Choosing the Right Cannabis Consumption Method for You
We have all evolved beyond the bong. As more cannabusinesses have been approved to operate in different states around the country, the country has seen a drastic increase in the types of cannabis products available. While smoking may be the most popular, there are a variety of alternative ways to use cannabis both medically and recreationally. The effect, duration, and onset time vary slightly with each consumption method. Many can be combined for synergistic, sustained relief. The correct consumption method for you will be a matter of desired effect, intensity, duration, and personal preference.
The easiest and most common way consume cannabis requires little more than a vessel and a lighter. You can pack the cannabis into a pipe, roll it into a joint, or load it into a bong. Smoking cannabis involves inhaling the smoke released by the heated flowers or concentrate.
Smoking is popular because its easy and requires little more than a vessel and a lighter.
When smoking cannabis, the effects can be felt almost instantly and last from 90 minutes to 3+ hours depending on the individual, cannabinoid content, and potency of the strain. Because of the minimal onset time associated with smoking cannabis, dosage control is easy relative to other consumption methods. The downside is the potential for minor irritation of the respiratory system.
A vaporizer is a device that heats cannabis buds and/or concentrates to 315-440°F (157-227°C), which causes the cannabinoids stored in the plant’s trichomes to evaporate into a gas without combusting any plant material. For reference, the boiling point of THC is generally accepted to be between 315°F (157°C) and 392°F (200°C). All other major non-psychoactive cannabinoids evaporate between 320°F (160°C) and 428°F (220°C).
Vaping provides immediate, controllable, and concentrated relief without the combustion of plant material.
The effects of vaporizing cannabis are felt almost instantly which makes dosage control easy. The cannabinoid-rich (up to 95%) vapor is free of tar and carcinogens, which is beneficial for those looking to avoid potential lung and respiratory irritation. As a bonus, many users prefer taste of vaporized cannabis to that of the combusted flower.
Edibles and Ingestible Oils
As the availability of medical and recreational cannabis has increased, so has the popularity of edibles (cannabis infused food and drink). The selection of cannabis infused food and drink is constantly expanding with dispensaries selling everything from medicated sodas to savory snacks. For those living in less tolerant states, you can make your own at home with surprising ease. Essentially any recipe that calls for oil or butter can be infused with cannabis. In the edible preparation process, the cannabinoids are combined with lipids (fats) and decarboxylated (heated) converting them from their acid forms into their activated states. The activated oil can also be ingested in pill form.
Edibles are ideal for those seeking sustained, strong relief throughout the day and don’t mind a delayed onset.
The effects associated with ingested cannabis last much longer than the other consumption methods (anywhere from 4 to 8+ hours) and can be significantly more intense. This is because THC, the primary psychoactive component of cannabis, is converted to the more psychoactive 11-hydroxy-THC by the liver. This compound is approximately 5 to 10 times stronger than the original THC. Smoked/vaporized cannabis does not have the same effect as it does not pass through the liver. For those looking to avoid the ‘high’ associated with THC-infused edibles, I recommend high CBD edibles or juicing raw cannabis.
The downside to edibles is the delayed onset time, which can take anywhere from 20 to 90+ minutes. Onset time is directly related to digestive process – eating them on an empty stomach results in a faster processing and vice versa. The combination of delayed onset and variable potency make dosage control more challenging. For more on recommended edible dosages, click here.
A tincture is a liquid cannabis concentrate derived through alcohol extraction. Tinctures were once the most common form of medicinal cannabis in the United States, prior to their prohibition in 1937. Tinctures are typically administered sublingually – a few drops of the cannabinoid-rich liquid under the tongue is often a sufficient starting dose. Tinctures are available in a variety of potencies, cannabinoid profiles, and flavors.
Tinctures provide a rapid delivery without utilizing the lungs and allow for consistent dosing.
One major benefit to tinctures is the rapid onset relative to orally ingested edibles. The solution is absorbed by the arterial blood supply under the tongue within seconds. The mucosa lining inside the entire mouth and the tongue itself also play a role in the absorption process. The effects will be felt within roughly 15 minutes, allowing for easier dose control (relative to edibles). That said, try to leave the tincture under your tongue for as long as possible before swallowing – maximizing quick absorption to the bloodstream as opposed to processing through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, for those desiring the edible-effect, tinctures can be added to your favorite drink.
The transdermal patch works just like a nicotine patch, delivering cannabinoids straight to the bloodstream over time. After applying the patch to a venous part of the body, one can expect sustained relief that lasts from 6 to 8+ hours. Because delivery to the bloodstream is very efficient, transdermal patches require much smaller dosages relative to edibles.
Patches deliver consistent, fast-acting, and long-lasting relief with less frequent medication.
The patches are available in a variety of potencies and cannabinoid profiles, both psychoactive and non-psychoactive. The onset associated with transdermal patches is typically quicker (15-60 minutes) than can be expected with oral ingestion.
Topicals are cannabinoid infused lotions, salves, balms, sprays, oils, and creams. Topicals are applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain and inflammation, making them perfect for treating muscle, joint, and surface-oriented pain.
Recommended for treatment of localized muscle, joint, and surface-oriented pain and inflammation.
One other benefit of topicals is that they are completely non-psychoactive. Topicals have been especially helpful in treating those with arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis.
Dabbing refers to the process of dropping a dose of cannabis concentrate onto a heated water pipe attachment (known as a nail) and inhaling. Most commonly the nails are made from titanium, quartz, or ceramic materials. Dabbing differs from vaporization in that the cannabis concentrate is heated to a much higher temperature (anywhere from 500-900+°F). Thus, depending on the temperature of the nail, the heated concentrated can teeter the line between vaporization and combustion (the debate continues on this) – I like to think of dabbing as a form of flash vaporization. Did you know you can safely make your own dabs at home?
Dabbing provides nearly instant relief with intensely powerful effects.
The intense effects associated with dabbing concentrates can be felt almost instantly. Dabbing at lower temperatures produces more of a vapor than a smoke. Additionally, dabbing properly refined concentrates is a clean, flavorful experience free of plant material. Because dabbing utilizes highly concentrated cannabis extracts, it is not suggested for the novice consumer. Need to know how much you should dab? I can help!
Another popular technique making the rounds on Instagram is called twaxing, and involves combining cannabis concentrates with your rolled joints or blunts. By adding BHO or similar concentrates, you can dramatically increase the potency of a small joint, making it more suitable for sharing in a larger group. As you may imagine, this technique is also not for the novice consumer.
Managing Your Cannabis
Many people combine consumption methods for synergistic relief. For example: you might smoke a joint for immediate anxiety relief and eat an edible for sustained sedative benefits before a long flight. Of course, this just means more stuff, and I understand that you may not always be able to medicate within the comfort of your own home. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean that transporting your stash has to be a pain. Learn how to organize all the moving parts and condense them into a compact, smell-proof travel case that’s ready for all of life’s adventures.
- There is a general trade off between onset time and relief period
- It is always easier to supplement with a rapid onset consumption method
- Many consumption methods are complimentary, working together for sustained relief