Connecticut’s newest law is, well, dope.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 10, legal marijuana dispensaries in Connecticut were opened, allowing adults over the age of 21 to purchase and consume cannabis products for the first time.

“As Connecticut and other states across the U.S. allow legal medical and recreational marijuana, more people are tempted to use it and see cannabis as a relatively harmless substance. So the rates of cannabis use nationally continue to increase,” says Godfrey Pearlson, MD, research director at the Institute of Living with Hartford HealthCare.

For those planning to indulge in recreational marijuana, Dr. Pearlson – who authored Weed Science: Cannabis Controversies and Challenges, a comprehensive book about cannabis for the average person – has five tips for having a safe and enjoyable experience.

Today’s weed is much stronger than ever before.

Prior to the 1990s, the actual amount of THC in cannabis – the psychoactive component – was less than 2%.

Today, flower cannabis in a typical dispensary typically contains around 30% THC. Cannabis concentrates such as “shatter,” “dabs” and “waxes” may contain closer to 90%, says Dr. Pearlson.

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Stoned driving is like drunk driving — it’s illegal (and dangerous).

“Stoned driving,” Dr. Pearlson said, is as dangerous, if currently less deadly, than drunk driving. Many people don’t understand that, and have a false sense that driving while intoxicated on cannabis is safe, which is untrue.

“The odds of being involved in a motor vehicle crash when driving ‘stoned’ are approximately double those of sober driving,” says Dr. Pearlson, noting that it is less than the 10 to 15 times increase when driving with a blood alcohol concentration 0.1 – just over the legal limit.

Marijuana isn’t a “gateway drug.”

Many of us grew up hearing that weed was a “gateway drug” that would lead to the use of harder drugs – but Dr. Pearlson disagrees.

“There’s very little truth to that idea that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs. There’s more evidence that tobacco is (a gateway drug). The old joke is that if marijuana is a gateway to anything, it’s a gateway to your refrigerator,” says Dr. Pearlson.

There are many ways to consume cannabis, and each is unique.

You may be overwhelmed with the many ways you can purchase and consume cannabis legally. Dispensaries offer everything from flower – the dried marijuana of times past – to edibles, tinctures and vapes. But it’s important that you understand the potency and timing before you partake.

  • The effects of edibles and gummies may be delayed, so don’t double up if the drug effect doesn’t kick in quickly.
  • Tinctures and mouth sprays have a quicker onset than edibles.
  • Concentrates like shatter, dab and wax are much more potent than flower.

If you’re a newbie – or haven’t indulged in a while – proceed carefully, says Dr. Pealrson. The rule of thumb is start low, and go slow.

Keep edibles away from your kids (and pets).

Cannabis edibles may look like innocent candies or baked goods, and if not stored safely, could be ingested by children or even pets.

Although no deaths have been reported, children who consume cannabis may need to be hospitalized for anxiety, nausea, vomiting or even psychosis.

Be sure to keep edibles in childproof containers, says Dr. Pearlson, out of the sight and reach of any kids in your household.