Grade School: The Story Of How One Man’s Tolerance Break Helped Him Successfully Sample And Grade The Buds He Grows

Harvest represents the period of time when I consume the most cannabis. It’s an occupational hazard, because I need to test and grade the taste, cure, purity and high my new buds will provide me and my customers. This grading also helps me price my buds accurately, evaluate my cannabis strains, and detect cultivation problems and successes.

You gain plenty of important information by personally sampling your buds. When you inhale your recently harvested strains, you may discover whether you flushed the plants long enough. If you didn’t and you’re combusting the bud, then it won’t burn easily, nor will it burn to white ash. Rather, the ash will be gummy and black.

If your buds are overly dry, they’ll burn too fast and give you harsh smoke with little or no taste. The smoke can make you cough and hack. If the buds are too wet, they’ll be difficult to light, and you’ll likely not to get much of a hit.

Those are the easy tests. The harder tests come when you try to measure potency, and assess the qualities and traits of the bud’s intoxicating effects.

Sure, you can pay a testing laboratory to assess your marijuana potency and give you a list of the percentages and ratios of all terpenoids and cannabinoids. But potency as experienced subjectively doesn’t always correlate to numbers on a lab test, and the lab testing won’t tell you how the high feels.

I’ve sampled cannabis that tested at 14 percent THC, yet hit me a lot harder than cannabis that tested at 21 percent THC. The dynamic interactions between THC, CBD, CBN and other cannabinoids and terpenoids, combined with your internal chemistry and state of mind, determine how high you’ll feel after inhaling a specific bud. It definitely isn’t all a numbers game.

And that’s where we must focus: Your internal chemistry and state of mind. As a professional cannabis grower, and especially if you’re selling cannabis, you do your best grading when you have a clean mental and psychological palette.

The unavoidable fact is, if you try to assess the potency and quality of a bud when you just got high a couple of hours prior — and especially if you get high all day every day — your head is already dosed, and your evaluation won’t be accurate.

A Clean Mind For Cannabis Evaluation

I first realized the effects of mental hygiene when determining marijuana potency after watching wine connoisseurs at a vintner wine-tasting event. They were very careful to strictly separate and segregate each sip they took, so one sip didn’t influence their taste buds and affect their next sip.

Granted, wine connoisseurs grade products on color, scent, clarity, robustness and taste, not on the potency and quality of how they feel when the wine affects them. The intoxicating ingredient in wine is the same as it is in beer and spirits: ethanol. The percentage of ethanol is the main factor that determines the level of intoxication a wine connoisseur at a wine-tasting event might experience, moderated by other factors such as the drinker’s body mass, liver condition, the amount of food in the stomach, and past, ahem, depth of alcohol experience.

In contrast to when I grade my cannabis, wine connoisseurs aren’t grading the quality, degree or nuances of wine-induced intoxication. What’s to grade, other than how drunk you are? The alcohol high is a blunt instrument.

Unlike the ratio and percentage differences in the hundreds of cannabis compounds that affect how you experience a cannabis high, different types of wine, beer and spirits only affect intoxication potency. There are few intoxication distinctions when it comes to alcohol beyond how intoxicated you are, which is a predictable continuum starting with a mild buzz and ending with falling down drunk and possibly blacking out.

Cannabis offers a far more diverse, enjoyable and complex set of intoxication effects. Each strain gives you a different subjective experience. One strain might inspire you to create music, another to make love, another to exercise, another to sleep, another to laugh for hours, another to do your mathematics homework.

Indeed, cannabis is so diverse in its chemical complexity that you can use vaporizer temperatures to get several different types of high and taste from the same bud.

So, when you want to be able to accurately grade the finest nuances of your cannabis high, you need a clean mind so that you’re alert to whatever the bud is giving you. Wine tasters rinse their mouths and their drinking glasses with water in between each sip of a different wine. Admittedly, rinsing your mind between buds is nigh on impossible.

I’ve spent many years examining my cannabis usage, trying to get maximum enjoyment from it. I noticed that if I’m careless in my use patterns, my cannabis consumption could spiral out of control.

I’d get high once on one day, but the next day I’d wake and bake, then get high a few hours later. The day after that, I’d wake and bake, get high at noon, get high at 3 p.m., get high at 7 p.m., and get high just before going to sleep.

Pretty soon, I was inhaling cannabis 6–9 times a day — but no longer feeling high after each session. I started using bubble hash, honey oil, dry sift, shatter, and other types of dabs, just so I could feel something.

Pretty soon I was hitting bubble hash all day and feeling it less and less. Then I graduated to hitting dabs all day. I became the dab king. People marveled at how big a slab of dab I could rig up, and still walk without falling, and carry on a sensible conversation.

But even though I was using the strongest cannabis concentrates, I wasn’t getting anything except a maintenance dose. If I didn’t get high several times a day, I got cranky, had insomnia, and lost my appetite. I knew something had to change.

Planned, Albeit Temporary Cannabis Abstinence

My main reason for wanting to cleanse my mind of cannabis compounds is so I could test my buds and know how potent and fun they were.

When harvest time rolls around, I can’t assume that because my buds were thick with resin glands and smelled great, they were potent. I don’t want to outsource my bud grading to a person who only uses cannabis a couple of times a month. I want to grade them myself. But to do so, I needed a clean mind.

I knew what I’d have to do: Taper off cannabis consumption and abstain for several days when my new buds were dried, cured and ready for sampling. That plan was easy to imagine, but tough to implement.

At first, I tried several times to go more than two days without getting high, and failed because I felt sick, angry and depressed. To take the edge off the abstinence, I’d get high, intending to only inhale a little, and then I’d go back to abstinence. But once I got high the first time, pretty soon I was sucked back into the chronic constant stoner regimen, and every day was a blur.

I’d get up in the morning and realize I’d blown it again. The dried and cured buds still sat in my freezer, waiting for me to test them. I had customers who wanted my latest buds, but I have a policy of pricing my bud based on how it looks, tastes, smells and, most of all, how high it gets you. I absolutely had to get my head clean so I could synthesize the data I needed to price my wares accordingly.

I again tried cessation, and again the uncomfortable feelings came flooding in. I gritted my teeth, ate coffee beans to get a caffeine high, got a massage, slept a lot, took a bootleg Adderall (or two or three), took lots of Aspirin, and spent sleepless nights hating life — while the cannabinoids and terpenoids leached out of my system and I slowly regained a sober state of mind.

Being sober felt weird and unpleasant. But it was useful and necessary. I could see stark differences between a life lived high and a life lived not high. There were advantages to not being high. I was physically stronger. My appetite was way lower, so I ate less and lost weight. I had more energy.

But music and movies were boring. I didn’t laugh anymore. I had more dreams, more vivid dreams, more dreams I could remember when I woke up. They weren’t happy dreams, either.

Aches and pains from sports injuries that had been suppressed by CBD and other cannabis components made themselves felt with renewed vengeance. I wasn’t patient with myself or with others. In general, life without weed was sad, bland and stressful.

It takes a long time for cannabinoids to fully leave the body. Some researchers say it takes as long as a month, if not more. If a person is overweight, it can take months, because cannabinoids hide in body fat.

I viewed my transition to sobriety like I was starting out on skis at the very top of a long, snowy mountain, and slowly gliding downhill until I hit the flats.

The downhill glide takes me 10–20 days. At the end of that glide, when most if not all cannabis metabolites have purged from my system, I feel like a totally different person — an unstoned person who could finally accurately assess the potency and intoxicating characteristics of my buds.

When I told other growers about my clean-mind abstinence program, some were astounded and admiring, while others scoffed. All but one grower said there was no way they’d go that long without getting high. I was chided for torturing myself needlessly. I knew my strains were good and my customers were happy, my buddies argued, so why not just keep on getting high and forget the abstinence?

I explained that a small percentage of my customers would sometimes complain that “these buds aren’t as strong as before,” or something similar to that. They’d sometimes ask for a discount or refund. I knew that if I was able to objectively assess my buds, I would identify and set aside those that didn’t meet my rigorous standards. I’d be able to legitimately and honestly tell my customers that I test all my buds, that I never sell anything other than top-shelf product, and my prices are fair — no refunds or discounts.

Cannabis Abstinence Leads To Better Highs

The really cool thing is that being able to test my buds’ psychoactivity with a clear head provides benefits beyond testing and grading my cannabis.

For one thing, when I start getting high again after many days of abstinence, I enjoyed the feeling so much more. It was more of a special experience — an immediate transfer into another state of consciousness.

The feeling of newness in getting high, as contrasted to getting high all day every day, had me sometimes singing that Foreigner song, “Feels Like the First Time.” The high was much more satisfying and nuanced, lasted longer, with less burnout and fewer debilitating effects such as heaviness, mental confusion and couchlock.

The abstinence period made me love cannabis more than ever before. When I saw what life was like without the plant, I realized that it accentuates the positive, reduces pain from physical and emotional injury, and allows me to be a happier, more productive person.

Then, when I start getting high again, it’s like the first time seeing a lover after they’ve been away for a couple of weeks, when absence has made the heart grow fonder. It’s magical to re-experience cannabis as I used to years ago, when I was a novice consumer.

Not only that, but after many days of abstinence and then restarting my use, I was indeed able to accurately assess my buds. I’d take a couple of hits of one strain, measure its effects, then wait a couple of days before I tested another strain.

Doing complete, long-term abstinence, restarting my use to test my new buds, and taking a break for a few days between each grading session was exactly what I needed so that I could feel and evaluate the full effects of my just-harvested marijuana strains.

It’s my belief that a professional cannabis grower who sells buds to others needs to consider a period of abstinence at the end of every harvest, dry and cure cycle, so they can use objective sampling to be sure how strong their buds are, and what kinds of psychoactivity and body effects their buds provide.

I consider a few days of abstinence each year to be a worthwhile sacrifice as part of being a professional grower, and it’s also a personal growth facilitator that helps me appreciate cannabis more and get more from consuming it.

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