Before the age of innovation that’s accompanied cannabis legalization, if you wanted to get high, you HAD to smoke. Joints, bongs, apples, whatever you had – you stuffed weed into something and lit it on fire. Maybe you had a friend who knew how to make pot brownies. But without the internet, chances are you had no clue you had to decarboxylate your marijuana to activate the THC before baking with it.
One of the major benefits of legalization is the proliferation of consumption methods, product categories, and education about new possibilities. Plenty of people still enjoy smoking, and we imagine this will always be the case. It’s accessible and familiar. Now that we have so many more choices, though, why wouldn’t you experiment with a low-dose edible or a topical cream?
(A note for the cautious: Several of these delivery methods actually won’t get you “high.” So you can benefit from the plant’s phytochemicals – cannabinoids and terpenes – without any of its psychoactivity.)
Still the most popular form of consumption and also the one most closely associated with cannabis, smoking isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We have iconic images of sophisticated smokers ingrained in our collective consciousness; smoking is recognizable and relatable, a little nostalgic and a little naughty.
Smokers can purchase marijuana flower to roll joints, cones, or blunts or to pack pipes or bongs. Many people prefer to grind the flower for more even burning (this is a necessary step for joints or blunts), while some folks like to pick a piece off their bud and pop it in their bowl. Prerolls are another option for those who value convenience – you’ll find singles and sometimes packs of five in most dispensaries.
You can also smoke certain types of hash or concentrated cannabis, including traditional old-school hash, full melt bubble hash, pressed rosin, and kif. People often mix these with flower in a joint or sprinkle on top of a bowl for an enhanced effect.
A common alternative to smoking, vaping is both more discreet and easier on your lungs. It’s the same basic premise – you heat the material and inhale – but nothing gets hot enough to combust. At the proper temperatures, compounds in the cannabis will vaporize and activate without burning the flower itself. You can vaporize flower with both tabletop and portable handheld units. The process of loading your vaporizer is typically similar to packing a bowl.
Oils, waxes, and other cannabis concentrates are perfect candidates for vaporization. These intricate combinations of extracted cannabinoids and terpenes are too delicate for combustion and can be easily titrated when vaporized. In this case, you’ll probably have a “vape pen” that you can load with the sticky substance or a pen battery that works with the standard oil cartridges available at most dispensaries. As their name suggests, concentrates contain higher amounts of THC, so you might need to hit your pen less than you would with flower.
Concentrates vary in their viscosity and come in containers such as syringes for very oily products or parchment paper for more solid samples like shatter. (More on that soon in our What You Need to Know About Cannabis Products article!) You can also purchase disposable vaporizers that are preloaded with cannabis oil and sometimes terpene combinations.
A much maligned subculture, largely due to its optics, dabbing has a reputation of being for super stoners only. It’s a method of heating a surface (like a titanium nail or a quartz banger) with electricity or with a very hot flame and applying a bit of cannabis concentrate so that it vaporizes as you inhale. Dabbers can take in a large quantities of cannabinoids instantaneously, so it suits medical patients who require more THC as much as those who are seeking an ideal couch-lock experience.
But, just a little dab’ll do ya. You can also modulate accordingly and ingest only a small amount of THC with your tiny dab. Though we don’t recommend it for the inexperienced, dabbing can be an efficient, easy to dose, and practically odorless ingestion method. We stand by this maxim: you use the same torch to make creme brulee, so dabbing has the potential to be as classy as a French dessert.
Eating & Drinking
We all eat and drink; it’s how we get sustenance, how we imbibe some of our favorite intoxicants, how we bond with our families, and how we socialize. It would stand to reason, then, that edible and drinkable cannabis products are a path to normalization. But there’s definitely a learning curve associated with this ingestion method. Proper education is key incorporating marijuana-infused foods and drinks into your life.
Start Low & Go Slow
The most important thing to keep in mind with edibles is to START LOW AND GO SLOW. Whereas smoking, vaping, and dabbing have a quick onset time, our bodies metabolize edibles through digestion before cannabinoids can make their way into your bloodstream. This can give you the impression that you’re not “high enough” and the urge to consume more cannabis. Be advised: don’t give into that urge before you’re absolutely certain you’ve felt the full effects of your first dose and know you’re ready to step it up. Until you’re experienced with edibles, start with about 5 mg of THC at a time. Because edibles will likely affect you differently than smoked or vaped cannabis, it’s imperative to know the dosage of what you’re eating.
While sweets are still common in the edibles category, you can also find savory treats like crackers in most dispensaries. More and more drinks are popping up too, from punch and soda to water and coffee. For the at home chef, there are plenty of gadgets that will help you infuse oils and butters, or you can do it on the stovetop with a jury-rigged double boiler and/or a crockpot. When making edibles at home, be sure to calculate carefully to make sure you’re not overdoing it.
If You’re Not Hungry…
In addition to infused food and drinks, you can try cannabis capsules and tinctures. A standard delivery method for many supplements, capsules can contain different ratios of concentrated cannabinoids. The component ingredients will go through your digestive system in the same way edibles will.
Tinctures are some of the most ancient forms of medicine. These liquid solutions are taken orally but absorbed by the mucous membranes under the tongue before they’re swallowed. This is an effective way to microdose because absorbed tinctures are not metabolized by the liver before entering the bloodstream. You’ll feel the effects within 15 minutes, whereas edibles can take up to two hours to kick in. (If you swallow your tincture immediately, it will act just as other edibles do.) Their quick onset makes it easy to find your exact right dosage.
Rubbing cannabis products on your body won’t give you any psychotropic effects, but it will probably do great things your skin, muscles, etc. The fascinating category of topicals includes creams, lotions, bath soaks, oils – body care items for everything from dry skin to bruises to aches and pains. Topical products interact with cannabinoid receptors in your skin, but THC doesn’t enter your bloodstream. So, they provide localized benefits without any high.
There are a few exceptions – a few products applied topically aren’t exactly traditional topicals. Transdermal patches, for example, adhere to the skin but come equipped with chemical delivery agents that allow cannabinoids to break the barrier that would normally prevent them from entering the bloodstream. You will get high, and it will last a pretty long time.
Sensual oils, when applied to vaginas and other mucous membranes, will also produce a high sensation (locally and sometimes generally) and can cause THC to present in the bloodstream. They can also affect you similarly to edibles if ingested orally. Finally, you can even find the category-defying suppository – not so much applied as inserted – in both anal and vaginal varieties, for either heavy duty relief or intense pleasure.
Many Ways to Enjoy & Experiment
Never again must you avoid cannabis if you don’t like to smoke! There are so many ways to enjoy this plant, and each has its own subtleties that make it appealing. If you’re in the beginning stages of your cannabis exploration, remember: start low and go slow. Make sure you’re in a comfortable space and frame of mind. If you do overdo it, you’ll likely just need some CBD and a nap (so don’t freak out!). With careful experimentation, you’ll find your preferred methods, your sweet spot for consumption, and the best ways to incorporate cannabis into your life for maximum benefit.
Confused about any of the terms or product categories in this article? Make sure to check back for more in our “New to Cannabis?” series, including What You Need to Know About Cannabis Products, WYNTKA Cannabinoids and Terpenes, and WYNTKA Cannabis Retail.