Choosing your favorite cannabis product is just one piece to the pot puzzle: now you have to decide your preferred method of consumption.
With the continued widespread legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, the legal cannabis market has exploded with options. While you can of course choose to go the traditional route of sparking up a joint, you could also try an infused gummy, tinctures, vapes, and so much more. With such an array of products to choose from, many of us aren’t sure what method is going to be the most effective to get the results we want.
This may seem like an overwhelming task, but we’re here to take the guesswork out of the cannabis conundrum with our Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Consumption.
First rule of thumb: The right consumption method is going to depend on the cannabis product you’ve chosen and what kind of experience you seek. Generally speaking, consumption methods fall into four categories: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical — so let’s take a closer look at each.
Perhaps the most traditional method of consumption, inhalation essentially describes any product that must pass through your lungs to feel the effects of cannabis.
When you inhale marijuana, all the active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes), including psychoactive THC, are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. The time between inhalation and the compounds hitting your brain is almost instant, making it the ideal go-to for cannabis lovers looking for the effects to kick in quickly.
There are two main ways to inhale cannabis: smoking and vaping.
When we talk about smoking cannabis, we’re describing the process of lighting cannabis flower with some form of combustion (usually a lighter or hemp wick) and inhaling the smoke. There are also a variety of ways in which you can enjoy a smooth smoking experience.
- Pipes: Pipes are generally small, compact, and approachable smoking accessories that are typically made of glass or silicon. With their portability and ease of use, pipes are some of the most popular devices for smoking cannabis. To use a pipe, grind up some flower (or carefully break it down with your hands), add the cannabis to the bowl-shaped area at one end (often referred to as “packing a bowl”), and light. Smoke travels through the pipe’s hollow chamber and exits through the mouthpiece, where you inhale sweet cannabis relief.
- Water pipes: Water pipes, which include bongs and bubblers, work similarly to the pipes above, but the smoke is filtered through water held in a chamber. The water cools down the smoke as it travels, creating a smoother and more enjoyable inhalation.
- Joints: If pipes simply aren’t your style, consider trying a paper alternative, like joints. Similar to a cannabis cigarette, joints are made by rolling cannabis into specially designed rolling papers, before lighting one end and inhaling through the other. Pro tip: Make a filter on one end to protect your lips from the heat!
- Blunts: Similar to joints, blunts traditionally use cigar paper instead of rolling papers. Usually, a cigar is sliced open, hollowed out, and then the tobacco is replaced with weed but you can also buy blunt wraps to avoid this messy situation. There are even hemp varieties now that don’t involve any tobacco. Cannabis users love blunts because they are typically larger and contain more cannabis than joints — it’s a win-win for everyone.
Quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to smoke, vaping is another inhalation method that involves using a device to heat either cannabis flower or concentrate to a sweet spot right below the point of combustion. This transforms the active compounds, into vapor, which is then inhaled and absorbed through your lungs.
Just like smoking, there are also a number of ways to vape cannabis.
- Vaporizers: Vaporizers are versatile in that they can be used with both cannabis concentrate and flower. They’re also incredibly easy to use: Just add the cannabis to a heating chamber, adjust the temperature as needed, and inhale the vapor through the mouthpiece. Vaporizers come in both tabletop versions, which need a solid surface to stand on, and portable versions for easy smoking on the go.
- Vape pens: Specifically designed for cannabis oils and distillates, vape pens are typically slim portable devices that look similar to an everyday pen — hence the name vape pens. These gadgets are made up of a cartridge, which contains the oil or distillate, and a battery, which provides the heat. As always, make sure you buy vape pens from a legal, reputable dispensary, like Jars, as illegal, off-label vapes are rampant on the illicit market and have been tied to potentially hazardous health issues.
- Dabbing: Dabbing is another method of vaporizing cannabis concentrate using a dab rig, which entails heating a glass, ceramic, or titanium “nail” and applying the concentrate directly to the hot surface, which turns it into vapor for consumption. Beginners beware: Dabbing is usually reserved for veteran smokers or someone that needs intense relief as cannabis concentrates are incredibly potent.
If smoking is not your thing, you may want to try orally ingesting cannabis to get your desired effects. There are generally two ways that you can consume weed orally:
- Edibles: Edibles have been around for centuries and are one of the most straightforward cannabis consumption methods on the market today. Simply eat or drink, swallow, and wait for the weed to work its magic — which may take a while. When you ingest a cannabis-infused beverage, baked good, or gummy the cannabinoids must be absorbed through the digestive tract. As a result, edibles have a delayed onset, anywhere between 20 minutes and three hours. That being said, the effects can also last longer than smoking so be careful to dose yourself properly. The golden rule is to start low and go slow.
- Tinctures: Unlike edibles that must pass through your digestive tract, tinctures are absorbed through the blood vessels under the tongue (sublingually). To get the full effect, place a few drops of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there for a few seconds, allowing the cannabis to absorb. If any liquid remains, just swallow it down as this allows for any cannabinoids not absorbed sublingually to be absorbed through the digestive system, like an edible. The dual absorption points mean that tinctures taken sublingually can have a rapid onset of effects (about 20 minutes) as well as a second-round hours later, so again, be mindful of your dosing.
While topicals are more of a delivery method rather than consumption, they are still important to note for their ability to deliver targeted results. Topical products allow you to absorb cannabinoids through the skin (the skin is our largest organ after all), where they may provide localized effects for things like joint pain, muscle soreness, and minor inflammation. Unlike other consumption methods, it is unlikely that you will experience any psychoactive effects with topicals, just pure relief.
Just like snowflakes, each and every one of us is different. What may work for your body, may not work for someone else, so choose what works best for you and your lifestyle. Establish your goals, do your research, and use this handy Beginner’s Guide to Cannabis Consumption to help lead you in the right direction for success.
If you still have questions about what products might work for you, comment below, visit us in-store, or give us a call any time! We’re kind of like your friendly neighbor — but with weed.