several strains and start to wonder which one did what.

There are three parts to the high. The initial elevation sets the tone. It is typically more intense and does not last very long i.e. twenty minutes to a half hour. The effects then settle and hopefully last another two or three hours. Finally, things wind down, sometimes more gently than others.

Each of these phases should be considered when testing. Some cannabis will be fine in the beginning but may wipe you out as it wears off. Other kinds will have a more gentle ending. Remember your criteria. Do you want it to make you hungry? Happy? Sleepy? Your notes will help you recall each experience.

How long does it last? Do repeated doses sustain or increase the effects? Most importantly, do you like it? Don’t overanalyze, jot down your feelings and impressions.

Finally, how does she work with others? Remember, you will likely be using more than one strain at a time. Effects are synergistic. You are going to switch to your other choices at some point so evaluate how this feels, too.

Conclusions: Many believe that a long and extensive test is necessary. I find that first impressions are most often correct. Once you know what you like, you will tend to seek it out naturally. Do you keep going back to a particular strain? If so, that’s the one to choose.

Do your research and decide what’s important to you. Remember that your impressions are the most important. It’s nice to read reviews to find out what other people think. I like to form my own opinions too. Now that you have the notes, you might even write a review to let everyone else know what you think.

Most importantly, trust your instincts.

– Maxcatski

“Spark to the fire, push to the flame,

Mentally project positive all day.”

from  “Roady” by Fat Freddy’s Drop

All together on the fire now!

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