Choosing your preferred cannabis product is the first piece of the puzzle. Next, you have to decide how to consume it.
There are a variety of ways to consume cannabis. The right consumption method is going to depend on the cannabis product you're using and what kind of experience you seek. Generally, consumption methods fall into four categories: inhalation, oral, sublingual, and topical.
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.
There are two main ways to consume cannabis orally.
- 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.
Topical isn't exactly a consumption method, but it is a delivery method, so it's worth mentioning. Topical products allow you to absorb cannabinoids through the skin, where they may provide localized effects for things like pain or muscle soreness. Unlike other consumption methods, you won't experience any psychoactive effects when using topicals.
Choose the consumption method that's right for you
There is a huge variety of consumption methods with no one-size-fits-all solution. The “right” consumption method will depend on the cannabis product, your preferences, and your desired experience. Now that you understand the different consumption methods available, you're armed with the information to choose the right consumption method for you.