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Beginner's Guide to Weed

Follow this beginner's guide to weed to stop getting dazed and confused.

Do the terms diploid or polyploid have any meaning for you? Probably not. But if you have any interest in understanding what makes one bag of marijuana give you nothing but a mild headache, while another makes you feel no pain, then perhaps you should read on, and become enlightened.

The trick is to know what you are looking for. Redbud, Gold and Colombian are names given marijuana grown in specific regions, but which are essentially the same. That is not to say that there is no such thing as a truly superior strain, because there is. We'll get into that later.

How to Tell the Best From the Rest

Normal marijuana—the kind that is still found along roadsides and open fields in the U.S. is just that: normal. It was grown here (mainly in the Midwest) to produce hemp rope during the Second World War. Subsequently, it is stringy and tough, and contains very little resin, though this is also due to the growing conditions. In cases where grass is cultivated for a different reason, i.e., getting high, the different strain (a hybrid) of marijuana is the main crop-and these hybrids are, of course, what the home gardener is most interested in cultivating. What follows, for the home gardener and the home connoisseur, is an authoritative guide to identifying and enjoying this glorious weed.

This hybrid strain—larger, leafier and stronger than the regular hemp probably occurred naturally (as hybrids do) in the particular regions where this strain is predominant, such as Colombia, Hawaii, Thailand and southern Mexico. Other changes have emerged, but these are superficial and due more to climate and soil than anything else.

The “Superstrain,” as it is sometimes called, can be grown almost anywhere. Certain conditions can enhance the genetic potential of the plant, such as hot, humid weather and favorable soil content, but never turn your nose up at a joint just because it was grown in Ohio.

Just for the record, the reason for the potent plant is an extra set of chromosomes. The normal plant is "diploid" having two sets; the Superstrain has twice that number, and is thus “polyploid.” While this condition can be produced artificially, it is not recommended for the amateur. Soaking regular seeds in a 1 percent solution of colchicine for 24 hours causes the chromosomal material of a few of the seeds to split. If the seeds are then germinated and planted, some of them should develop into Superstrain plants. This procedure is used regularly to improve the strains of vegetable and other plants, Again, nature's way is usually best; if you want to grow some powerful weed, it's much easier to just keep some seeds from a particularly good bag.

Ask the Right Questions

How can you judge exactly what you're getting? There are several guidelines to go by which will almost guarantee that you'll never get burned. The most obvious, of course, is to sit down and try it. But before you do that (or if it just can't be done) take a very close look at what you're getting. 

The first question to ask is whether it's a full ounce. Unless you carry around a balance beam, it's hard to tell. A common gauge, and one that is so inaccurate as to border on the ridiculous, is to measure a bag by “fingers.” What it means is that if the bag is held vertically, then the amount of weed will measure "two" or “three” fingers. For some reason, three fingers is supposed to be a full ounce. This harkens back to Victorian England when the King's foot was a “foot." I wonder if there's any such thing as a metric finger...?

Image via Tumblr

You can get a feel for a full ounce by seeing and handling bags. If a scale is available, you might ask to have it weighed just for the hell of it. If it is an even ounce, then you have something to judge subsequent bags by. Roll the bag up the way you would if you were just going to put it away; feel the weight and thickness of it in your hand. This will be your judge in the future. If you do encounter a bag you think is light, ask to check out other ones; if they're all light, then you should probably say something to that effect, regardless of whether or not you end up buying one. There are two reasons for this: The seller will almost certainly not take some bud out of another bag and put it in yours, but he might lower the price; and you can be sure the next time it will be a full ounce.

If you really think you're being ripped-off, go buy a letter scale at an office supply store. It can give you a fair idea of how close to an ounce your purchase is. Unless you're really skeptical, there's no need to whip it out when you make your buy, since these scales are scoffed at in the world of $500 balance beams. But it's accurate (and cheap) enough to help you develop a feel for the right weight.

Important observation number two is a bit more subjective, dealing with the color of the grass. In most cases look for a light tan to dark brown color. The “red” that everyone refers to is a very subtle shade, bordering on a light brown. Beware of any pot that is green in color! It is either going to be very good or very bad, as I will explain later. And while it seems reasonable that a darker color would indicate a higher resin content, this is not the case. “Blonde” hashish is a good example, regardless of its light tan color, it can be as potent as anything available.

The third test concerns the texture and content. Are there seeds? In most cases there should be. An absence of seeds usually indicates that either the plant was harvested too early, or else It's a male plant. While there is nothing inherently wrong with smoking a male plant, serious growers destroy the males as soon as they can be identified in order to keep them from fertilizing the females. The reason is that the female will not produce as much resin if its energy is being used to produce fertile seeds.

Similarly, a very small number of seeds shows that the cannabis must be from a female, but most likely from the lower branches, which produce fewer buds and generally contain less resin. A healthy bag of weed should contain at least a hundred seeds; three or four hundred (or about a tenth of the bag's total weight) is not too many. Also, loose seeds can be a bit suspect; you can always feel safe if what seeds there are are still firmly embedded in the buds.

A large number of buds almost ensures that you have a good bag of pot. The resin is always concentrated in the bud (which is always close to the top of the plant, thus receiving the most sun and needing resin to protect itself). A “Thai stick" is nothing more than a long bud wrapped with thread to keep it from falling apart. The buds themselves should be slightly moist and sticky—so that if you rolled one between your fingers it wouldn't immediately turn to powder. Heavy resin content should make it stick together or adhere to your fingers. If there's a substantial amount of resin, you'll be able to feel the oil on your fingertips after breaking up the bud.

The final test is to check out the aroma. Just open the bag and take a good heavy nose hit. This is a surprisingly good test for pot, once what you know what a good bag smells like. Good marijuana has a strong, slightly sweet smell. Generally speaking, the best weed is going to have the most aroma. Look out for anything that smells musty or moldy, or has little smell at all; it means someone either found it washed up somewhere or grew it in their backyard without knowing how to care for or cure the plants.

Image via Polyvore 

Cleaning and Gleaning

The only thing more fun than smoking marijuana is playing with it. Playing is defined as “cleaning and refining.” Actually, this is too important to be regarded as playing. How you treat your stash has a direct effect upon how it will treat you.

No matter how you plan to enjoy your smoke, the first thing you want to do is remove the seeds. There are numerous devices available on the market for just this purpose, but unless you have a large quantity to deal with, cleaning by hand will be sufficient. Find a shoe box top and empty your entire stash into it (not more than an ounce). Pick out the buds and crumple them between your fingers, rolling each stick until it's bare. Throw the stick away (no, you can't make tea out of it). Go through the whole stash in this way, finally picking up hand-fulls and letting it sift through your fingers to find the remaining sticks. Be thorough. Sticks are nothing but bad news; they tear the paper in a joint and they can't even fit in a pipe. They taste like shit and have about 1 percent resin, so toss "em.

Separating the seeds from the rest of the stash gets tricky, but this is where the box comes in handy. Using a playing card or match cover, move the stash to one end of the box top. Now, holding (or propping) the box at a slight angle, fluff the dope with the card until seeds start rolling down to the other end. You'll have to experiment with the angle, because you don't want the whole stash to roll down to the other end.

By mixing the weed with the card, you loosen the seeds and allow them to roll down the incline. You may have to go through it again and pick some seeds out with your fingers, but this is still by far the best way to prepare for joints. It's good because it doesn't leave your bud too fine, which makes it hard to roll. Also, weed that is ground too fine doesn't burn or draw well in a joint. So if you primarily use your stash to roll joints, than hand-cleaning is the best way to go. You can throw the seeds away, too. They have a resin content of about .5 percent and have a mean tendency to pop and fly all over the place when they burn. If you have a truly exceptional stash you will want to hold onto some of the seeds (they'll keep for about two years) to grow your own.

Pipes without Gripes

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If you prefer to smoke with a pipe of one kind or another, feel free to use one of the commercial grinders to prepare your stash. One perfectly good way to quickly clean even large amounts of marijuana is to take a screen off the window, set it up on a few thick books over a piece of newspaper and pour out the stash on top. Spreading it out with your hands, gently force it through the screen by using your fingers in a circular motion. Some of the sticks will still have to be stripped by hand, but even a pound can be cleaned this way in less than an hour.

The advantage of the screen method is that it catches virtually all of the seeds, as well as the stringy stuff that is impossible to remove by hand. This is not a good method to use if you plan. To save the seeds—the rough action of rolling against the screen can damage seeds and keep them from germinating when the time comes. Anyone who uses a bong will want to be sure and screen their marijuana. One seed can ruin a potentially good hit on a bong by clogging the hole.

A good glass pipe is an traditional way to enjoy exceptional pot. These pipes, in particular, let the taste of your weed be appreciated in a different manner. Many people object to the use of pipes in smoking, citing excessive harshness and heat. Any pipe that is not cleaned regularly will develop an aftertaste strong enough to eat away to gold fillings.

The problem with heat comes from over-filled the pipe. Depending on the size of the pipe, six or seven good hits is the usual limit before the pipe starts to get too hot. Metal pipes, of course, tend to heat up the fastest, so fewer hits can be had before the pipe has to be retired for five or ten minutes. The problem with heat doesn't exist with water pipes or bongs, but the cleaning hassle is compounded due to all the convoluted tubes and secret passages within.

Pipe Cleaner by Formula 420

Remember that any good smoking instrument can be ruined by improper care. While traditionally soap and water was the go too, manufacturers now offer acetone based cleaning products, such as Formula 420, that leave your glassware shining like new. Be particularly careful of what you use to clean plastic or acrylic pipes: some cleaning solutions can dissolve or react with the material to render it downright dangerous to use. If you’re looking for a more natural cleaning product, many smokers swear by white vinegar. Whatever solution you use, be sure to rinse with hot water afterwards to avoid any lingering tastes.

In growing, buying, and smoking weed, as with everything else today, the elusive idea of “quality" is something we can hardly ever define but always recognize. And while the Food and Drug Administration protects you from too much rat hair in your bread (how much is too much?), tight underwear and loose shoes, when it comes to getting high, you're on your own.

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