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Ever eat too many homemade pot brownies? It’s easy to overdo it when the edible or tincture isn’t properly labeled with the amount of THC milligrams it contains. Measuring the THC levels for homemade brownies is next to impossible for the average home cook, and even if your buddy or a street dealer does try to advise you on dosing it’s usually more along the lines of: Two brownies will mess you up a little, and three will get you really messed up.

What if I told you there’s a better way?

There’s a place where you can buy cannabis that’s lab tested, sometimes even triple lab tested for accuracy, with helpful guides to help answer any questions about what you’re buying.

It’s called the legal cannabis market – and it’s good for more than accurate dosing. Many of today’s licensed marijuana professionals are working to get cannabis consumers more varieties of healthier marijuana products which can be dosed relatively consistently.

But wait, there’s more…

There’s a huge variety of lab-tested marijuana products available for purchase (sometimes even with a credit or debit card!) in safe storefronts, with hours of operation and accountability!

All jokes aside, it may seem like a no-brainer for people in states with legal marijuana, but a recent drug bust in Colorado proves otherwise.

Thirteen people may face charges in the scandal that cheated the state out of nearly a half million dollars’ worth of cannabis taxes. KKTV news reports the indictments are for owners of a Colorado Springs head shop and their employees.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said, “The defendants were operating in plain sight, pretending to run a legitimate business. In fact, their behavior was not really any different than what we see from other drug dealers. They were still illegally securing drugs and selling them for profit.” The head shop is said to be responsible for distributing roughly 200 pounds of pot.

A safer place for transactions

Security cameras, frequent check-ins from government officials, and ID checks for customers are just some of the standard operation requirements for legal dispensaries. Simply having hours of operation in a brick and mortar storefront is infinitely safer to make transactions in, as opposed to random meet-ups or buying from dealers who are avoiding any record of the transaction.

Dosing

Patients can consult cannabis doctors for recommended doses, or check out the Mayo clinic for some guidelines. There’s no definitive amounts to intake, but at least there’s labels on the packaging to help the consumer decide for themselves.

On legal cannabis product packaging, there’s regulations promising transparency in cultivation, extraction, and cooking.  For example, there’s a handy little number followed by ‘mg’ which stands for milligrams that can be found on every single cannabis-infused product on a dispensary shelf and it gives consumers a foolproof way to measure their intake. On the flip side, you won’t find the ratio of CBD to THC or the measured milligrams of cannabinoids on the plastic baggie from off the street.

Finding the perfect dose of marijuana is usually a matter of trial and error. Individual needs and tolerance levels are unique to each person. Sound advice is to start with the lowest doses available and make sure enough time (about 20 minutes, at least) passes before using more.

Pesticides

Pesticides are a controversial issue among cultivators and regulators – even in the legal market – but at least customers can ask questions and chose healthier options in store.

The lack of Federal regulation over cannabis prevents agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from offering guidance on pesticides for cannabis cultivation. While some states are stepping up and placing their own rules on the books, the best way to know the amount of pesticides used in the growing process is left in the hands of consumers.

What’s wrong with pesticides?

A scientific study found that chemical residues present on cannabis will directly transfer into the mainstream smoke and ultimately the end user. That means cannabis consumers may be exposed to pesticide and other chemical residues through inhaled mainstream cannabis smoke.

The experiment tested for three different pesticides; bifenthrin, diazinon, and permethrin, along with the plant growth regulator paclobutrazol, which are readily available to cultivators in commercial products.

Recoveries of residues were as high as 69.5% depending on the device used and the component investigated, “suggesting that the potential of pesticide and chemical residue exposures to cannabis users is substantial and may pose a significant toxicological threat in the absence of adequate regulatory frameworks.” So, in order to get the cleanest cannabis, the consumer must demand it.

Here are some helpful questions you can bring to your budtender that your dealer wouldn’t know:

  • Has this specific product been tested for pesticides?
  • Which lab did the testing?
  • Is this product organically grown?

Pro Tip: Pesticides aren’t just a concern with flower, the Cannabis Safety Institute’s 2015 study found about ten times the level of pesticides in some cannabis concentrates.

Variety

Another huge advantage to going into a dispensary versus buying on the black market is the variety. There are hundreds of different brands, strains, flavors, and textures on the legal market, and even menus on dispensary websites. The offerings are simply something no black market vendor can match.

Going into a pot shop is a thrill for many cannabis enthusiasts. It’s common to hear people’s experience of going into a dispensary of being akin to being a kid in a candy store. And with apps like Leafly and Weedmaps, it’s easier than ever to narrow down the strain you seek. Those cannabis information outlets have searches that tell you all the details about particular strains such as effects, flavor profile, and lineage.

Budtenders

Budtender position requirements differ state-by-state, but usually include applying to the local government for licenses, passing various tests, background checks, and taking approved certification courses. One thing is true no matter which cannabis state they are located in – it’s their duty to help answer questions and guide customers through the menu of cannabis products.

In many ways budtenders are the gatekeepers of the cannabis industry. They know the brands they sell inside and out, recommend trendy products, and answer directly to the customers on a daily basis. Keep this in mind when you’re next in line: Don’t be afraid to ask them questions – it’s their job to be knowledgeable about the products on their shelves.

This new era of the legalization of cannabis is ushering in an unprecedented level of quality control and safety. The benefit to customers is a safe, educational space with lab-tested products backed by brands who can be held accountable if something about their product is not right or even harmful.

For now, the black market still thrives in some communities despite marijuana reforms because they undercut legal cannabis prices. However, the extra green spent on one’s green offers a peace of mind illegal dealers will never be able match.