When it comes to cannabis consumption, the second-most important consideration, after the flower itself, is the delivery method. This point is often overlooked, as evidenced by the prevalence of consumers who have limited their experimentation to only one or two methods. If you find yourself within this category but aspire to become a comprehensive cannabis aficionado, let this be your checklist. Gaining the mental and physical benefits of cannabis is largely dependent upon how it’s consumed, with each method providing a unique experience and host of effects. Who knows — you could find a new favorite. Let the exploration begin!
There are three basic delivery methods: inhalation, oral, and topical. Under these umbrella methods are various techniques that serve unique functions, each appropriate for different occasions.
Inhalation Delivery Methods
When cannabis is inhaled, the gases enter the lungs before absorbing into the bloodstream. There are currently two prevalent types of inhalation methods: smoking and vaporization.
Different Ways of Smoking Cannabis
This ancient custom is the method most commonly associated with cannabis, and there are many different ways for consumers to smoke. Advances in vaporization technology, however, have offered smokers an alternative method with fewer health concerns. The effects associated with smoking are widely debated, but health professionals are in agreement that smoke-free methods pose less risk and are medically preferred.
When you inhale cannabis, all the active compounds, including THC, are absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs. The time between inhalation and the compounds hitting your brain is almost immediate, making it the go-to for cannabis users looking for a near-instant high.
There are two main ways to inhale cannabis: smoking and vaping.
Smoking is one of the most well-known consumption methods. When you smoke cannabis, you’re lighting cannabis flower and inhaling the smoke.
There are a variety of ways to smoke cannabis flower.
- Pipes: Pipes are small, compact, and easy-to-use, making them one of the most popular devices for smoking cannabis. To use a pipe, add the cannabis to the bowl-shaped area at one end (known as “packing a bowl”) and light. Smoke travels through the pipe’s chamber and exits through the mouthpiece, where you inhale.
- Water pipes: Water pipes, including bongs and bubblers, work similarly, but the smoke is filtered through water held in a chamber. The water cools down the smoke, creating a smoother inhalation experience.
- Joints: If pipes aren’t your style, consider joints as an alternative. Joints are created by rolling cannabis into rolling papers — similar to a cannabis cigarette, before lighting one end and inhaling through the other.
- Blunts: Blunts are similar to joints, only they use cigar paper instead of rolling papers. Usually, a cigar is hollowed out and the tobacco replaced with weed but you can buy blunt wraps. Blunts are also typically larger and contain more cannabis than joints.
Vaping is another inhalation method that’s gained popularity with recent advances in technology. Vaping involves using a device to heat either cannabis flower or concentrate to right below the point of combustion, which ranges between 356 and 374 degrees Fahrenheit. This transforms the active compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes, into vapor, which is then inhaled.
Vapor doesn’t release the same tar or carcinogens that are created when you burn flower, which many believe makes vaping a healthier alternative to smoking.
There are a few different ways to vape cannabis.
- Vaporizers: Vaporizers can be used with both concentrate and flower. Add the cannabis to a heating chamber, adjust the temperature, and inhale the vapor through the mouthpiece. Vaporizers come in both tabletop versions, which need a solid surface to stand on, and portable versions.
- Vape pens: Vape pens are specifically designed for oils or distillates. As the name implies, they typically look like pens. These devices are made up of a cartridge, which contains the cannabis oil or distillate, and a battery, which provides the heat. Make sure you buy vape pens from a legal, reputable dispensary, as illegal, off-label vapes have been linked to lung disease.
- Dabbing: Dabbing is a 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.
- Edibles: When you ingest a cannabis-infused beverage, baked good, or gummy the cannabinoids are absorbed through the digestive tract. Because of this, edibles have a delayed onset, between 20 minutes and three hours. Edibles are one of the most straightforward consumption methods out there. Just eat or drink, swallow, and wait for the effects to kick in.
- Tinctures: Created by steeping cannabis in alcohol, tinctures are absorbed through the blood vessels under the tongue (sublingually). To get the full effect, put a few drops of the tincture under your tongue and hold it there, allowing the cannabis to absorb. Then swallow the remaining liquid. Any cannabinoids not absorbed sublingually will be absorbed through the digestive tract. The dual absorption locations mean tinctures taken sublingually can have rapid onset of effects as well as another onset later, like an edible.
What is THC?
THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid found in both marijuana and hemp plant. In marijuana, however, it’s more abundant. THC, unlike CBD, can cause a person to get “high” when consumed. The science behind this psychoactive effect is that THC activates the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid is a system of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the central nervous system and throughout the body These receptors alter the brain signaling process which influences concentration, appetite, and many more of the body’s operating systems.
THC, for example, binds onto CB1 receptors, which are consequential in that it has an effect on cognitive functioning such as attention span, the formation of memories and the coordination of movements. It also activates the reward system in the brain which in some cases can cause a surge in dopamine levels which induce an intense biological response that leads to a decrease in pain, nausea and more.
Now that you have a better understanding of marijuana and how THC works, here’s a look at some of the ways to consume cannabis.