Medical Cannabis for Beginners

Using medical cannabis is completely unlike taking most other prescribed medications.

You don’t pick up a bottle at the pharmacy, read the directions and pop a pill. Although the future of cannabinoid-based medications is all about exact dosing through oral sprays, tabs and capsules formulated for specific needs, right now the most readily accessible options are dried flower and oils. For seasoned cannabis users, selecting strains and using them is standard stuff, but if you’re brand new to cannabis, the entire process can be mindboggling.

That’s where we come in. We realize that everyone has to be a beginner at some point, but that doesn’t mean you need to go through it alone. We want to simplify your cannabis experience, making it as effortless and straightforward as possible.

Selecting your strains

Each cannabis strain is unique, with varying characteristics defined by several factors. These include the types and amounts of compounds – called cannabinoids – contained within the strain’s genetics. Cannabis growers cultivate and crossbreed strains to provide optimal effects thanks to the wide array of active cannabinoids found within the strains. With more than 100 active cannabinoids available, each strain contains a multitude of variations.

The most famous cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for physiological effects and psychoactive properties. Another cannabinoid, cannabidiol (CBD) is especially important for the medical community, as scientists have discovered its wide range of effects without the psychoactive qualities of THC. Together, THC, CBD and other various compounds work synergistically, combining to create an end result known as the “entourage effect”. It’s this combination of the plant’s specific cannabinoid, terpene and flavonoid properties that provide the various effects of each cannabis strain.

Emblem strains are categorized by indica, sativa, hybrid and CBD, and contain a range of different ratios of THC and CBD. Each strain also has a prominent terpene, which is a cannabis compound known for its aroma and flavour, as well as other effects. We suggest talking to your physician or cannabis clinic about which strains or types of strains will be most helpful for your specific conditions and needs. Then, start by trying out a few different strains to see which works best. Also note that you can mix or combine multiple products to find the strain and dosage combination that works best. For example, some patients find it helpful to use one type of strain during the day and another in the evening. It’s helpful to keep track of how each strain affects you personally. Using an application such as StrainprintTM can help with this.

 Choosing your consumption method

There are multiple ways to consume your cannabis. Vaporizing heats the dried cannabis to a temperature below its combustion point, but still hot enough to release the medicinal compounds. This method is often recommended due to the absence of negative by-products created by combustion, such as carbon monoxide and tar. Cannabis consumed through inhalation gets to work faster in your body, so you’ll notice the effects very quickly. However, those effects won’t last as long as when cannabis is transmitted through your gastrointestinal system via edibles or oils.

Edibles are foods that incorporate cannabis through cooking or baking. They are incredibly discreet and can be made at home through a variety of recipes using either dried flower or oils. Cannabis oils are made by combining cannabinoids and a carrier oil and are ingested orally using targeted dosing methods, such as a dropper or syringe. Unlike inhaling cannabis, where cannabinoids enter the body through the lungs, edibles and oils introduce cannabinoids through the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in long-lasting effects. It will take longer for the effects to start, but once they do, they’ll last longer than when using a vaporizer. Start low and go slow – effects can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours to take effect and may last anywhere from 4-6 hours.

Onset vs duration

Just like with choosing a strain, selecting how to use your medical cannabis is a very personal decision and should be discussed with your physician.

Planning your first experience

Once you have your cannabis and know how you’re going to consume it, you should prepare for your first dose. Choose a time when you don’t have any personal or professional responsibilities, and make sure you’re in a comfortable environment. Your physician or cannabis clinic counsellor should have recommended a very small dose for your first time, and it’s critical that you adhere to their instructions.

Even with a minimal prescribed dose, the amount of cannabis necessary to result in noticeable effects will vary from patient to patient. We can’t stress enough how important it is to take it very slowly your first time. If vaping, take a single puff and wait at least 15-20 minutes to see how you feel. If you want to heighten the effects, take another small puff. With oils or edibles, you’ll have to wait even longer and it’s even more critical to start low and take it slow. Start by ingesting just half of the dose prescribed by your doctor and wait 60-90 minutes to see how you feel. The effects take longer to kick in, so don’t think your cannabis isn’t working and ingest even more.

Next steps

If you experience any side effects during your first couple of cannabis sessions, please talk to your physician immediately. It may be necessary to switch strains or dosages. As you become more comfortable using medical cannabis, you can experiment with different consumption methods, times of day and types of strains or products to see what’s best.

Always remember that patients should completely avoid the use of any motor vehicles or heavy machinery while under the influence of their medical cannabis. You may travel within Canada with your medical cannabis, but can’t take it out of the country. When taking your cannabis outside of your residence, it’s necessary to have documentation to prove that you’re legally allowed to possess your medication. This can include the product label from your Emblem-purchased medicine, your Confirmation of Registration document you received upon registering with Emblem, or the Health Canada-issued Personal Production Certificate if you are allowed to grow at home under the ACMPR. Remember, the more documentation you can show to prove you are a legal medical cannabis patient the better.

Finally, the Emblem Client Care team is available if and when you need us. If you have any questions as a new medical cannabis patient, don’t hesitate to reach out by calling Monday through Friday between 7:00am and 7:00pm EST at 1-844-546-3633 or emailing us at hi@emblemcannabis.com.

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