Travel Boulder’s Beginners’ Guide to Marijuana


So you’re coming to Colorado and you’re ready to try some legal weed. We get it. For some visitors, it’s exciting and new.

But you’re probably a little nervous, too. Going into a dispensary for the first time can be overwhelming. But don’t worry. We’ve been around the block a few times. We’ll help you through it.

From different types of weed to different ways to consume it to where and when you can use, there’s a lot of information you need to make sure you’re using marijuana in a safe, legal way that everyone involved can enjoy.

Marijuana. Courtesy photo

Types of Weed

When you walk into a dispensary and are trying to buy flower, you’ll be given three choices: sativa, indica and hybrid. If you’re an avid smoker, you probably already know what these mean. But for the less experienced, this can be confusing.

Different types of weed will affect you differently. Indica is a relaxing strain. It is great for acute pain, decreasing nausea, increasing appetite and both mental and physical relaxation. You’ll probably get the munchies and want to eat everything in sight.

Because of its relaxing properties, indicas are best used at night, to aid with reducing stress and sleep (although you won’t get important, full REM sleep if you’re high, so you probably won’t want to make it a part of your everyday bedtime routine).

On the other side of the spectrum are sativas. This type of weed is much more stimulating than indicas. Sativas can help with anxiety and depression, as well as treating chronic pain.

Sativas are also mentally stimulating. Consuming a sativa is said to increase creativity and focus. If you’re an artistic person or work in a creative role, you might enjoy a sativa.

And then there are hybrids. Depending on the particular strain, a hybrid can bring together any combination of the characteristics of indicas and sativas. If an indica is too much and just makes you too sleepy, or a sativa makes you too giddy and giggly, a hybrid may be better for you.

The best way to know which strain is best for you is to understand what the general characteristics of each type are, and then try a variety of strains and see which you enjoy the most.

Staesis CBD is made in Loveland. Courtesy photo


The cannabis plant contains both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Both interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, but they have different effects. CBD is the non-psychoactive of the two, meaning it won’t actually get you high. You might feel more relaxed, focused or experience pain relief, depending on how the CBD is presented (you can find CBD blends with all kinds of essential oils and other ingredients to produce various results), but you probably won’t feel any cognitive changes. 

You can try CBD with no THC (great for people who “hate feeling high” or are worried about feeling paranoid, anxious, out of control or other potentially unfavorable results), or you can experiment with different ratios of the two. A “bud-tender” can help you navigate the different options to find the balance that works for you. 

Cannabis chocolate. Photo by Flickr user Randalfino

Ways to Consume

After you decide which type of weed you want to try first, the next step is to decide how you want to consume it, and there are a lot of options. The most common ways to consume are smoking and edibles, and if you’re new to marijuana, that’s where you should start.

Smoking is the most common way to use marijuana. You can smoke from a bong, bubbler, pipe, joint or blunt. Pipes can be fun because there are so many intricate, beautiful glass pipes you can get in Boulder, and finding the perfect piece can be as fun as smoking out of it.

There are certain techniques to packing and lighting a pipe to get the most out of it and not waste your weed by burning it all up. You will need to understand how to use the pipe hole and when to release it to actually get the hit. If you’re new, ask the sales associate selling you the pipe for tips. Some people like to more finely crush up the cannabis and there are special tools for this. Others like to just gently break it up with their fingers, or just place a full nugget in the pipe. A good dispensary will sell you bud in pipe-sized nugs to make portioning simple. How to pack your pipe is a matter of preference, but there are strategies. And when it starts looking white and ashy, it’s time to dump it out and refill. 

You can also smoke a joint (think: cigarette) or a blunt (think: cigar). You can roll your own or (recommended) buy pre-made j’s. Bubblers and bongs are a little more complicated, but if you find one you love in a store, the salesperson can explain how to use it. The salespeople in local shops tend to be helpful and understanding about questions you may have.

If smoking isn’t really your thing, edibles are easy to find. Edibles come in different forms, from gummies to cookies to brownies to soda to chocolates. Bake with cannabis butter and infuse just about any dish (although there is a finesse to doing it just right). You’d be amazed at the various ways to incorporate cannabis into food.

Edibles also come in indica, sativa and hybrid varieties.

When you eat edibles, be careful about following the serving suggestions. No, really. It takes a while for your body to digest the food, so you may not feel the effects for an hour or two after eating it. If you eat more than recommended, you may get too high. Don’t worry. Worst-case scenario: You take a really long nap or feel weird for a while. No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose alone. But if you are concerned about dosage, start with half the recommended serving and see how it affects you.

A cannabis plant. Photo courtesy of Staesis CBD

Safety First

Much like drinking alcohol, there are certain safety precautions you need to follow when consuming marijuana. Some of these are obvious. Don’t smoke if you’re pregnant or nursing. Don’t smoke and drive. Don’t smoke or eat anything given to you by someone you don’t trust. (It could be laced with other junk with less predictable effects.) 

But some things are a little less obvious. If someone offers you a dab and you’re not an avid smoker, you should probably turn them down. Dabs are super concentrated and if you smoke them incorrectly, can cause you to pass out from a drop in blood pressure.

The best way to stay safe when smoking is know the product, know the dosage and know the people you’re with. No one wants to end up way too high in a party full of people or even too high alone in your room.

Know your weed. Photo by Flickr user tanjila ahmed

Keep it Legal

There are two ways to get marijuana: medically or recreationally. The latter means just for fun; no reason necessary. Not all dispensaries sell recreational marijuana, so if you don’t have a special medical card from your doctor, you’ll need to find a dispensary that sells recreational products. 

Although marijuana is legal, there are still things that you cannot do on it. Drive while high and risk a DUI. This includes biking. Don’t smoke and bike. 

Smoke in public or a hotel and the fines and fees can add up fast.

If you’re under 21, you can’t go into a dispensary, and if you’re caught high you risk an MIP.

These are some of the most basic laws to be aware of. Go here and read Travel Boulder’s Colorado Marijuana Laws for a more in-depth look at what is and is not legal.

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