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The most common ways to consume cannabis

Not all cannabis experiences are created equal, but the variety offered by the plant’s compounds, and the range of ways to consume them, allow for you to experiment and hone in on what makes you feel the way you want to, whether it’s totally relaxed or ready to socialize. Read on to discover how cannabis can most effectively suit your needs.


What: Inhaling

For: People who prefer smoking or vaping for effects that are felt fast; those who are interested tasting the flavor and smelling the aromatic profiles of different strains.

How it works: Upon inhalation, cannabis compounds travel to the lungs, which are quickly incorporated into the bloodstream. Compounds then head for the endocannabinoid system where THC, CBD and other cannabinoids are absorbed by receptors, usually within less than a minute.

How it feels: Depending on the strain’s cannabinoid and terpene content, you can expect a range of experiences from the energizing cerebral effects of sativas to the relaxing 'body high' effects of indicas, to the calm, evened-out effects of a hybrid. Using concentrates will produce a more intense high than smoking or vaping due to the potency of the product.

How long it lasts: You’ll begin to feel the effects almost immediately and can expect to experience a peak 10-20 minutes after inhalation. Effects may linger for 2-3 hours after, and will increase if you continue smoking or vaping.


What: Ingestion

For: People who are looking for an alternative to smoking or a discreet way to enjoy cannabis; anyone interested in trying cannabis orally, whether it’s eating or drinking cannabis-infused edibles and beverages, or taking oil capsules.

How it works: THC is metabolized by the liver when it’s ingested, so it takes longer than compared to when you’re smoking to feel the effects. Tinctures that are taken orally (swallowed through the mouth) but not sublingually (taken beneath the tongue) are also metabolized like food.

How it feels: Because cannabinoids are being metabolized differently when you ingest them, the effects felt are stronger and longer-lasting than when felt after smoking or vaporizing. Effects are still dependent on the dose and strain that’s been consumed. Ingesting cannabis is best experienced for the first time in a familiar and comfortable setting, so you can gauge exactly how it makes you feel.

How long it lasts: In general, it can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes (or longer!) until you start to notice the effects, but everyone’s biological makeup is a little different so for some people it may a little longer or shorter depending on the speed of their metabolism. Depending on the size of the dose, you can expect to feel the effects for at least a few hours, and they can last up to 8 hours. A good rule of thumb is to wait at least one hour between doses to see how you feel to prevent overdoing it.


What: Absorption

For: Those who are interested in experiencing relief from body pain or discomfort without any intoxicating effects felt by using topicals; anyone who wants to give their intimate life a boost with infused lubricants; people who would like to extend the duration of cannabis’ effects without smoking more or consuming edibles.

How it works: When using topicals or lubricants, cannabinoids are absorbed through the skin and enter the CB2 receptors without getting into the bloodstream; this allows for the therapeutic effects of THC and CBD to help reduce pain, muscle soreness and inflammation. When absorbed through a transdermal patch designed to aid the cannabinoids in penetrating the bloodstream and delivering a psychotropic effect similar to the inhalation method. Cannabinoids can also be absorbed sublingually under the tongue when taking a tincture.

How it feels: Transdermal patches, topicals and tinctures are said to offer a slow-paced and consistently even release of cannabinoids.

How long it lasts: The amount of time a topical lasts depends on the strength of the product and the amount that’s used. Depending on the severity of your pain and the potency of what you’re using, you may need a series of consistent applications for long-lasting relief; it really varies from person to person. Most transdermal patches will have clear markings on the packaging that will tell you how long they are effective, which can be anywhere from 8-96 hours. The effects of a tincture can last anywhere from 2-4 hours.

Story by K. Astre
Illustrations by Elena Boils

Van der Pop does not endorse or condone the illegal consumption of cannabis.

To enter this site, you must be of legal age to consume cannabis in your province/state.

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