Since cannabis was legalized for recreational use, you’ll find that many dispensaries have a menu as extensive as some restaurants. It can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start when picking a strain that’s right for you, so I headed out to some local dispensaries to learn more. After visiting Pakalolo on SE Holgate and Pure Green on NE Sandy, I learned that what you plan on using pot for is key in determining which strains or mediums to try for the first time. In this guide I’ll be describing some of my favorite strains from these two places along with suggestions on where and how to enjoy.

You may have heard the terms “Indica” and “Sativa” being thrown around, and if you’re like me you’ve probably wondered what that means for the strain you’re about to try. Indicas are usually associated with strains that are mellow and calming, while sativas are known for being cerebral and up lifting. The way I remembered it was “Smoke Indica, if you plan on staying in(dica)”. Keep in mind, however, that even though these are the general characteristics of the strains, this may not necessarily be how you will feel when trying them. There are also a number of hybrids, which have varying levels of both indica and sativa strains, which may affect the user in one way or another depending on which is more dominant.

“You just get a little bit of both worlds, you get the cerebral sativa effects, and the indica body effects combined. For some people it will tug them both ways. Kind of give you the sativa, then indica feel,” explains Justin, co-owner of Pakalolo. He recommended a unique strain called Black Cherry Soda, a beautiful flower with a very deep purple hue and a berry sweet smell. I tried this in the late afternoon with a banana-flavored chocolate bar and got a complex profile of flavors. Paired with the chocolate, the Black Cherry Soda took on a slightly tart blueberry quality, and its cheerful high was a nice afternoon alternative to caffeine.

Justin also suggested grinding your flower before smoking it, as it releases the aromas that are held inside. “I grind everything. I hardly ever break anything apart with my fingers anymore. I used to a lot, but I grind everything now.” Black Cherry Soda is definitely a strain you want to grind in order to release the complex berry flavors within. Grinders are available at many dispensaries and come in a range of styles and prices, but it’s strongly suggested that you pick one up to experience full enjoyment of aroma and flavor.

The next strain up, Gorilla Glue, is also a hybrid known for a happy, lighthearted effect. I tried this one with a plate of smoked gouda and apples, which made for a smooth, nutty aroma and an energetic high. Packed into a convenient pre-rolled joint, it was the perfect remedy for shaking that after nap grogginess.

“Pre-rolls are great for anybody who wants to try out a strain without the commitment of getting a whole eighth, or a quarter, or even a gram,” explains Travis, manager of Pure Green.

I asked if the cannabis used in their pre-rolls would be considered shake (often considered low-quality). Travis explained, “A lot of times people think of shake as the undesirable or the stuff that’s been cut off the bud. We don’t use that shake in our pre-rolls, all of our pre-rolls come from the shake that’s naturally made by buds breaking down as we move them from one container to the next, and along with small buds get ground up into pre-roll.”

Pre-rolls are also convenient because you don’t need any equipment other than a lighter. And because of the packaging laws, they come in cases that are handy for storing unfinished joints. Since the pre-rolls were flying off the shelf at Pure Green, I decided to try one called Jäger, an indica with a pungent aroma. Since the flavor reminded me of black licorice, it paired well with the natural sweetness of chamomile tea. I called this combination the “9 o’clock Bedtime,” because its mellow but not too sleep-inducing effects make it great for turning in early and reading a book. This duo is a perfect way to unwind after a long day, as it provides just enough calm to shake off tension, or in my case shoulder pain, but its uplifting enough that you don’t pass out on the couch and miss out on your whole evening.

While it’s good to know the difference between indicas and sativas, what’s more important to keep in mind is that everyone has different tolerance levels and effects will vary from person to person.

“Some people come in to get a sativa to go to sleep,” says Justin, “reverse effects have happened.”

The best way to know how a strain is going to make you feel is to try just a little bit at first, and just like alcohol or video games, moderation is key for responsible enjoyment.

“I would suggest going light, you can always take a few more puffs, but you can never take them away,” warns Travis. “It will lighten up over the course of time but it’s always best to start slowly, realize that cannabis affects everyone differently, the duration of the high is going to be different for everyone, how long it takes them to get to the plateau they’re looking for is different for everyone.”

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