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The best cannabis strains for beginners

June 17, 2015
(Gillian Levine for Leafly)

Updated 10/1/19

In many instances, a bad first experience may be enough for someone to tragically banish cannabis from his or her life forever. Typically the reason for doing so has to do with the anxious, paranoid side effects associated with THC, but what first-timers might not realize is there are a few ways to minimize those unpleasant feelings. For those beginners and low-tolerance consumers, we’ve compiled three basic tips, tricks, and recommendations for finding that perfect first-time experience.

Find a low-THC, high-CBD cannabis strain

Unlike THC, CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid with relaxing properties. CBD can help counteract the anxiety associated with THC, so it’s a perfect starting point for new consumers. You’ll often find strains with equal parts THC and CBD, but some contain almost no THC at all. Here are some of the most commonly found and widely embraced CBD varieties.

CBD-dominant strains are easy to find on Leafly—simply look for the strain flowers composed of circles. Balanced CBD/THC strains are made up of both circles and diamonds.


harlequin cannabis strain

Delivering a balance of THC and CBD, Harlequin is an even-keel strain with only gently euphoric effects. The CBD acts as training wheels for the THC, allowing you to cruise without fear or anxiety.

Find Harlequin nearby

Sour Tsunami

sour tsunami cannabis strain

It’s okay that you don’t want to get high. A CBD-dominant strain like Sour Tsunami delivers only trace levels of THC, meaning you won’t feel high like you would if smoking traditional high-THC varieties. Washing away stress, tension, and anxiety doesn’t mean you have to get stoney baloney.

Find Sour Tsunami nearby


pennywise cannabis strain

Pennywise is a balanced strain that delivers an approachable dose of THC wrapped in CBD. With balanced levels of both cannabinoids, you can ease into a euphoric experience slowly and with extra control.

Find Pennywise nearby


acdc cannabis strain

ACDC is another great cannabis strain for new consumers who are THC-shy. Let CBD be your parachute into deep relaxation as peace and clarity fall lightly on the mind.

Find ACDC nearby

Start slow with THC-dominant cannabis strains

Let’s start with the first and most obvious piece of advice: slowly ease into a THC-dominant cannabis strain, as they’re more likely to cause anxiety and paranoia. Settle yourself into a comfortable place and start with a low dose, maybe even just a single small hit if it’s your first time.


Microdosing cannabis: Benefits without the buzz

While many strains today tend to stretch toward a THC ceiling of 20-25%, those with less than 15% THC typically provide a less overwhelming experience. Keep in mind you’ll need lab-tested cannabis to know how much THC a flower contains, as amounts can vary between strains and even individual harvests.

What works for one beginner may not be the best for the next, but the below recommendations are meant to be starting points for those looking for a more balanced and mellow experience. These strains tend to deliver a more gentle euphoric experience, but once again, check the testing information specific to the item you’re interested in buying. If it has a THC content that exceeds 20%, chances are that strain may be too potent for your purposes.


12 sessionable cannabis strains for a leisurely smoke sesh

To find THC-dominant strains on Leafly, look for strain flowers composed of diamonds. Longer diamonds mean more THC, so try to find strains with shorter diamonds (for less THC).

Blue Dream

In the unspoken popularity contest of cannabis, Blue Dream is the undisputed champ. This strain leads you into a mellow experience with the sweet taste of mixed berries, and leaves you smiling contently as tranquil effects wash over the mind and body.

Find Blue Dream nearby

Jack Herer

jack herer cannabis strain

If you’re looking for a gentle lift of the mood, Jack Herer may be the strain for you. Its warm, invigorating euphoria settles in with ease, and allows you to delight in your own sharpened senses without overstimulation.

Find Jack Herer nearby


cinex cannabis strain

Cinex is a bright and colorful strain that brings sunny-day vibes to every exhale. Few strains make better companions in social circles than Cinex, whose lighthearted qualities bring out laughter and curiosity with ease.

Find Cinex Nearby

God’s Gift

god's gift cannabis strain

God’s Gift is best known for bestowing dreamy, meditative effects that allow you to sink deeply into relaxation. With the exhale, you can feel stress and tension melting away. Take plenty of time to let these effects fully settle before breathing in more of God’s Gift; too much THC can derail a pleasant, blissful state of mind.

Find God’s Gift nearby

Cannabis delivery methods for beginners

Our parting advice to you aspiring cannabis champions: be mindful of the delivery method. The strain is only half of the story; smoking, vaporizing, and ingesting can all affect your overall experience. There’s no right or wrong choice here for beginners, but there are nuances between them that should be considered.

Smoking cannabis

Most people begin cannabis with smoking, which has its benefits and drawbacks. One advantage smoking offers is dose-control–it’s easy to take a small amount, and the acute effects usually subside after 20 to 30 minutes. But if you can recall the burning sensation in your throat the first time you took a hit, you can imagine that smoking may also turn some folks off entirely.

Vaporizing cannabis

Vaporizing may be the most ideal delivery method for newbies. It’s easy on the throat and lungs, dosing is easy, and the flower’s flavors are usually better preserved. Portable oil-filled vaporizer pens are also a great place to begin since you can take a hit as needed, and there’s no complicated assembly involved.


Which Type of Vaporizer Best Suits You?

Ingesting cannabis 

Edibles are a fantastic way to get around smoking cannabis. However, if you’re new to the game, start slow and dose low; the effects can take up to an hour or two to kick in, and they tend to be a lot more intense and long-lasting than inhaled cannabis. Novice consumers should start with a small dose–maybe just 5mg–and work their way up to the standard 10-20mg doses.


Edibles dosing chart: Interpreting potency in infused cannabis products

Cannabis topicals

Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions and balms that absorb transdermally for relief of pain, inflammation, and other localized symptoms. Most of them won’t get you high at all, so topicals are highly recommended to patients who want to try medical cannabis without all the cerebral hassle.

Bailey Rahn's Bio Image

Bailey Rahn

Bailey is a senior content manager at Leafly, specializing in strains and health. She's spent 7+ years researching cannabis products, spreading patients’ stories, and exploring healthy ways of integrating cannabis into daily life.

View Bailey Rahn's articles

  • DV & Child Custody

    YES ! Absolutely, I will take my MMJ Cannabis CBD Sativa and Indica on “Training Wheels” please Thank You ! I’m very happy to learn about the strains just for people like me. We don’t want to be stoned just relaxed, comfortable and without pain ! Nice to know there is a “Weaker” strain of Flowers (weed) for folks like myself. When I was younger I used to hear folks say hah ! i don’t want that weak Sh… In the back of my mind I was saying Oh wow… It was fine with me, I like it when the herb is less potent. Power to the Flowers ! and Peace to ALL A Native Sister from NYC ,NY

    • I’m in the same boat! I’ll tell you a little story. When I was 14 my cousin and I were passing around a bong in his garage and all was going okay until the effects started to kick in. It was my first time trying marijuana and I have no idea what strain we were smoking, but I had the WORST panic attack of my life. It felt like I was trapped inside of a freezer (I couldn’t stop shivering), while also being locked in some sort of weird numb dream. I remember sitting on his couch and he was just laughing at me but if he saw things through my eyes then it wouldn’t have been so funny!

      Anyway, so happy that there’s strains out there that make you feel good and relaxed without having to worry about the potential negative side effects of getting stoned. Just turned 21 a few days ago and here in Washington State it’s legal so I’m really looking forward to checking out the shop and seeing what I can find 🙂

      • MindFog2287

        The shivers are the worst.

  • Robert Burns

    You forgot suppositories.

  • Elk Whistle

    What about Marijuana Patches?

    • Eva Gilbert

      Do they appear to help?

      • Dmember

        Yes, the patches really help with sleep. The problem is the expense…all ‘other than’ flower is expensive.

  • Akiko Fujishima

    The first thing I ever toked (My first time, I was 32, yeah, I avoided peer pressure.. lol), was Laughing Buddha, after that it was Grapefruit Diesel, after that HAZE, then sour diesel, now I’m hitting on some medical grade Gorilla Glue #1… I am IN LOVE with this strain! It takes care of ALL my medical issues, ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, arthritis in my knees, chronic pain from a back injury I endured at the age of 17 that my mum ignored, so I never got proper treatment for, and even my depression. The side effect? I get sleepy, but that’s OK, it helps my insomnia as well. I really wish I had tried cannabis a lot sooner, it’s really, truly helped me, and I couldn’t be more grateful to the earth for the wonderful medication she provides. It should be legal the world over.

    Here’s something I know fellow consumers will really appreciate… I was born 4/20 My mom’s mom is British and her name is Mary Jane (we even once found some ditch weed growing under a pecan tree that was growing in her… lol! My dad grew Acapulco Gold on the front porch back in the late 60s all the way into the early 80s… I was destine to medicate… lol!

    UPDATE 4 Oct 2017: I just recently got a 1/2oz of Gorilla Cookies.. If you haven’t gotten it yet in your area, when you do.. TRY IT! I thought Gorilla Glue was my strain.. Until I met Gorilla Cookies.. It’s Gorilla Glue x Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.. Hands down THE best strain I’ve had (28% THC, extractions of 37%), and I usually try 2 new strains a month, as I need to have more than one strain because I was cursed with this insane body of mine that LOVES to build tolerances to things rapidly.. (when you need 8 shots of novocaine from your dentist just to remove a fibroma, well.. yeah.. lol.) so, it helps that I can switch back and forth between strains if it stops working for me. I have to do the same with my allergy medications, I have two separate Rxs for allergy medications from the same doctor. If only cannabis could do something for my ferocious cat allergy. 😀

    • Vanessa Greene

      try reishi for cat allergies. will take about a month of use every day to start working

      • akikofujishima

        My allergies cleared on their own. People sometimes just go through stages in life. I used to be allergic to all forms of dust as well, these days it’s not a problem at all. I’m still allergic to ferrets though.. lol!

  • Shona Davies

    Check out AnnCannMed for your health prescriptions and medical purchases and feel support talking to licensed physicians

    • Henrik Hansson

      I like the company. they were really helpful and did not withhold info. I love that

  • Char

    Wish I read this article yesterday. Since the dispensary offers 50mg and 10mg oral pills of Sativa, I figured 10 was the low dose. I also figured oral would be less effective because of digestion. Boy was I wrong. What an awful experience! Only 20 minutes in and I could feel it overtaking me. It lasted all miserable day. Newbies, please heed the advice in this article. Also, because of this article, I will try high cbd where I otherwise would have given up. It was that bad.

    • Fun Please

      10mg is low. You can be happy in the low $ aspects of low tolerance. Vape is better than smoking. As a very experienced cannabis user, if you wanted to try flower go with the Plushberry. Great smooth flavor, nice relaxing high. Just one small hit, don’t hold in. Wait for the effects. You’ll get it. Happy travels 🙂

      • Char

        Thanks for the help, but I seek productive, clear headed energy and not a nice relaxing high.

    • MindFog2287

      I know this was a few months ago, but if that ever happens again, squeeze a couple lemons into a glass and throw in the peel, then drink. Alternately, chew a couple peppercorns or smash up into a dust and inhale through your nose. Seriously. Google it. It supposedly works to counteract the THC. Cheers.

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  • David Nichols

    Good points on your tips. Beginners are everywhere and they seem to have a lot of interest on starting having weeds daily. And your tips are helpful for them. This blog is worth sharing. Thumbs Up!

  • Not777

    Would add new york diesel to the list here it has very little paranoia and is a nice high