NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Potheads have evolved since the '70s – although you'd hardly know it by the way they're sitting on the couch giggling (known as "couch-lock"). Back in the day, it was a curse to get seeds in your stash, but you consider yourself lucky these days of aeroponics and medicinals to find a seed of your favorite strand. If you're considering hits from the bong, here's a quick run-down on the basics of marijuana culture so you look like you know what you're talking about:

Metric vs Standard

Drugs are second only to cooking for their ability to teach metric-standard conversions. You'll notice in the media, large quantities of cocaine ("bricks") are normally referenced by the kilo, whereas marijuana is referenced by the pound. When purchasing at the dispensary, retail store or independent street vendor, you'll hear common terms being thrown around:

  • Gram – One gram of marijuana. This will normally be one nugget, known as a "nug."
  • Eighth – One-eighth of an ounce (coke/crackheads and other powder users say "eightball" and call a 16th oz. a "teener," so if you hear those terms, you've met a gateway drug keymaster.)
  • Quad – One-quarter of an ounce.
  • Twenty sack – $20 worth of whatever they have – normally 2 grams of sticky-icky, or 9 grams of regs.

Regs, and Other Grades

Regs doesn't refer to regulations (although we'll cover that in a moment). Smoking marijuana is divided into two levels of potency; there's the regular grade, called "regs" or "dirt" and the higher grade that's referred to as "medicinal," "dank," or "chron" (a nod to pharmaceutical musician Dr. Dre and his protégé Snoop Doggy Dogg, n.k.a. Snoop Lion).

Regs is the classification given to the weed you smoked in the '90s, which was already stronger than what the hippies had. The higher medicinal grade is what's been produced since California legalized medicinal dispensaries. You'll get more from regs, so they're great as fillers for continuing your high past the initial buzz. They're also great for cooking, as you can extract more THC per dollar spent than you would with medicinal nugs.

Product Categories

Edibles are the rage these days, but I've never gotten a high from them, and I've always preferred to smoke anyway. Also I need to watch my diet. I mostly eat and play video games, so edibles compound the problem. However, you can find THC hidden in pretty much any type of munchies you see at a convenient store.

Aside from edibles, you can also buy hash oil, which is used in cooking and can be vaped in an eCig or other liquid vaporizer (although you'll want to mix it with some vegetable glycerin first). In addition, there's hash, which, as any fan of "Weeds" can tell you, is basically made from pulling the resin off the plant and compressing it to smoke in its pure form. Obviously you can also just smoke some weed, but for that, you'll need to know about paraphernalia and etiquette.

Paraphernalia and Etiquette

In order to smoke weed, you'll need a pipe, bong, papers, vaporizer or wrap. When purchasing a pipe, get a screen to keep ash from falling through the hole and into your mouth. The bowl of a bong could use an ash catcher as well, and if you buy a bong, get a health stone for kief (we'll get to that in a moment). Smoking weed this way provides a plethora of resin, which must be cleaned and can be smoked.

With papers, you want Zig-Zag orange, and blunt wraps are a personal preference, although I'm partial to Backwoods Honey and Swisher Grape. If you don't know how to roll your own, I suggest watching more music videos or hanging out with someone who does. It's usually best to ask someone who does, and if none of you do, just use a pipe or bong.

Regardless of what you choose, you'll need a grinder to get your pot ready to burn. Look for a 4-piece grinder (not a 3-piece). The difference is whether you spend every day picking weed out of sharp spikes or just scoop it out with your pipe, bowl, wrap, or fingers.

When smoking with others, the rules are pretty well laid out by Chris Tucker in "Friday": puff, puff, pass. Traditionally, the dutchie is passed to the left hand side, and use your own lighter at your own risk (potheads forget and pocket lighters). When sharing a bong, always clear it prior to passing it. If you don't cough hysterically, you're not high, so keep taking hits until you do. When you do cough, however, cover your mouth with your sleeve, not your hands.

Economical Smoking

In these hard economic times, you have to conserve as much as possible. To get the most from your stash, you'll want to smoke out of a bowl or pipe to collect resin. Also pull out any stems after grinding to either make hash or smoke on their own. Every couple of weeks, check the bottom of your grinder; the pollen and dust falls through a screen and is collected. This powder is called kief and can be smoked with a health stone. The flavor and potency is a mixture of whatever you've been smoking since you last cleared the kief.

This is one of the cleanest highs you can get, but if you don't have enough kief to smoke, you can steep it in vegetable glycerin or your favorite eJuice. This will allow you to vape it from your eCigarette, providing a lighter, but still workable high.

On the whole, THC has gotten cheaper, even before adjusting for inflation. An ounce of normal regs a decade or two ago used to run $100 to $120, and medicinal-grade chronic was $300. These days, dirt weed is closer to $60 an ounce (and is almost as potent as the $300 stuff in the '90s), and $600 to $800 will buy you a QP (quarter pound, or 4 ounces) of the medicinal stuff (the variety of which is growing by the minute, and takes you places Jimi Hendrix only dreamed). Both are much more widely available on the streets as well, since grow houses are popping up everywhere and people have figured out the Colorado border is much less secure than, say, the Mexican or Cuban ones.

Risks of Marijuana Use

First off, although recreational use is legal in Colorado and Washington, marijuana is still against Federal law. The Feds are very good about not prosecuting users, but if you're going to transport it across state lines, Border Patrol will happily seize both your stash and your medical card. If you give them attitude, they'll detain you for laughs, so try to keep that in mind.

Speaking of marijuana cards, it's not well-known, but obtaining a medical marijuana card disqualifies you from nearly every major health insurance provider in the country. Marijuana is as medicinal as whiskey, and if you're going to put yourself on a list of known drug users, do so at your own risk. Obamacare won't help you either.

DARE to Experiment

Overall, marijuana has its uses, and I highly recommend trying it out. When you enter a dispensary, you can tell them exactly how you want to feel (de-stress, happy, comfortable, etc), and you'll be given a variety of options. Marijuana is no longer that shadowy gateway drug – in fact it's less dangerous than opiates, Xanax, and other widely-abused prescription drugs in the U.S. If you're looking to dip your toe into the waters and join the millions of artists, musicians, businessmen and authors of this site in toking up, put your lighter in the air and live like a Beatle.

--Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, writer, consultant, and troll. He's a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, Lifehack, Money Side of Life, and other outlets around the web.