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Trying pot in Michigan: Some tips for beginners

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Purple East, a shop in Grand Rapids that sells pipes and other marijuana accessories, held a sale to celebrate legalization day in Michigan.

So here’s a fact about me that may burst a certain stereotype about public radio reporters: I don’t smoke weed.

I mean, I was into a little bit a long time ago, but it was real amateur level, and the world of weed has gotten so much more complicated since then. There are all these different strains, and pipes and vaporizers and edibles. It’s just a lot to keep up with, okay?

So what if you’re like me, and you don’t know anything about pot, but now that it’s officially legal in Michigan, you think, ‘Maybe I’d try it. Give it a go.’

Where do you start?

“Oh man,” says Gregory Hatt, at Purple East, a shop in Grand Rapids that sells pipes and things that they used to have to say was for tobacco use only. “You better go talk to your buddy or your cousin or your friend who smokes because you won’t be able to obtain it legally from a dispensary until 2020 at the earliest.”

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Gregory Hatt passes out free pizza for legalization day at Purple East in Grand Rapids.

On paper at least, Michigan could approve dispensaries next year. But Hatt and others expect the state will take its time to set up the rules for new shops. So it’ll be 2020 before the dispensaries are really up and running.

But that didn’t stop a steady stream of customers from checking out the equipment at Purple East on Thursday. The shop was celebrating legalization day with a 20% off sale, a live DJ, and free pizza.

“Where do people start?” I ask Hatt. “Where’s the beginner section?”

“Okay, for sure,” he says, “that’s really hard to say, some people go for just a glass pipe. Other people go for a vaporizer. So lets take a walk around the store, I can show you around.”

The first thing we see is a tall cabinet, full of intricate glass sculptures. There’s a dragon a seahorse. The sculptures also work as pipes. Hatt says some might go for a thousand bucks.

“So, here, this is not the beginner section,” Hatt says.

“No, these look very elaborate,” I say.

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
You can put something in these pipes and smoke it.

Then Hatt shows me another cabinet with small, glass pipes that actually look like pipes.

“You just grind your herbs, put it in your pipe and light it up, and you’re good to go,” he says. “There’s no buttons, chargers, flashing lights or anything like that.  Easy to use.”

Hatt says if you don’t like the smoking thing, you can check out a vaporizer, and he shows me a few.

Once people get all the gear figured out, there are still more decisions to make. Like, with the weed itself – it seems to the uninitiated that there are approximately a billion strains to consider. And there are edible options, if you can find them.

I asked Roberta King to walk me through some of that. She has a company called Canna Communication, and she does PR for cannabis companies.

"Start small," advises Roberta King, of Canna Communication. "If you buy an edible, eat the very smallest amount and be patient for that to come on."

When she stopped by the office, she was decked out in green, because it’s legalization day and she’s been doing a lot of TV interviews. But anyway, she gave me some tips.

“Start small,” she says. “If you buy an edible, eat the very smallest amount and be patient for that to come on.”

Small she says, means maybe only five milligrams for edibles.

“A bar might be 50 milligram bar,” King says. “Break it up and just eat the smallest amount and wait for the effect.”

If you smoke, King says try just a few puffs first, then wait. And don’t drink alcohol along with it. Just try the weed, feel what it’s like on its own.

“Because the last thing you want to do is not be in a space where you’re comfortable or you’re responsible or you can pay attention to what’s going on around you,” King says.

Basically: Just play it cool.

You can get a friend to recommend what strains might work best for you, or do research online. King says you might experiment with a few and see what you like best.

And hey, maybe you’ll like it and become a total pothead.

Or you’ll decide it’s really not your thing. And that’s definitely cool too.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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