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Your Grandmother’s Guide to Pot

For novices and those too stoned to ever wonder what it was doing to them, a crash course in marijuana physiology—and the new, almost-sort-of-legal landscape.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize pot; this past month, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., joined, and a total of 23 states—including New York—already have their own medical-­marijuana statutes. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio has decriminalized it, too, meaning possession of up to 25 grams is punishable by only a $100 fine (and 25 grams, you may or may not know, is a lot of pot). Marijuana has long been the most commonly used illicit drug in the world, but we are truly entering a whole new marijuana era, when the drug goes from illicit to absolutely everywhere. Consider: Vape was just crowned the OED’s word of the year, and “weed critic” is a paying job—at the Denver Post, it’s actually three paying jobs. Earlier this year, the New York Times editorial board called for the federal government to change its position on marijuana—just after columnist Maureen Dowd experimented with pot-laced chocolate caramel and became a target of derision, not for getting high but for not knowing how.

But the truth is, it’s easy to feel ignorant—the weed world has exploded and gone Willy Wonka artisanal. After 40 years of prohibition that kept things pretty simple, pot, like craft beer and charred shishito peppers, is swiftly becoming a matter of bourgeois interest. Yet how many can even tell the difference between Sour Diesel and OG Kush?

At this point the culture is so far beyond Saran-wrapped edibles and blown-glass pieces that even more experienced smokers feel overwhelmed, faced with a whole new menu of standard bud, seedless bud, oils, dabs, and gourmet weed cookies.* So we’ve designed a handbook, with something for everyone from newly curious beginners to those readers who may have last partaken in college to full-blown burnouts. We’ve paid particular attention to science, since we’ve observed that even lifelong users are often completely clueless about what pot does to the brain. The good research on that is brand-new. Plus, pot is so much stronger than it’s ever been, lab-manipulated to get you higher than ever. The aptly named Bruce Banner No. 3 just made history as the Earth’s strongest strain, with a THC concentration of just over 28 percent. (A typical bud from the ’90s would have topped out at around 3 to 4 percent, which itself was three or four times the concentration of the marijuana Americans smoked in the 1960s—so be careful if it’s been a while.) This guide is not an endorsement or an inducement (we all know too many dumb stoners). But it’s confusing out there. So, if you’re freaking out, or even deciding whether the joint you’re carrying puts you on the wrong side of the law, don’t worry. You’re likely to find your answers here. If she reads these ten information-packed pages, even your grandmother may feel comfortable reaching for a vape pen. Who knows? Maybe she already has.

*The original version of this article incorrectly referred to "dabs" as "daps.".