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The Different Ways to Smoke and Consume Cannabis

Long gone are the days when cannabis belonged exclusively in a rolling paper. Now, there are many different ways to consume cannabis, all with varying effects on the user. Explore the different ways to consume cannabis and how each one differs from the next.

The many varying accounts of cannabis experiences and how they differ from person to person can largely be credited to the different methods of consumption. Ultimately, no two methods of consumption deliver the same experience and this is why different people prefer different methods. The point is that cannabis is much more than something that exclusively belongs in a joint or a bong. 

Different methods of consumption can have different cerebral effects, physical effects, and reach different parts of the body for medical treatment. These are fundamentally the things to consider when choosing a method of consumption. For many consumers, there is a “favorite” or “preferred” way to ingest cannabinoids, but there is some joy in experimenting with the different ways the cannabis industry has to offer.

The traditional way: inhalation

A woman smoking a joint

The first and most common way to consume cannabis is the inhalation method. Whether it is smoking or vaping, inhalation is the fastest way to deliver cannabinoids to the brain and body. The effect is felt virtually instantly, and this is probably one of the reasons that people love the inhalation method so much. 

Cannabis can be smoked in a rolling paper, in a pipe or in a bong. Different ones deliver different kinds of highs. For example, smoking a bong generally delivers a strong hit of cannabis fast. A joint, on the other hand, is generally seen as a more social way to consume cannabis with friends. 

Vaping is relatively new to the cannabis industry. Cannabinoids are dissolved into a liquid suitable for vaporizing in an electronic device, and inhaled as vapor rather than smoke. This is considered a healthier way to “smoke” cannabis, as nothing needs to be combusted.

In general, the inhalation method works well for those who need relief fast, as the effects are felt immediately. This is ideal in cases of extreme and sudden pain, sudden onset of anxiety or perhaps to induce sleepiness.

The psychedelic way: edibles

Home-made cookies infused with cannabis

When cannabis is consumed in edible form, it takes much longer to take effect and often, the effects last much longer and are much more psychedelic than smoking. Unlike the inhalation method, in order for cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream after eating cannabis they must pass through the digestive system. This means that edibles can take up to 2 hours to take effect, but the effects can be felt for up to 12 hours, depending on dosage.

In fact, with edibles dosing is quite difficult. Many are compelled to take more during the onset period as it can take unusually long times for edibles to take effect, especially in a person with slower metabolism. The result can be taking too much, after which it is impossible to go back. The user simply has to wait for the effects to wear off. 

The delayed onset is not such a huge problem for those who don’t mind waiting. Plus, for those who want to treat intestinal problems or gut problems with cannabis, eating is the optimum mode of delivery. Edibles are a great delivery method for pain management too, as the effects are long-lasting.

The new age way: dabbing

A dabbing device

Dabbing is a form of cannabis consumption not for the lighthearted. There is almost no stronger hit from cannabis as dabbing. This is the method of delivery required for consuming cannabis concentrates like wax and shatter.

The concentrate is consumed through a dabbing rig. The bowl of the dabbing rig is usually made out of quartz or borosilicate glass, as it needs to withstand very high temperatures. The bowl is heated using a blow torch, after which the concentrate is put in the bowl. Vapor is created and then inhaled through the mouthpiece of the rig, which looks a lot like a bong. 

It is not uncommon for people to end up in coughing fits after dabbing, especially if they are new to the charade. Concentrates contain up to 85% THC, making them extremely powerful methods of delivery. Dabbing is often used as a recreational form of cannabis consumption, although it can be used medicinally in circumstances of chronic pain, anxiety or insomnia.

The medicinal way: sublingual application

A cannabis flower and a cannabis-oil dropper

Cannabis oils and tinctures are specially designed to be absorbed sublingually. This means dropping some tincture or oil under the tongue, where it is absorbed through the aqueous tissue layers of the mouth. Effects are felt within 30 minutes of consumption.

Many consumers of cannabis oil and tincture are medical marijuana consumers. This is one of the healthiest and least invasive ways of consuming cannabis. Although the same can be said of edibles, they often contain copious amounts of refined sugar, which generally isn’t conducive to health and wellbeing. For that reason, medical customers often opt for cannabis oils and tinctures.

Cannabis transdermal patches

Transdermal patches have been used in the medical industry for the better part of the last 40 years, although they have only become a part of the cannabis industry more recently. Transdermal patches are applied to the skin, whereby they continue to deliver cannabinoids into the skin. The cannabinoids eventually penetrate the skin, allowing a slow and steady stream of cannabinoids to pass through the blood.

Often, this form of cannabis ingestion is chosen for the continuous delivery of cannabinoids. A dose is not taken all in one hit, but rather, it is taken over the many hours that the patch rests on the skin. This is ideal for those who deal with chronic pain daily, as well as those who use cannabinoids as a sleep aid. 

Cannabis topical and cannabis suppository

A cannabis-infused topical cream

Although cannabis topical application and suppositories are not technically methods of consumption, they are different ways that cannabis can be consumed. However, these methods do not include ingesting cannabis, and typically, the effects are localized. 

Cannabis lotions and creams all fall under the umbrella of “cannabis topicals”. They are applied to the skin for localized treatment. Unlike transdermal patches, cannabis topicals do not allow cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream. They provide localized treatment only. 

Suppositories, on the other hand, are applied rectally or vaginally. Generally, this is not a recreational way to consume cannabis, but rather a very direct medical way. Rectal suppositories can be used to treat intestinal issues or stomach problems, while vaginal suppositories can be used to treat menstrual pain. While there have been certain reports of slight intoxication from rectal suppositories, they generally don’t have a cerebral effect. 

Perhaps one of the most mysterious things about cannabis is that it can be consumed in so many ways, for so many different reasons. A single plant, simply by the way it is prepared, can be used to treat a myriad of different ailments. And it can also be used recreationally!