Some Ways to Consume Legal Cannabis are Healthier than Others

Varieties in cannabis consumption

In countries where cannabis is legal, it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, all dependent on the preferences of the individual consumer. According to drugpolicy.org, there are four main ways in which marijuana can be consumed:

  • Inhalation;
  • Oral;
  • Sublingual; and
  • Topical.
These consumption methods come with their benefits and drawbacks. Not all of them are good for you, and some negative effects simply outweigh the positives. Given the current state of today’s cannabis climate, where support for legalisation seems to be a global trend, it’s important to know exactly what your choice of cannabis consumption can do for you, as well as what it can do to you.

Here’s some information about the four main ways to consume cannabis, along with their pros and cons.



1.
 Inhalation

Inhalation is the most common technique used to consume cannabis. When cannabis is inhaled, cannabinoids – the chemical compounds found in cannabis – enter the body through the lungs where they are passed directly into the bloodstream. This results in an almost instantaneous effect.

Under inhalation, there are two main methods, namely smoking and vapourising – also known as vaping.

Smoking involves the combustion (burning) of cannabis to release chemical-laced smoke which is then inhaled to cause psychoactive effects. Cannabis can be smoked traditionally – rolled in paper – or through devices such as bongs and pipes.

Vaping on the other hand involves the inhalation of vapours produced by e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) or vapourisers. Vapourisers are devices which work by heating up a liquid or an oil until vapours are produced. Vaporurisers include vape pens, portable and table-top vapourisers.


Consuming Cannabis through Inhalation Using a Pipe. Source


Pros and Cons of Inhalation

  • Pros
    • Instantaneous effects – When consumed through smoking or vaping, the effects of cannabis are felt almost instantly
    • Consumer Cost Effective – Smoking can be one of the most economical ways to consume weed. All you need is rolling paper and some cannabis and you’re good to go. It is important to note that you can opt to smoke in a manner other than traditional smoking and this can incur more costs – e.g. with a pipe, bong, vapouriser, etc.
  • Cons

    • Harmful Chemicals via Combustion – When cannabis is burned through smoking, it releases chemicals which are known to be harmful to the health. While cannabis itself is not harmful to the health, when it is combusted, chemical reactions occur which produce adverse and harmful substances.
    • Odour – Unlike vaping, smoking leaves a discernible odour which may seem unpleasant to some. Consumers looking to avoid this odour can opt to vape or avoid any form of inhalation with marijuana.



2. Oral

Cannabis can be ingested orally through edibles, oils, capsules and tinctures. Edibles are any items of food, drink, baked or candied goods that are infused with cannabis.

Edibles are predominantly baked items or sweets. These can include cakes, candies, chocolate bars, cookies and brownies. While brownies are the most common form of edibles, almost any food product can be infused with marijuana.

Oils are concentrated extracts of cannabis. These oils can be infused into foods, capsules, tinctures and many other cannabis preparations. When infused into foods and beverages, cannabis oils give a distinct flavour.

Cannabis capsules are small cylindrical or round containers infused with CBD (Cannabidiol) or THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Like regular medication, cannabis capsules are swallowed.

Tinctures are strong liquid concentrates of cannabis. Due to their strong nature, many cannabis consumers opt to infuse their tinctures into foods and drinks.


Cannabis Infused Chocolates. Source


Pros and Cons of Oral Cannabis Consumption

  • Pros
    • Stronger and Longer Effects The effects of cannabis are stronger and longer when cannabis is ingested orally. When ingested, enzymes in the digestive tract convert and release a normally inactive form of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – the chemical responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effects – called Delta-11 THC. Delta-11 THC produces a unique set of psychoactive effects lasting between 2-8 hours, depending on the amount ingested. This is almost double the amount of time the effects of smoking or vaping last.
    • Healthy Alternative to Smoking – Consuming cannabis orally is a much healthier alternative to smoking. This is because harmful substances produced by combustion can be avoided. When cannabis is smoked, certain harmful chemicals are released due to the combustion and interaction with rolling papers. Consuming cannabis orally bypasses the combustion phase, skipping the harmful chemicals created by smoking.
    • Excellent Source of Vitamins, Fibre and Minerals – When consumed orally, cannabis is a very rich source of vitamins, fibre and minerals. Some of these vitamins and minerals include: Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron, amongst others.
  • Cons

    • Delayed effects Unlike other methods, the effects of marijuana when consumed orally can be delayed. The effects can take anywhere between 45-90 minutes before they begin to manifest. For consumers looking for more immediate effects, oral consumption will not satisfy their needs.
    • Harsh Effects for Beginners – The effects of orally ingested cannabis can prove a bit too much for cannabis newbies to handle. The delayed effects of edibles can take beginner consumers by surprise, and invoking feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
    • Dosage – When ingesting cannabis orally – especially baked goods – it is difficult to know how much cannabis you’re ingesting, especially given the delayed effects of edibles. This difficulty can either lead to overdosing or under-dosing in individuals depending on the amount ingested. It is advisable to start in little quantities and increase the dosage as necessary.



3. Sublingual

Cannabis can be consumed through sublingual ingestion. Sublingual ingestion is when marijuana is placed under the tongue and held in the mouth. Blood vessels underneath the tongue then absorb cannabis into the bloodstream till dissolution. Examples of sublingual cannabis preparations are dissolvable strips, oils, tinctures, sprays or medical lozenges.

It is important to note that most CBD tinctures will not get you high. This is because they’re usually prepared with high-CBD/low-THC strains to minimize the psychoactive effects and maximize the health benefits.

Sublingual cannabis tinctures and oils. Source


Pros and Cons of Sublingual Ingestion

  • Pros
    • Simplicity – Sublingual consumption of cannabis is a very simple and straightforward procedure. All one needs to do is pull the dropper out, put a few drops under their tongue and let it sit for a few minutes.
    • Swift Effects – In sublingual preparations with a high THC ratio, the psychoactive effects of cannabis are almost immediate. 
    • Discreet Use – Cannabis consumers who make use of sublingual preparations can do so discreetly. Sublingual preparations give off no discernible odours and they only require a few minutes to administer.
  • Cons

    • Dry Mouth – Sublingual tinctures are known to cause dry mouth, a condition in which the salivary glands are unable to make enough saliva to keep the mouth wet, thereby causing discomfort.
    • Little to No Psychoactive Effects – For cannabis consumers looking to enjoy the psychoactive effects of the plant, sublingual preparations may not offer satisfaction. Many sublingual preparations are aimed towards the health benefits of cannabis as opposed to its psychoactive effects.
    • Effects Wear Off Faster – The effects of sublingual preparations are known to wear off faster than oral or inhaled cannabis. For consumers looking for long and sustained effects, sublingual preparations fall short.



4. Topical

The last and final way to consume cannabis is through topical application. Topical cannabis preparations come in the form of bath salts, oils, lotions and salves. These are to be applied and absorbed into the skin. It is important to note that the skin has a relatively complex absorption process. When the cannabinoids pass through the skin, they work to reduce pain and inflammation in localised areas.

Topical cannabis consumption lacks the psychoactive effects, making it a popular choice among older consumers.


A Variety of Topical Cannabis Preparations. Source


Pros and Cons of
Topical Ingestion

  • Pros
    • No Psychoactive Effects – For consumers looking to enjoy only the health benefits of cannabis, topical preparations work best.
    • Perfect for Skin Irritations – Topical cannabis preparations offer a great deal of relief to patients suffering from various skin ailments such as eczema.
  • Cons

    • No Psychoactive Effects – For cannabis consumers looking to enjoy the psychoactive effects of the plant, topical preparations will fall short.



Conclusion

All marijuana consumption methods have a definitive set of advantages and disadvantages. Edibles, while offering no discernible health problems, may be inconvenient to some consumers due to the delay of psychoactive effects. Smoking, which is notably more harmful than the other methods may in turn provide the satisfactory “high” warranted by some consumers, and provide it fast. In essence, consumers are advised to pick their poison, but to do so while being well-informed of the pros and cons of each method.