NEW YORK (PIX11) — For the first time, pot-smoking New Yorkers will be able to walk into a store and legally purchase marijuana on 4/20, the cherished unofficial holiday for weed smokers around the world.

New York became the 15th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use in March 2021. Adults 21 and over can possess, display, buy, light up, and smoke anywhere they can smoke tobacco under the smoke-free air laws. 

There are four recreational weed dispensaries open in New York City. Three of them are in Manhattan, and the first-ever dispensary run by a woman is located in Queens. New Yorkers can now make their way to any one of these four locations and sample the three strains of weed available on the market.

For first-time smokers, there are three types of marijuana strains: indica, sativa, and hybrids.

“There are key differences in each strain available for marijuana consumers,” said Dr. Junella Chin, a practicing physician with over 20 years of experience who is the only licensed physician that sits on the New York Cannabis Advisory Board. “Typically, an indica-dominant strain offers a relaxing sedating feeling. While sativa-dominant strains are more uplifting. Hybrids, depending on the strain, usually give off a see-saw effect after being smoked.”

Consumers should know there’s more to cannabis than just THC, and should avoid judging cannabis on its price and THC percentage alone. Instead, first-time marijuana consumers should focus on the cannabinoid profile, the THC-to-CBD ratio, and a list of other minor compounds found in the flower.

Also, consumers should consider where the cannabis was grown and if it was tested to make sure it is clear of additives or pesticides that may affect the product.

Understanding the differences between each product will help consumers maximize their experience and reach the minimum effective dose (MED), which is the lowest amount of cannabis that produces the desired therapeutic effect with a lower risk of side effects. It’s also more cost-effective, added Chin.

What should you try if you’ve never consumed marijuana?

There are a variety of ways to consume marijuana. There are edible food and beverage products that have THC and/or CBD in them and then there’s smoking flower or vaping THC concentrate.

Consuming an edible might have a delayed effect that can take up to an hour to feel, while smoking tends to produce results within 15 to 20 minutes. However, each will produce its own desired effect.

Indica tends to be more potent with more THC content, which creates the sensation of euphoria and sedation. A product with more CBD offers a relaxing effect with no euphoria or high, according to Dr. Chin.

Nam, a 29-year-old who is known for selling marijuana in Washington Square Park, suggested an indica strain may not be the right choice for a first-time consumer.

“Indica will just make you want to sleep and that isn’t fun for your first interaction with weed,” they said.

First-time consumers will want to aim for a product that has a THC content of no more than 30% or aim for a product that has a 1:1 ratio of CBD and THC, Dr. Chin recommended.

If you want to try an edible, you should go slow, pace yourself, and start with a low dose.

“I think if a newbie really wants an edible, they should take on no more than 5 milligrams per ounce, anything over than that is just way too much. If you’re going to have a beverage, then 2.5 milligrams should be the desired amount,” said Dave Vautrin an investor and partner at Manhattan’s latest marijuana dispensary Union Square Travel Agency.

Union Square Travel Agency offers the largest inventory of marijuana products in the state, according to Vautrin. 

“I always say pre-rolls are the way to go for any first-timer. You don’t have to worry about any work and leave it in the hands of a professional,” he added.

Vautrin has been in the cannabis industry since 2016 and all the products sold within the store are approved by him. He also requires his budtenders (the associates helping customers decide on the marijuana they want) go through a week-long training before hitting the sales floor.  

The goal should always be to have safe fun, he added.

What the experts recommend for first-time marijuana users

Nam and Vautrin suggested newcomers smoke Blue Dream, a sativa-dominant strain, for first-time smokers.

Ayrloom, a brand from upstate New York that offers marijuana-infused beverages, is a product that Vautrin swears by for newcomers who just want to relax and kick back.

Moon Bounce by Sessions is a pre-roll that is recommended by Vautrin. Banana Runtz is also a good beginner strain. 

“Everything we do is for the people; the people are a No. 1 priority, and we want to put out products that do good for the community and leave a positive impact on consumers,” he said.

In moderation, cannabis can be fun and help alleviate pain, anxiety, and stress, but one should always be mindful that cannabis can interact with certain medications and a high can be affected by surroundings and mood. 

“As a physician consumers should be aware that marijuana may or may not interact with some medicines such as anti-depressants, sleep medications and some blood thinners. Marijuana should always be consumed in moderation and used in a safe comfortable location and consumers should be smart about usage,” said Dr. Chin.

Editor’s Note: PIX11 News does not recommend drug use but we encourage readers to be safe. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, visit PIX11’s resource page.