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Everything You Need to Know Before Smoking Weed for the First Time. Learning to use cannabis well is an underrated life skill. Smoking circles are a fast and easy way to make friends, and they’re way more intimate than dollar beer night at the trashy local bar. It's no wonder 22 million or so American adults use cannabis monthly, according to a 2015 study, and a June survey found that daily use is on the rise.

It's the third most popular mind-altering substance in the country, after booze and nicotine. Despite the persistent march toward legalization, about 87 percent of weed in North America was purchased on the black market, according to a 2016 survey . That means most of cannabis culture looks different based on the rules and regulations implemented by different states. Whether buying from an authorized dispensary or a friend's cousin's weed guy, there are real risks that come with your first experience with pot. They range from simply getting ripped off with weak product to health issues to serious punishment. Here are a few tips that will keep you safe, happy, and maximize your enjoyment. As with any legally ambiguous activity, it’s important to understand the law of the land before potentially breaking it. The more you know, the more confident you’ll be if something goes wrong. "Even states where weed is legal have strict rules about how it’s bought, sold, grown, and consumed," says Tim Johnson, veteran law enforcement officer and the founder of Ohio-based security firm Cannabis Safety First.

US weed prohibition laws have changed in spurts since Oregon first decriminalized the plant in 1973, so they’re inconsistent state-by-state, Johnson explains. The federal government still considers cannabis to be a Schedule 1 drug, even though eight states and Washington D.C. say it’s legal for recreation and 30 for medical use. Legalization doesn’t mean everyone can buy, smoke, or grow on a whim. In California, for example, it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy weed. Even those of age can only purchase an ounce per day of flower and eight grams of concentrated oil. Johnson advises looking up whether your state has laws against certain types of paraphernalia, as well. Wyatt, Esq., an army veteran and Howard University School of Law alum who serves on the board of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, points out that the ramifications of getting caught can go beyond fines and jail time. "Cannabis use can have an effect on your federal entitlements," he tells VICE. For example, you can be evicted from a public housing project or military barracks for possessing cannabis, even if you have a medical card. Private landlords and employers also reserve the right to evict residents or fire employees for consuming cannabis, even in states where it's legal. "Even though it's a great thing, it still requires a level of discretion. In states where recreational cannabis isn’t legal, understanding the different patterns of enforcement is key. Earlier this month, New York City stopped arresting people for smoking weed in public, opting instead for a court summons and a $100 fine. Statistics also show that cops treat cannabis possession very differently depending on race. The ACLU reports cannabis use is "roughly equal among Blacks and whites, yet blacks are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested" for possession. It’s not as fun as getting stoned, but researching local laws and police behavior in your community will make your high safer and sweeter. “Even the first time you take a J, you have to answer some of these questions for yourself, or at least be at peace them," says Wyatt. You can lose your housing, you can lose your federal benefits. And if you’re a minority, you need to be extra careful, discrete, and informed. If the above hasn't seen you abandon the quest, the first step to getting high is finding a reliable connect. Tony Greenhand, an artist who makes a living selling custom smokeable sculptures and who rolled a joint that was at one point the largest in the world, recommends finding the highest quality bud possible for your first experience. “It can be tempting to buy a cheaper or weaker alternative,” he said in an email, but that’s a rookie move.

“More often than not, a cheaper option has had something go wrong in the growing process or curing process. This is most true of weed found on the black market. A cheaper black market option may contain pesticides, mold, bugs or debris.” When buying the not-so-legal stuff, it’s important to find a safe, honest and competent dealer. Ask around and find one who is trusted by people you trust. Whether you’re at a dispensary, buying from a neighborhood dealer, you can vet weed from someone you don’t know with a few simple questions. Greenhand says you shouldn't be afraid to ask the name of the strain, where it was grown, and if it has been tested for mold and pesticides. The most important thing is that the person supplying the drugs is dependable.

When you’re buying weed for the first time, the salesperson will categorize it with three different labels that refer to its effect: indica, sativa, and hybrid. Indicas have a depressive, physical effect that can melt you into the couch. Sativas are psychoactive, cause trippy visuals, and act as stimulants. Hybrids combine the effects of both, though often lean more in one direction than the other. There are tons of online resources for learning about different strains, so feel free to look up what your dealer is offering for more info.

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