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Choosing Between Medical Cannabis Consumption Options

A complete overview of methods for consuming medical marijuana products.

Medical marijuana patients are presented with a myriad of options when it comes to methods of consumption, including smokable options, vaporizers, edibles, and even topical applications. It can be overwhelming to decide where to start. The best method of consumption is a personal choice for every patient, and your ideal method may differ from that of others.

Remember to check your local laws. Some states only allow certain methods, like New York, which has banned all smokable forms of medical marijuana in favor of methods like capsules, tinctures, and vape oils. You can find more information about individual state laws HERE.

Below we describe some of the popular ways to consume medical marijuana and discuss their advantages to help you pick the method that works best for you.

Pipes

Marijuana pipes are one of the most straightforward and convenient methods for smoking marijuana available. The most common material for a cannabis pipe is glass, though you can also find other materials like metal or ceramic.

glass bowl marijuana flower

Pipes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but there are a few elements common to all of them. Pipes will have a mouthpiece from which to take your hit, a bowl into which you place your ground cannabis flower, and a stem that goes between the two. Many pipes will have a “carb” or hole that is used to control airflow.

When purchasing your first pipe, it is advisable to go to a brick and mortar store and hold the pipes you like to see if they are comfortable in your hand. Also check the weight of the pipe. Lighter, thinner glass pipes are more likely to break if accidently dropped. Pipes will also come in a number of bowl sizes. Ideally, you will want to buy a bowl size that you can finish in one sitting, though this need not be a deciding factor.

To smoke cannabis flower from your pipe, follow these steps:

  • Pack bowl with desired amount of ground cannabis.
  • Bring pipe to your lips and cover carb with finger.
  • Light cannabis directly with flame while inhaling.
  • Once cannabis is lit, remove flame and continue to inhale.
  • Holding your finger over the carb hole will increase the amount of smoke in your hit.
  • When you finish your hit, remove finger from carb and continue to inhale to clear the pipe’s stem.

Bongs and Bubblers

Working in a similar fashion to pipes, the devices in this section add the benefit of water filtration to cool and clean the smoke. Bongs and bubblers both have a bowl, a chamber for water, and a mouthpiece.

Bubblers are glass pipes that have a chamber for water. Named after the bubbling sound they make when taking a hit, bubblers will be smoked like a glass pipe and provide the added benefits of water filtration.

Bongs are usually larger and cylinder shaped, allowing for a larger hit. Some bongs will have a carb hole like pipes, but many have a slide mechanism allowing you to remove the bowl from the bong. Again, choices abound when choosing a bong or water pipe. The most popular materials are either glass or an acrylic plastic.

To smoke cannabis flower from a bong, follow these steps:

  • Pack bowl with desired amount of ground marijuana.
  • Bring bong to your lips. If there is a carb, cover it with your finger.
  • Light marijuana directly with flame while inhaling.
  • Once marijuana is lit, remove heat. Continue to inhale; this will fill the bong’s chamber with smoke.
  • When the bong’s chamber is full, pull out the bowl or remove your finger from the carb.
  • Inhale deeply to clear the chamber and complete your hit.

Joints and Blunts

Whether pre-rolled from a dispensary or rolled at home, joints and blunts are the most ubiquitous way to consume cannabis. Both joints and blunts wrap marijuana in a smokeable paper to create a cannabis cigarette or cigar.

rolling marijuana joint

Blunts are commonly defined as being rolled in tobacco paper or tobacco leaf. Joint papers, on the other hand, come in wood pulp, hemp, rice, clear cellulose, and even gold leaf. Joints and blunts are smoked like cigarettes by lighting one end and inhaling the smoke from the other end.

Vaporizers

Preferred as a healthier option for consuming marijuana than smoking, vaporizing has taken the cannabis world by storm. Vaporizers heat marijuana flower to the vaporization point of its active compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes. The ideal temperature for vaporization of cannabis flower is about 400° fahrenheit for maximum activation of compounds without combustion. Users can also vaporize cannabis extracts manufactured using cannabis oil. These high potency concentrates offer a smooth, clean experience and allow you to vape less.

Marijuana vaporizers are available as desktop or more portable handheld models. Modern vaporizers offer precise and even heating, smartphone compatibility for customization, and for portable models, longer lasting batteries.

You can find vaporizers for sale in the Medical Marijuana, Inc. store.

Another popular choice in vaporizers are pre-filled atomizer cartridges. Containing cannabis oil with either THC, CBD, or both, these small, discreet vaporizer cartridges screw onto a standard 510 threaded battery and slip easily into your pocket, purse, or laptop bag.

Finally, cannabis concentrates can be vaporized using a specially adapted bong, often called a dab rig. First, a “nail” made of titanium, ceramic, or quartz is heated with a torch. Then, a “dab” of cannabis extract is placed on the hot nail, allowing it to vaporize. The vapor is inhaled through the dab rig and its water to cool the vapor.

Learn more about dabbing from our comprehensive guide.

Edibles

One of the fastest growing types of cannabis products on dispensary shelves right now are edibles. Edibles are any food or drink that have cannabis oil and its active compounds infused into them.

Consumers who prefer cannabis edibles tend to favor them for their stronger, longer lasting effects. Marijuana edibles have to be digested before the compounds can reach the bloodstream, meaning they take longer to take effect. Full effects may take up to two hours to be felt. Because effects take longer to manifest themselves and can be stronger than when marijuana is smoked, it is advised that even experienced cannabis users start with a low dose and slowly work their way up.

The effects of marijuana edibles tend to last between 4 and 12 hours, depending on a few factors, including

  • Your metabolism
  • Your body weight
  • Your edible’s concentration of THC
  • How much of the edible you consume

The days of the simple pot brownie are in the past. The cannabis industry has found a way to add cannabinoids to nearly every food and drink imaginable.

Popular edibles include

  • Baked goods like cookies and brownies
  • Gummy and hard candies
  • Sodas and coffees
  • Chocolate bars
  • Ice cream
  • and more.

It is even possible in some markets to book or attend a special event with cannabis-infused fine dining events.

To learn more about edibles, read our beginner’s guide to cannabis-infused edibles HERE.

Topicals

Finally, cannabis can be found in products meant for external use. Referred to as topicals, these products – including lotions, balms, and salves – are designed to be rubbed into the skin and massaged into muscles and joints for more focused effects where they are needed most.

Because topicals are applied externally on the skin, the active ingredients interact with cannabinoid receptors near the site of application and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Topicals are non-psychoactive, so they are often popular among patients who want the therapeutic effects of cannabis but not the “high”. This non-psychoactivity is because the cannabinoids in these topicals bind to CB2 receptors near the skin, activating the endocannabinoid system.

This minimally invasive method for medical cannabis use often serves as a first point of contact between curious consumers and the medical cannabis industry. Reluctant to ingest or smoke the raw cannabis plant, new users may be more willing to try external applications.

Want to Learn More?

Visit our Cannabis 101 page for more comprehensive information on the cannabis plant, cannabinoids, and other cannabis education or visit our news feed to stay up-to-date with developments in the cannabis industry.

Post by Jeffrey Stamberger

Jeffrey writes media content covering the latest in news, medical research, policy changes, and product education from the cannabis industry.
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