Marijuana 101 - the quick and easy guide to legal marijuana

Wikipedia provides a great and detailed summary of all things Marijuana.  The goal of this article is to boil it down to just what the casual or first time user wants to know.

Marijuana, also called pot, weed, grass, and a few other things, is a plant that contains a mild drug called THC.  In the US, marijuana's legality depends on which state you're in.  In most states, it's strictly illegal.  In 20 states (plus DC), it's legal for medicinal purposes, and each state has it's own rules and regulations re: how to get prescription and then how to buy it.

In 2 states, Washington State and Colorado (and soon in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC), marijuana is legal for recreational use.  That means that you can just walk into a store, and similar to the experience of buying alcohol, show the sales clerk your ID (you have to be 21) and buy a small amount of marijuana to use at your leisure.  

What's it like to smoke marijuana?   Back to the top

Experiences vary, though the common effects include a feeling of relaxation and euphoria.  Generally, though, if you talk to 10 different people, you'll get 10 different descriptions of what it's like.  The things that could impact your experience include who you're with (friends are good), what you're doing (watching something funny or entertaining is good), and how much you take (we recommend starting slow.)  

If it's legal where you are, the best way to understand what it's like is to try it.  Remember, in Washington State and Colorado (and soon in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC), using marijuana is perfectly legal.  Just as you might try a new bottle of wine or a new type of scotch to experience what it tastes like, it's ok to try marijuana to see what it's like and see if you enjoy it.

Here's a cartoon describing what it's like to smoke pot.  

If you want a more scientific description of the impact of marijuana on your brain, here's a great 2.5 minute explanation via a popular YouTube channel:


How do I buy marijuana?  Back to the top

Depends on where you are, but if you're in Washington State or Colorado (and again, soon in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC), you can use Marillow to find the nearest location to you.  See map and ranking of current stores in Colorado. What do you need to make a purchase in one of these stores?  Simply a valid picture ID showing that you're 21 or older.  It's really that easy.  


Beautiful picture of Aspen, where there is a legal dispensaries right now

Seattle in the evening - marijuana is legal now and stores are opening every day.  See here for a list of Washington State stores.

 In 18 additional states, you can get marijuana only if you have a prescription from a doctor.  Getting a prescription is pretty straightforward (though a pain) and this article outlines in cartoon form how to do it.


What are different ways to use marijuana?  Do I have to roll a joint or smoke a bong?  Back to the top


First, here's a cartoon describing a few of the options.

It's a common misconception that the only (or best) ways to use marijuana is through a joint or a bong, both of which have the (depending your point of view) unpleasant side effect of making your whole apartment or house smell like weed.  Three other ways to take marijuana can provide a different, but no less (and often greater) experience:


  • Vaporizers are devices that heat the cannabis plant or oil to a high temperature, and then release the active incgredient (THC) as a vapor, which you then inhale.  There's minimal smoke and almost no smell.  The impact also tends to be longer lasting compared to smoking via a joint or bong, and it takes less marijuana to produce the same experience.  View a list of top vaporizers here.

The Arizer Solo - one of the best selling vaporizers on the market.  Learn more here.

  • Cannabis tea is tea with marijuana in it.  There are several ways to make cannabis tea, including using cannabis oil or first dissolving the cannabis in fat, and then using that substance in your tea.  Because marijuana does not dissolve in water very efficiently, the effect of cannabis tea is very mild compared to other methods.  
  • Edibles.  Yum!  Brownies, cookies, cakes, lollipops, pretty much anything you can eat can be infused with marijuana.  Of course, you have to cook it, so it takes time, but if you like to cook (and you like food), this can be one of the most rewarding (and fun) methods to try and use marijuana.  View a list of top edibles here.  Or, if you're interested in marking your own, view this cartoon first.

The Mountain Man Peanut Butter Cup, one of many types of edibles you can buy today.

What are the different types of marijuana?  What's the difference between herb, oil, and wax?  Back to the top

Though all types product a similar result, here's a quick primer on the three different forms of marijuana you can use:

  Weed (also called "Herb") - This is simply the plant you see in stores or on TV and the movies (see picture below).  The biggest benefit is that you know very little happens to the plant between it getting picked and it getting into your body.  Many claim it also generates a more "pure" high experience (though the definition of high is a bit arbitrary.)

Oil - Also known as "Hash Oil" is made from extracting THC (the drug that gets you high) from the marijuana plant.  Some people claim that oil is more concentrated and so can get you higher, but it really depends on the specific type of oil you get.  A nice thing about oil is that it can work in smaller, more portable vaporizers (including a lot of the "cigarette-like" ones you see celebrities use).  Also, once you find a brand/type you like, and because it's easy to measure, you can get very reliable/consistent experience.

 Wax - Marijuana wax is similar to Oil in that it's made from extracting THC, but unlike Oil, the concentration of THC can be higher - much higher.  Therefore, you have to be more careful when using it, and you'll want to make sure you trust the company (or person) who is giving it to you.  When the concentration is higher, you'll can also get high more quickly and more intensely.  

I'm at a store.  I see about 40 marijuana options.  Which one do I choose?  Back to the top

One of the challenges new marijuana users have when going to a store is the huge amount of indecipherable choices.  You might see 20 clear jars with plants in them that - to you - all look the same.  Here's the "dummy's guide" to how to choose:

  • Ignore all the fancy names when you start.  The names of the brands, "Bubble Gum", "Ignition 1000", etc. are all pretty much meaningless.  Eventually, you'll find a specific brand you like, but until then, ignore them.
  • Figure out what kind of experience you want, and then choose your strain.  There are only two strains of marijuana that you should know about.  If you want help relieving pain and/or going to sleep, you want Indica ("I" stands for "I wanna sleep").  If you want to a more cerebral/high/mind-altering experience, then you want Sativa ("S" stands for "Cerebral").  If you want somewhere in between, then you can choose a Hybrid, which is simply a combination of the two. Many of the different varieties stores offer are simply different mixes and blends between Indica (Sleepy) and Sativa (Cerebral.)
  • Ask the store owner's advice.  In our experience, the people behind the counter are used to new marijuana users and are more than happy to point you in the right direction depending on your interest.
  • Try a few different things, and figure out what you like.  In the end, the experience of each brand is different for each person, so you'll want to try a few different options (buy the smallest amount) and then take note of what works best for you.  Then, next time you go to the store, you'll know exactly what you'll want to buy.

How can I tell the difference between good weed and bad weed?  Back to the top

Generally, if you purchase from a legal dispensary, you're going to get good weed.  That said, there are a few obvious things to look for:

  • Brown is bad.    If the weed looks brownish, that's never a good sign.  High quality weed is green, a deep green, with maybe just hints of hard green and purple.  
  • Sticks and twigs are bad.    You can't get high from sticks and twigs.  Most marijuana purchases may include some sticks and twigs, but they should be few and far between.
  • Strong smell is good.  Smell the product.  You should smell the marijuana very clearly.  Note if you use a vaporizer, you may not smell the marijuana much, but before you actually use it, good marijuana will always have a strong smell.    

How much do I need to buy?  How much does it take to get high?  Back to the top

When you're first starting out, buy in small quantities.  For marijuana, you can typically buy as little as a gram, though for some stores, the minimum is 1/8 ounce (which is 3.5 grams.)  

This is what 1/8 ounce of marijuana looks like

How much do you need to get high?  Typically, 0.5 grams is enough for 1-2 people to get high - though with a vaporizer you can probably use that same amount for 3-4 people.  So if the store's minimum is a gram, you might want to buy 1 gram each of 3 different types.  If the store's minimum is 1/8 ounce, you may want to just buy that for one type (as that 1/8 ounce will last you awhile.)  In the end, you'll find that using marijuana is one of the most inexpensive leisure activities you can enjoy (at $50 for 1/8 ounce, you can basically get high for about $7.)

The red circled weed above is enough to fill a vaporizer and get several people high. 

For edibles, the potency is measured in milligrams of THC.  Again, the general rule is start small.  50 mg is usually enough to get most people high, so you'll want to start with that (or even as low as 25 mg) to see how it impacts you.) Most edibles you can buy have more than 50 mg, so you'll want to portion carefully (and though there's no known cases of marijuana overdoses, getting "too high" can be a not-great experience.)   See ranked list of edibles with THC amounts here.  

How do I prevent becoming a pothead?  Back to the top

Just as with anything, the key is moderation.  Fortunately, marijuana is not physically addictive (learn more here).  However it is fun, and as with anything fun, there's an opportunity for someone to do too much of it at the expense of more important things.  As an analogy, if someone gave you a new food, and it ended up being extremely tasty, you could end up eating it all day every day, and you sacrificed other things for it, that would probably be bad.   Similarly, if you find yourself getting high every day, there may be a problem.  

On the other hand, you do it on occasional to enjoy yourself and relax, and it's not impacting any other part of your life, then carpe diem and enjoy!

What's fun to do when I'm high?  Back to the top

The most common thing people do is hang out with friends.  Use weefr to find which of your friends are most likely to enjoy marijuana.

You can also check out our Things To Do While High page.  Though you really don't have to do anything, your experience and enjoyment can be increased by certain activities.  Watch "trippy" videos (see the list for great examples), play games, watch movies (funny/stupidish movies you've enjoyed before are great), or simply talk about the little things (why is there a silent "k"?) or big things (what's the meaning of life?) with friends.  

Looking for something quick?  Here's a slow motion video of Neil Degrasse Tyson, which recently had the #1 stop on our list of top things to do while high.

Should I feel guilty about smoking weed?  Should I hide it?Back to the top

Society acceptance of smoking marijuana will take some time, but it's starting to speed up, following a similar pattern of gay rights.  It's been a normal/not-looked-down-upon experience in colleges for decades, and it's just now becoming more accepted for professionals (at least in the blue states.)  

There's no reason to feel guilty about smoking weed, as long as it doesn't impair your life (work, relationship with friends, family, etc.)  Smoking marijuana is simply another recreational activity, similar but more safe and less dangerous than drinking.  

Should you hide it? Absolutely not.  By talking about it and sharing your experiences openly, you encourage others to do so.  And having more people be open to the fun and safe experience of using marijuana (in a responsible way) is a good thing.

What else should I know?  Back to the top

Building off the last comment, the best way to have fun and enjoy marijuana is to be safe (and follow the law).  Don't drive, and don't go anywhere where you'll need to drive when you use marijuana.  And of course, don't leave it in an area where children (or really, anyone under 21) can find it.  


As more states make marijuana more legal, it's our responsibility to use that freedom wisely.  Fortunately, using marijuana itself is fun, so you usually don't need much else to aid in the excitement (though again, good company helps.)  Marijuana is one of those wonderful (and somewhat unusual) substances where you can have fun and not feel guilty doing it.

Have other questions or want to add a comment?  Check out the Marillow Discussion forum.

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