On Being 37 And Trying Weed For The First Time

Reflecting on a first-time cannabis experience... as an adult.

You might ask how it took me so long. To try cannabis, that is. 

Well, for starters: I grew up under the D.A.R.E. generation’s mantra of “Just Say No” and the propaganda that marijuana was “a gateway drug”. With addiction in my family—from alcohol to needle drugs—I avoided everything because I never wanted to flip that genetic switch.

I didn’t associate with the people who had access to marijuana in high school. I admit I was pretty judgmental about people who used marijuana, because at the time I viewed them as unmotivated stoners.

By the time I was double-majoring in theater and journalism in Eugene, Oregon, I had acquaintances who smoked marijuana at parties. I never liked the smell of it, so I wasn’t curious to venture into the smoke-filled room at the back of the party house. I also somehow dodged cannabis when I lived in New York City and then San Francisco.

"If i hadn’t spent a year filming forty female 'ganjapreneurs' for Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, I doubt I would have ever tried cannabis."

To this day, I’ve never smoked tobacco and my twenty-first birthday was the first time I ever got drunk. I enjoy a glass of wine or margarita occasionally, but I never saw how cannabis could fit into my life, so I avoided it.

If I hadn’t moved to Colorado in 2014, right when adult use became legal, and if I hadn’t spent a year filming forty female “ganjapreneurs” for Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, I doubt I would have ever tried cannabis. In the ultimate life plot-twist, my first “sesh” was on camera, for all the world to see in the forthcoming film.

I still played it safe.

I’ve been fortunate to meet dozens of highly knowledgeable cannabis connoisseurs, so I began seeking advice on how best to consume cannabis the first time. The advice varied from topicals to vaping, but the consensus was: Start low and go slow, to ensure a positive experience. Everyone wanted to help me avoid overindulging on my first try––which now, after the highly cited worst edibles experience of all time by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, on her infamous visit to Colorado––has come to be known as, “Dowding." 

A lot of women were looking out for me, so I started to call them my Cannabis Fairy Godmothers.

Still apprehensive about getting high, I decided to start with a Topical Pain Relief oil from Empower Body Care. The Vegan, Paraben-free, and GMO-free cannabis oil won the 2017 Dope Industry Award for Best Topical. Trista Okel, the Founder and CEO of Empower, assured me I couldn’t get high from using the oil transdermally (which means it was absorbed through my skin), but it would provide some pain relief. It smelled like ginger and fresh herbs, nothing like that smoke-filled party room in college. And the directions on the patch were simple: Put it where I hurt.

After sleeping wrong, I had a kink in my neck, so I rolled on the empower oil. In under five minutes, I regained most of the mobility in my neck. Plus, it was free of any "weird medication smell," I've noticed in other topical pain relief creams and gels. I reapplied throughout the next few days, and it continued to offer relief.

Even while playing it safe, I found the oil to be great product to ease neck pain. I was getting ready to take the next step: Retail therapy for the cause-inspired mind.

Before I moved to Denver, everyone teased me that I would see a pot dispensary on every corner. Sure, in a few parts of town that is true, and plenty seemed to offer an experience akin to the back room party from college. But seeing as how I had waited 37 years to buy weed, I was looking for a premium experience.

I opted for a visit to Simply Pure, a dispensary where I knew my spending could reflect my values, and which places high importance on social justice.

"I knew I wanted something that would provide a fun, giggly 'glass of wine with the girls' type of feeling."

CEO Wanda James, and her husband Scott Durrah were the first African-American entrepreneurs to own a legal marijuana dispensary in the entire United States, and James is still the only woman of color to own a dispensary in Colorado. Because people of color are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than white people for marijuana possession, James and Durah feel it is important for as many people of color to participate in the legal cannabis industry as possible, in part to begin repairing the many harms of the racist drug war. The couple doesn’t just run a business, they have become prominent and outspoken advocates for inclusivity in the industry.

James gave me a tour of Simply Pure, and introduced me to Kristin, my "budologist," which is like a “mixologist"––or, bartender––but for weed.

She asked what kind of experience I was seeking. And I knew I wanted something that would provide a fun, giggly “glass of wine with the girls” type of feeling, so we looked for a hybrid strain that would elicit a relaxed, euphoric, happy effect.

“The nose knows,"  I've noticed, is advice commonly shared by the cannabis professionals I have met over the last year of working with so many for my film, so I smelled several jars of cannabis “flower, or “buds," to find one that smelled the best to me. I decided to purchase a gram of Skunkberry––an earthy, fruity-smelling strain.

For the full experience, I also wanted to try some of the edibles that have flooded the market in legal states. The next generation of “pot bakers” includes professionally trained chefs and master chocolatiers. And I’m a chocolate girl, so we skipped the fruity/gummy stuff, and Kristin pointed me in the direction of the Sweet Mary Jane, award-winning, “Love At First Bite” dark chocolates. With dark chocolate, butterscotch, pretzels and potato chips inside of the chocolate, I could not say no!

What do I do with this weed now? I thought. 

Even though I had legally purchased said cannabis products, Denver does not currently have any social use laws in effect––though this could soon change––so I would have been breaking the law, had I consumed the marijuana, and weed-infused food, on the street. I don’t own my own home, so consuming the cannabis in my apartment would have also meant that I was breaking the law. With this in mind: The only legal option I had left, in order to consume my legally purchased cannabis, was to head to a friend’s house.

So, did I “Dowd out”? Did I feel anything? Did I get the munchies? Did my brains land in a frying pan? 

Excitement. Anticipation. Sisterhood. These are the words that best describe how I felt walking into my first cannabis “sesh." Instead of my “deflowering”, I thought of the event as my “flowering”. I put a rose in my hair, donned red lipstick, and walked into my friends home––my own personal soundtrack of “Boss Ass Bitch," powering my stride. 

Since my goal was to have a nice, balanced experience akin to a glass of wine with some girl friends, I’d gathered a group of women, including James, who I called my Cannabis Fairy Godmothers––each members of the industry, with more experience with weed than myself––to walk me through the process of how to consume the cannabis I’d purchased.

The advice of my Cannabis Fairy Godmothers was to start with a small portion of an edible. Since that could take 1-2 hours to take effect, I could also vape the flower I’d purchased, in the meantime, and we’d see how I felt.

I cut the 10mg chocolate roughly into thirds. I ate approximately 3mg of the delicious chocolate, and passed them around, sharing with the group, making sure not to “Dowd Out."

"My pupils grew dilated. And I became giggly, and thirsty."

Next, one of the godmothers, Lauren Gibbs, who runs a social media and digital strategy agency that works with brands in the legal cannabis space, taught me how to grind the cannabis flower and use her vaporizer. This particular device heats up the cannabis and emits the vapor into a “balloon” so it quickly returns to room temperature. The balloon filled with a slightly hazy vapor, and Lauren showed me how to inhale it. 

Having never smoked a cigarette, I didn’t even know how to inhale.

I put the balloon to my lips, inhaled halfway, removed the balloon, pulled the vapor deeper into my lungs, and then exhaled… Nothing came out. But I could taste the berry/herby essence of the cannabis. Shortly thereafter, I felt my fingertips “buzz”. It wasn’t a paranoid, fluttering of my heart; it was an electric buzz of energy. 

My pupils grew dilated. And I became giggly, and thirsty.

Over an hour later, I felt a nice, elevated lift, from the edible. I felt in control and happy, and thought I could possibly do more. I asked my Cannabis Fairy Godmothers for their thoughts, and they advised me to take another puff from the vaporizer. With “two thumbs up”, I tried a different vaporizer. This time vapor actually came out when I exhaled.

Following my experience, which didn't devolve into any sort of "Dowding Out," I finally felt as though I’d become a real Puffragette!

Here's what I learned: 

There are simple ways to integrate the benefits of cannabis into my lifestyle. That being said, I haven’t yet vaped or consumed any marijuana since this experience, but I also don't have a glass of wine every night. Using a topical for back pain, adding hemp hearts to my morning yogurt, or a few drops of cannabis oil to my tea, I've noticed, are easy ways to work cannabis into my daily routine. 

However, when we recently hosted a housewarming party, the special occasion called for sharing some of my leftover Sweet Mary Jane infused chocolates.

I also learned this experience was the first time several of my Cannabis Fairy Godmothers decided to consume cannabis on camera. They were hesitant, they said, because they didn’t want contribute to the “stoner” stereotype, but decided that if we are truly going to normalize marijuana-use, and bring it out of the shadows of society, then we need to show that doing so, is no different from having a glass of wine, or taking medication.

And by showing professional women responsibly consume cannabis, and by focusing on respect and human rights, and celebrating sisterhood and community––I feel we accomplish that. 

This post originally appeared on the Mary Janes: The Women of Weed film site blog, and has seen minor edits.