Every medical marijuana patient, whatever their reason for choosing this form of treatment, has existing health concerns, environmental considerations, or personal biases that make them more inclined to ingest their marijuana in a certain way. While effects differ slightly depending how you take cannabis, you’re bound to feel the benefits of this healing plant regardless of ingestion.
Here are five of the most popular methods of cannabis consumption.
Smoking is by far the most common way to ingest the cannabinoids within the marijuana plant and is quite simple, requiring little time, effort, or supplies. Smoking uses the marijuana buds dried after harvesting the plant.
People who grow their own cannabis often use the resinous “sugar leaves” that cluster around the buds as well – they can contain equivalent amounts of THC and CBD, the two most prevalent cannabinoids.
Under the canopy of smoking, there are a number of methods:
- Joint and Blunt: involve rolling pieces of bud and/or leaves in cigarette or cigar papers. Joints are generally quite small, while blunts are large and more potent, and usually have tobacco mixed in as well.
- Pipe: small devices generally made of blown glass, pipes are light and portable, and do not require water for ingestion.
- Bong: Bongs are large, handheld devices that use water to filter toxins like carcinogens out of marijuana smoke before it is inhaled. New users must take care not to inhale too much smoke from the large-mouthed opening, as this can be quite painful.
Smoking marijuana produces an immediate effect that fades after about four hours. Despite having fewer dangerous components than cigarettes, ingesting any smoke has an eventual negative effect on the lungs, due to the burnt plant and paper matter you’re breathing in. Unlike cigarettes, most marijuana smoking methods do not utilize a filter to block the larger particles from entering the throat and lungs.
Vaporizing is generally considered a safer way to ingest marijuana. The vapor is created by heating the marijuana to a lower temperature than burning it. This lower heat prevents the toxins and dangerous plant matter within the marijuana from being ingested. This also means more cannabinoids can be ingested from the same amount of cannabis, so vaporizing can mean smaller doses and a stash that lasts longer.
Furthermore, because you are inhaling vapor instead of smoke, vaporizing keeps soot and ash out of the lungs; a buildup of these substances can cause serious respiratory problems.
Choosing a Vaporizer
There are many different vaporizers available. Some are table-top devices, while others are small, handheld “pens” not much larger than a cigar. The larger machines may have different settings that allow you to customize ingestion, while the handheld pens are portable. The need for a specific device means vaporizing can be a more expensive method, initially.
Using a vaporizer removes the side effect of burning in the back of the throat, often experienced with smoking. For this reason, users who are accustomed to smoking often assume the vapor isn’t working. It is important to note that the effects may take a little longer to be felt, so care must be taken not to over-use.
Check out our guest blog post, the Cannabis Vaping Guide, for more information on vaporizing marijuana.
Eating or drinking marijuana is a popular ingestion method for patients using medical marijuana. Butter or oil infused with the plant can be used in any type of food – baked goods are most common – that calls for an oil.
Food infused with marijuana must be somewhat metabolized before beginning to work, so it can take as much as an hour to take effect. This slow breakdown process also means the effects will last longer, often four hours or more. For this reason, over-ingesting is common. This can result in dizziness, lack of focus, and high or low blood pressure. It is important to ingest small doses and increase the dose slowly.
Ingesting marijuana in food generally creates less of that infamous “high”. This is because at the temperatures required for baking, the cannabinoid CBD – known for reducing the psycho-activity and paranoia caused by THC.
Weed tea is another way to ingest marijuana. There are various ways to make this drink, including simply steeping dried buds and leaves in water. Using tinctures, or butters to make latte-style drinks is more common, as THC is not water-soluble, but a simple tea could be useful for a light treatment with little psychoactive effect.
Topical Cannabis Ointments
Buds and flowers of the marijuana plant are made into a wide variety of topical ointments, including lotions, salves, balms, sprays, and oils. Topical treatments are ingested, or absorbed, through the skin can provide relief for psoriasis, arthritis, migraines, and general muscle and joint soreness. This method of treatment may appeal to some patients as there is no resulting “high”.
Marijuana tinctures use the same method used for herbal tinctures for centuries – and were, in fact, the most common way to ingest cannabis until they were banned in 1937. The buds and leaves of the marijuana plant are soaked in alcohol to create a highly concentrated liquid, which can contain all the different cannabinoids present in that particular strain.
Tinctures are relatively easy to make from your own plants, and can be ingested by discreetly dripping under the tongue (sublingually), using as a spray, or mixing into beverages or food. When applied sublingually, they take effect quickly, similar to smoking, and their high concentration must be considered when dosing – a little goes a long way.
Different ingestion methods will work for different medical marijuana patients, depending on their circumstances. Whichever method you choose, be sure to start with a very small dose until you know your own requirements. Over-use of marijuana can result in headaches, dizziness, and other minor side effects.