Your Comprehensive Cannabis Consumption Guide
If you've made it this far I'm sure you already know that Cannabis is a naturally growing plant that has been used for its medicinal properties and psychoactive effects since ancient times. Cannabinoids are the compounds unique to the cannabis plant that produce a wide range of health benefits and changes in consciousness when ingested. In addition to the cannabinoids, terpenes are also responsible for the wide variety of effects experienced when using cannabis. Cannabinoids and terpenes are secreted by trichomes, small glandular structures that cover the flowers of female Cannabis plants. Cannabinoids and terpenes bind to receptors in your body, which is what produces these different effects. Our mission when consuming cannabis is to harness the benefits specific to our needs in the most efficient manner possible.
There are many different ways to consume cannabis that will produce a variety of experiences depending on the user's expectations, setting, state of mind, etc. Choosing which method is right for you is based on your own personal experience and/or cannabis health conditions. Comparing methods can be challenging because at this point in legalization you may find the options overwhelming, gone are the days of asking your dealer for "weed". As this blog post is meant to serve as a comprehensive Cannabis consumption guide, we will break down each method for you here.
Inhalation is the most common method of consuming cannabis, and is by far the simplest. Cannabis smoke enters your lungs and dissipates into the bloodstream in a matter of seconds, and THC and other cannabinoids enter your bloodstream through your lungs and the onset of psychoactive effects is rapid because there isn't any digestion time needed to absorb THC. Due to the quick onset of effects smoking marijuana is beneficial for those looking for more immediate relief of symptoms, or who want to achieve effects quickly.
There are several different ways to inhale cannabis. Cannabis flower, extracts, and concentrates can all be consumed through each of these methods.
The most common method of consuming cannabis smoking can include joints, blunts, pipes, bongs. Cannabis flower is placed into the smoking device of your preference and then lit on fire - back to the basics. as mentioned above, the onset of effects are rapid because there isn't any digestion time needed to absorb THC.
When picking rolling papers for your joints make sure they are made of natural materials. Rolling papers that are made with synthetic fibers or bleached paper may contain chemicals that you don't want to inhale in conjunction with cannabis smoke.
Anytime you are combusting and inhaling dried flower there is an inherent risk to the lungs. The benefits of smoking is that it has an immediately apparent effect; unlike edibles or tinctures which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to take effect.
Vaporizing cannabis involves hearing the cannabinoids and terpenes to the extent that they volatilize without the need of direct heat. A heating element inside a vaping device heats up either dried flower or an extract to a temperature where cannabinoid and terpene volatilization begins, but where combustion does not occur. Because combustion is avoided this limits material released into your respiratory system. Vaporizers can work with dry herbs or oil extracts and concentrates.
One of the most efficient means to consuming cannabinoids, dabbing is a method of smoking concentrated cannabinoids by heating a surface to hot enough temperatures that cannabinoids evaporate in an aerosolized form. The heating element can be either a butane or propane blow torch or heated electrically with an e-nail. The cannabinoids are collected in a quartz, titanium, or ceramic dish which is commonly referred to as a "nail." When a "dab" is placed on the hot nail, vaporization occurs and the vapor then passes through a water pipe prior to you breathing it in. Using concentrates means that there are fewer impurities involved, leading to a cleaner smoke and passing through the water also facilitates cooling prior to entering your lungs for a smooth draw.
Dabbing can provide an intense high that's quick acting and lasts for a while.
Water pipes, also known as bongs, are smoke-filtering devices. Most water pipes consist of a chamber (often plastic or glass) that is filled with water; this design allows smoke to be filtered through the water before inhalation. Other features include percolators (commonly used in bongs), which diffuse smoke through tiny holes. Percolators work by creating little smoke bubbles which, when they hit the surface of the water, smoke is filtered through the small holes. While the jury is still out on how effective the water is as a filter - seriously, I looked for the studies - using a water pipe certainly cools down the smoke and can lead to a more smooth smoke. Anecdotally, I find my hits are larger because of the smooth smoke and I get more stoned from bongs than pipes due to this.
Benefits: Water filtration that cools smoke before inhalation; ability to create large smoke bubbles for greater smoke diffusion
Problems: Difficult to use discreetly due to conspicuous smoke cloud, difficult to clean
This is another popular method of cannabis consumption, especially for those that are off put by the concept of inhalation. Various methods also allow for high precision dosing that cannot be achieved with smoking or vaporizing. With legalization cannabis product offerings for cannabis edibles, beverages, and oils have exploded. You will feel the effects of edibles slower than smoking or vaporizing. If you want a longer lasting dose ingesting may be the route to take.
From experience if you're starting with edibles start low and go slow, you can always have more but it's much more difficult to have less. The majority of stories I hear with regards to having an uncomfortable experience with edibles revolve around someone (me) eating edibles, doubling down because of the delayed effects, and then having the first dose kick in when it's too late. Remember, when taking too much cannabis it can be an uncomfortable experience but the physical overdose limit for cannabis is so high you should never practically hit it - I'm only using "should" because I feel the need to from a legality perspective.... It's really, really, really high.
Edible cannabis refers to any food or drink infused with cannabinoids. Edibles provide a longer lasting "high" compared to smoking flower because THC binds with fat molecules, making them unable to enter the blood stream until it has been processed by the liver. Prior to ingesting any cannabis product it must first be activated through decarboxylation, which is the chemical process that converts THCA into THC. Homemade edibles are typically made with cannabutter (cannabis infused butter) or oil, but may also include any number of other recipes that call for "cannabis cooking" or cannaoil. Chocolates, gummies, candies, mints, and baked goods are the most common forms that your local dispensary will offer.
An oil and a sublingual is the same thing, however an oil is typically consumed orally whereas a sublingual is placed under your tongue. Oils and sublingual's can provide a very accurate dosage, which can be beneficial for medical patients. Edibles have a delayed onset of action and the effects may take anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour to begin appearing.
- Consumed orally, healthier alternative to smoking.
- Provides a very accurate dosage for users with specific needs.
- Delayed onset of action may create issues with timing dosing throughout the day.
A topical is a cannabis-infused lotion, oil, or salve that is absorbed through the skin to the underlying tissue and/or muscle. Topicals are used to treat localized pain and discomfort. While topical products can also include psychoactive cannabinoids, however they are typically low in concentration and will have less noticeable effects. Transdermal patches are infused bandages that deliver localized relief of pain and inflammation. They can be used throughout the day without having to worry about the "mind-altering" effects of traditional topicals or edibles.
Topical cannabis products are ideal for new comers and those individuals who desire localized relief but don't want to consume psychoactive cannabinoids. These product offerings are great for all cannabis consumers but especially those that still fear the stigma around cannabis but would like to get their foot in the door and try it out.
*effects vary by localized area being treated and potency of topical, but will typically include localized relief from pain, inflammation, or muscle spasms.
The many different types of topicals include:
- Body lotions and oils
- Muscle and joint rubs
- Sports creams and ointments
- Pain and inflammation balms and creams
The cannabis purchasing experience can be daunting, especially for new consumers. If you have any questions, make sure to check community reviews on the Instaleaf platform or ask your budtender. Keep your mind open to the possibilities and experiment but I encourage implementing the scientific method using observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and refinement. You can keep track of the strains that work well for you and those that don’t using the Instaleaf strain diary on your personal dashboard. Cannabis remains a nascent industry and we all have much to learn about this remarkable plant, the community is better when we work together to better understand the nuances.