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Marijuana Storage, Potency, Dosage and More

Practical answers to your frequently asked questions

spinner image Two shelves holding over a dozen mason-jar-sized labeled glass jars containing marijuana buds of different strains
Didier Ruef/LUZ/Redux

Why is modern cannabis so much more potent than what was smoked in the 1970s?

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Working in basements and greenhouses, clandestine marijuana growers have for decades before legalization been crossbreeding and selecting the highest-potency plants from their “crops” to create higher and higher potency pot. And recreational users who like the intense euphoria of high-potency pot have been eager buyers. But there are other reasons. In the 1970s, a lot of marijuana contained stems, seeds and leaves along with THC-rich flower buds; today, it's mostly flower buds.

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A lot of 1970s pot was grown in Colombia and shipped to the U.S.; now, it's mostly homegrown and so is fresher and more potent, too.

Without standardized labeling and manufacture, how do you figure out dosage?

Products sold at a dispensary do tell you how much THC, and often how much CBD, is inside. Follow the standard advice to “start low, go slow” and begin with 2.5 milligrams of THC or less per dosage, experts recommend. Then do a little math to figure out how much of your chosen product delivers just that amount. It could be a half or a quarter of an edible, a tiny drop of tincture or a few puffs on a vape pen.

What's the best way to store different forms of marijuana?

  • Flower/bud: Store in a glass jar with a lid, and in a cool, dry place. Don't refrigerate; Temperature and humidity shifts could encourage mold. Don't freeze, either; it could make the tiny trichomes containing pot's active ingredients fall off.
  • Gummies and other candies: Put in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Follow label instructions — some brands suggest refrigerating.
  • Baked goods: Wrap first in waxed paper or aluminum foil, then store in a container with a tight-fitting lid, in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Cartridges: Cannabis oil cartridges for vape pens should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Tinctures: Place in a glass bottle in the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage. For the short term: a cool, dry, dark place.

In all cases, mark carefully and noticeably so unsuspecting adults don't mistake the item. And store in places that are out of reach for children, even if they are rarely in your home.

How fast will I feel the effects?

Within minutes if you vape, smoke a joint or use some sort of a pipe. Sublingual products (those you put under your tongue), such as drops of a cannabis tincture or cannabis-infused strips, may start to work within 15 minutes, too, according to users and manufacturers. For edibles and capsules, it may take a half-hour to four hours. Topicals — lotions, balms and oils — may act quickly, while transdermal patches can take an hour or more to be effective.

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Is it OK to use more than one form of medical marijuana together with another?

Yes, but it's not a strategy for new users, who should learn the effects of low doses of a single product first. Some experienced users rely on edibles, capsules or topicals for symptom relief that may last for hours, adding small puffs from a vape pen or joint to handle spikes of pain or break-out symptoms.

Note: Potency varies by strain and form, and it can often be tough to gauge a patient's tolerance. So before a patient engages in a cannabis-based medical treatment, he or she should consult their doctor and approach with caution; there’s limited scientific research and, as with any medication, the effects vary by user.

I keep hearing about Indica versus Sativa cannabis: What do I need to know?

These days, not much. Historically in cannabis culture, indica referred to a type or strain of cannabis plant that in the past was known for its calming and relaxing effects. Consumers are often told that indica has shorter, broader leaves than its close relative sativa, and that it's low in THC and high in CBD. Sativa, by contrast, was known for its energizing effect. In the scientific community today, however, that distinction between indica and sativa has largely disappeared: Most cannabis products available for purchase are plant hybrids with a biochemical content that cannot be determined by appearance.

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