Until recent years marijuana users would primary smoking the herb through rolled joints, bongs, pipes or if large quantities of pot could be acquired, users could make weed brownies. But there wasn’t much variety beyond that. Now, thanks to the rapid acceptance of medical marijuana there are a whole host of ways to take in cannabis.
There are four primary methods for marijuana to get into the body: inhaling combusted cannabis, digesting it, taking it sublingually (under the tongue) and transdermal (absorbing it through the skin). Depending on the user’s preferred method, there are a multitude of methods and devices to administer the medical cannabis supplement into the body.
Beyond weed brownies: Ways to use medical marijuana
Vaping is the inhalation of vaporized marijuana buds, cannabis oil or cannabis concentrates through a pen-like device. The heating element is powered by a removable battery that is usually rechargeable through a USB connector (very handy to charge via your laptop!). Vape pens range in prices from inexpensive to “are you serious?” expensive, but vaping enthusiasts will attest the power and longevity of the more intricate and pricey vaping device.
Vape pens are best for the seasoned marijuana user as the can be quite potent and controlling the amount of intake isn’t as easy as other methods. Still, the simple vape pens most dispensaries are carrying are a good choice for the new medical patient, as they aren’t quite a powerful with a much smaller battery and battery life.
Cannabis oil is a concentrated extract of the marijuana plant that can be THC dominant, a mixture of THC and CBD (recommended for maximum effectiveness) or just CBD oil that can be administered by vaping (see above!) or sublingual via an eye dropper in the bottle of oil. The oil can also be added to drinks or other foods but this depends on the type of oil and what is recommended by the manufacturer or dispensary selling it.
Watch out for “hemp-derived oil” as this does not come from the marijuana plant. While the hemp plant does have the CBD component, it is not a potent as marijuana-derived oil and since hemp does not have THC hemp oil misses the CBD+THC synergy.
Space cake and weed brownies have almost a cult following since they were the primary edibles associated with pot until the rapid expansion of medical marijuana. Now just about anything you can imagine eating has a cannabis-infused counterpart. Edibles are digested in the stomach and synthesized with the human body in the liver, gradually getting the user high but keeping them high longer than smoking or vaping.
Edibles come in gummies, candies, gum, chocolates, taffy, cookies, lollipops and even cereal bars and beef jerky! New medical MJ patients beware: edibles have a powerful effect and will “creep up” on you. Start with very low amounts of THC (10 mgs or less) and gradually increase dose until you find your happy spot.
A versatile edible worthy of individual attention is cannabutter. Users can either make or buy cannabis-infused butter to spread on bread (though not too tasty) or use it in cookies, cakes and other baked goodies to get a slow and steady intake of medical cannabis. The active components in marijuana are absorbed into fatty agents well making dairy-based butter a perfect host of the extracted cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenoids from the plant.
Keep any used cannabutter refrigerated in an airtight container and if you have co-inhabitants or children in the home - mark the container!
Cannabis energy drinks
Another cannabis product that is ingested into the body are cannabis-infused drinks and particularly popular are cannabis energy drinks. Though the CBD-to-THC ratio in medical marijuana is changing, it is still THC-dominant with for some MMJ patients can make them feel tired or fatigued.
Be careful that your energy drink isn’t too heavy on sugar or caffeine; better would be a better combination of cannabinoid, flavonoid and terpenoid to would keep users from getting too tired. Energy drinks with natural additives for energy like ginseng, guarana and/or ginkgo are the healthiest choice.
Move over over-the-counter pain medication, cannabis-infused topical lotions and creams are here! Cannabis has been used for pain management for centuries and are quickly becoming the go-to product for reducing inflammation, aches and pain because the pack such a power pain-fighting punch without the side effects that most OTC pain medications do. Topicals also don’t get you high which makes them a great choice for athletes and those not wanting the psychoactive feeling that vaping, edible and smoking weed can produce.
With the expansion of medical MJ in the United States, manufacturers are creating a variety of easy-to-use creams and lotions that can even help relieve superficial rashes and irritations of the skin.
Concentrated cannabis comes in a variety of forms including hash oil, shatter, wax, hashish and live resin and are administered primarily by inhaling the vapors or smoke from the pot product having been heated at high temperatures. The main differences between the various types of concentrates is how the desired cannabinoids are extracted (for example CO2, alcohol or butane) from what parts of the plant (stalk, stem or whole leaf) and the texture of the product (solid, pliable, oil-like or even liquid).
Because of their sticky nature, the best way to use concentrates is by dabbing which is heating smaller pieces of the product through a special kind of water pipe known as a “rig”. Think of dabbing rigs like an advanced model of a high-quality bong. While an entire series of blog posts can be written on dabbing and dab rigs alone, for introductory purposes dabbing tends to be the choice of season marijuana users.
As mentioned above, concentrated cannabis come in many varieties and one kind that warrants a special shout-out are tinctures. Taking orally, cannabis tinctures are alcohol-extracted concentrates that have been used for centuries and are now regaining their popularity. This is primarily because tinctures are easy to administer (you can add them to drinks, foods, recipes and even take them sublingually under the tongue) and the doses are easily controlled as most tinctures come in small bottles with an eye dropper cap that allows patients to drop as little as one drop to help them find the dosage that’s right for them.
Smoking joints, bongs and pipes
For decades using marijuana has primarily been used by smoking the herb in paper-rolled joints, through water pipes and bongs, and through regular steel pipes (we can thank Cheech & Chong, Jeff Spicoli and The Dude for teaching us all the different ways to smoke weed!). For medical users, smoking pot may not be the most preferred way to use as it involves the combustion of the weed (creating a loss of cannabinoid strength) and inhaling into the lungs (not great for the respiratory system).
Other things to consider when smoking marijuana is the smell is very noticable, rolling joints is not easy and cleaning pipes and bongs can be stick and messy even with cleaning solutions that are made especially for the task.
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We could (and might!) write an entire blog article on each of these methods, but this introduction to the different ways to consume cannabis is a good place to start, especially for new users. As always, for patients with access to a medical marijuana dispensary asking the bud tender caregivers will help you find the method that is best for you and the condition you are treating.