Medical Patient’s Guide: The Different Ways to Consume Medical Cannabis
This easy guide is intended to help patients, caregivers and occasional users understand the different ways to consume cannabis. This information is provided in order to make an informed decision about the products they purchase and try.
Medical cannabis is a very effective medicine used by patients across the globe to treat and alleviate symptoms of many serious medical conditions that do not respond to traditional interventions. Studies have proven that cannabis has therapeutic properties which cannot be replicated by any other currently prescribed medications.
In addition, high quality cannabis products will cause less side effects as compared to most synthetic drugs. For example, a 2018 report by the World Health Organization revealed that “naturally occurring CBD is safe and well tolerated in humans (and animals), and is not associated with any negative public health effects.”
There are various ways to consume cannabis. This tends to confuse many patients who are trying out cannabis for the first time. We have often been asked:
“What are the best and healthiest ways to consume medical cannabis?”
This is a very important question because it determines several things such as how soon you will begin to appreciate the effects of this plant and how much of it will actually get into your bloodstream. Traditional drugs are usually consumed in four major ways; swallowed as pills, given as injections, including intravenously, applied topically on the skin or inhaled.
When it comes to cannabis, the methods of consumption are even more diverse. Therefore, we are rarely surprised when our followers appear to be lost in the woods. This article goes to great lengths to breakdown the pros and cons of the different consumption methods of cannabis.
First, do you have a “medical cannabis card”?
Unless you live in states like California, Colorado, Washington, Massachusetts or Oregon that allow recreational cannabis (21 and over – for adult consumption), you will need to have a medical marijuana card for you to legally purchase and use any cannabis products. (generally over the 0.3% legal limit of THC).
If you live in a state such as Utah where only medical cannabis is allowed, you will need to acquaint yourself with the local medical marijuana laws and get a medical marijuana recommendation letter and/or medical cannabis card from a doctor. This step usually requires an in-person appointment and screening process so that the doctor can determine if you qualify for the card.
Once you have obtained your recommendation and/or card, you will be able to enter and purchase different types of cannabis from a local dispensary or collective. Smoking cannabis flowers is a well-known method of administration (or “medicating”), but there are numerous alternative ways to consume medicinal cannabis—each possessing certain benefits and drawbacks.
Let’s dive in and look at all the possible ways of consuming cannabis. By the end of this article, you should be equipped to make the right decision when it comes to “how to use cannabis”.
Smoking Joints, Blunts, and Spliffs aka Cannabis Cigarettes
Joints, blunts, and spliffs are traditional ways to consume cannabis. If you have heard of puff-puff-pass, this is where we are at; simple ways to smoke cannabis that involves lighting up a joint, taking two puffs, and passing on to the next person.
While joints are the most popular in this category, blunts and spliffs have their benefits. If anything more often than not these three terms are often used interchangeably. You will be forgiven for assuming that a joint is the same thing as a blunt, however, they are not. The difference is slight and we care to share it with you. So here you go.
Joints vs Blunts vs Spliffs
Joints, blunts, and spliffs can be differentiated based on their content or rolling material that has been used to create them. All three methods involve smoking cannabis flower and therefore there is always the risk of inhaling harmful combustion products. It was important to mention this at the start, yes?
What is a Joint?
A joint is basically a marijuana cigarette that consists of crushed and dried cannabis that is rolled up in thin rolling paper. It is smoked in the same way that a typical cigarette is smoked.
Contemporary joints are usually wrapped in rolling papers that have been infused with different flavors such as chocolates or cherries. In many cases, they will also have a filter at the end that offers stability to the joint and also makes it possible for you to smoke the joint to the end without burning your fingers. This also means that you will not be having any roaches left.
A roach is what has been left behind after most of the joint has been smoked. It is similar to a cigarette butt.
What is a Blunt?
A cannabis blunt is a mix between a joint and a cigarette. This is because it contains cannabis that is wrapped in a cigar wrap that contains tobacco. The tobacco is supposed to add some extra buzz to the marijuana. It is usually thicker than a joint and also lasts for a longer time.
What is a Spliff?
A spliff is a cannabis joint combined with a tobacco cigarette. Tobacco and cannabis are mixed together in varying ratios and rolled in a rolling paper in the same way that a joint is rolled. A spliff contains more tobacco than a blunt and therefore gives a more energetic head buzz. Like joints, a spliff has a crutch (filter) at the end to allow you to smoke through the whole spliff; no burning of fingers and no roaches.
By now you should be having a clear understanding of the differences between a joint, blunt, and spliff. Other than the difference in what they contain, the three are consumed in a similar way.
Below, we shall explore the pros and cons of smoking a joint. But really, this can be generalized to include blunts and spliffs.
How it works
Why would someone choose a joint?
- Delivers instant relief
- Fairly easy to regulate dosage
- Minimally processed
- Multiple options
Smoke may be harmful to lungs. Studies have reached contradictory conclusions about whether and to what extent cannabis may cause lung damage, but combustion of any substance makes it harder to breathe.
In many cases, not a good option for anyone with pulmonary damage (lung cancer, emphysema) or asthma.
Will make you smell like cannabis smoke.
Tips to get the most out of a joint
Simple, just learn the right smoking technique as has been explained above. This will allow you to get the maximum amount of cannabis while minimizing exposure to harmful compounds in cannabis smoke.
Bongs are fancy water bubblers that are used to smoke cannabis, they have been around since time immemorial and are a popular way to consume cannabis among many seasoned users. They may also be called bubblers or water pipes. Traditionally, bongs were made from bamboo tubes and were quite basic. Modern bongs are made of glass and come in different shapes and sizes.
Why would someone prefer a bong?
Bongs are a popular inhalation consumption method for those who prefer to smoke weed rather than ingest it. Of course, smoking allows you to enjoy the experience sooner rather than later. Bongs are not as simple to use and therefore being spotted with a bong would speak volumes about your cannabis prowess. But that’s not all that there is to it. Bongs produce cleaner smoke than joints. They also provide a stronger buzz since larger clouds of smoke are inhaled.
How it works:
A bong consists of a bowl, water chamber, and a mouth piece. The basic principle is to burn the flower, cool it, then inhale the cooled smoke.
- Fill the water chamber to submerge the down-stem. Some users even like to add ice to cool the smoke even further before it hits your lungs.
- Place the cannabis bud/flower in the bowl, don’t over-pack otherwise not all the cannabis will be combusted.
- Seal the mouthpiece with your mouth.
- At the same time, light the cannabis flower/buds to set off the combustion process.
- The glass chamber will soon start bubbling (percolating) and fill-up with clouds of white smoke which rises to the mouthpiece and the cannabis finds its way to your lungs as you inhale.
- This inhalation method gives a clean and “smooth” smoke as the tar/resin is left in the bong and not inhaled.
- The smoke inhaled is cool and therefore easier on the throat and lungs.
- Simple to use and clean.
- Delivers cannabis directly to the lungs, bypassing the first-pass effect that takes place in the liver when cannabis is ingested. This means higher bioavailability and immediate effects.
- Fragile because of the glass pieces
- Cumbersome way to use cannabis
- Not discreet.
Tips to get the most out of a bong
There are several things that you can do to make the most out of your bong. The first thing is to get it right with the apparatus set-up, as explained above. Use high quality flowers and start small if you are a beginner; the hit can be quite intense. You can also experiment with some natural flavors that you can add to the water.
Pills and Capsules
Pills and capsules are probably one of the least complicated ways of consuming cannabis. Cannabis pills and capsules are similar to traditional pills and capsules. However, there is a difference between pills and capsules as you will see below:
What is a cannabis capsule?
A marijuana capsule is cannabis in viscous form that is encased in a gelatin (or gelatin-free) spherical case. Some capsules have a capsule that is made of gel; hence they are called softgels.
What is a cannabis pill?
A cannabis pill contains powdered cannabis that has been compressed into a tablet.
How they work:
Capsules and tablets are a simple way to use cannabis. Toss one in the month and drown it with your beverage of choice; water works well. They usually come in small effective dosages such as 5mg of cannabis, either CBD, THC or combined.. It is advisable to start with the lowest possible dosage of cannabis and titrate upwards as you observe how your body is responding to the treatment.
Why do patients prefer marijuana capsules?
Many people prefer this method of consumption because it is uncomplicated and discrete. It is ideal for those who require regular dosing.
- Easy way to use cannabis
- Easy dosing
- Precision Dosing
- Convenient to use
- Not messy
- Effects lasts for a longer duration
- Have a lower bioavailability
- Effects take a longer time to kick in
- Lower potency due to hepatic (liver) metabolism
Tips to get the most out of cannabis capsules and tablets
Capsules and tablets are safe and effective ways to use cannabis. To maximize on the benefits, ensure that you time your intake, giving adequate to allow the effects to kick in. Give yourself an allowance of at least 1-2 hours.
Vaporizing “Vaping” Medical Marijuana
Vaporizing cannabis refers to the inhalation of cannabis in vapor form, usually using a vaporizer kit. The vape kit contains a vape pin and a cartridge with the vape oil. The vape oil will contain the cannabinoids and terpenes.
Why are vapes popular?
Vapes are popular because vaping is considered to be a safer alternative to smoking.
How it works:
Preheat the vaporizer to the recommended temperature. Some vaporizers use cannabis oil, while others use cannabis in plant form. Depending on the device, insert a small amount of dried (cured) cannabis flower or extract into a vaporizer. Press the button and inhale. The cannabis will be heated to a temperature below its combustion point, but still hot enough to release the medicinal compounds.Vapor is what you are inhaling.
- Vaporizers deliver instant relief
- Vaporizers are a safer alternative to smoking
- Vaporizers can be very expensive.
- Battery powered units must be recharged.
- Vaporizer devices need time to warm up.
Tips to get the most out of your vaporizer
If you have tried vaping before you might have experienced a bitter taste to your cartridge, at least once in a while. To prevent this from happening, here’s what to do:
The wick of your device soaks up the e-liquid and turns it into vapor when the coil heats up. Should the wick run out of liquid it will burn and create that unpleasant bitter taste in your mouth. Trick: Always ensure that your wick does contain sufficient liquid.
Medical Marijuana Edibles
Marijuana edibles refer to all the edible forms(infused foods and beverages) in which marijuana can be consumed. They are made by infusing different foods with THC or CBD oils. The range of marijuana edibles is inexhaustible, even including pizza. Common edibles include:
- Chocolate bars
- Gummy bears
Why are marijuana edibles so popular?
Cannabis edibles are popular because they come in so many exciting forms. Edibles spice up the cannabis experience, making them ideal for those who have to medicate on cannabis for chronic conditions.
- Provides long-lasting relief.
- People averse to smoking can use cannabis in this way.
- You get to eat a delicious treat.
- Dosage can be very precise.
- Can take up to several hours to kick in.
- Delicious, which many eat more than they can handle once the cannabis kicks in.
- Confusion on the dosing. Don’t underestimate the size. Sometimes smaller edibles carry a BIG punch. Always check dosing, and do not overeat.
- Must be locked up to avoid children and pets.
- Causes a different “high” than smoking.
Most Popular: This is the most popular method among Children & Elderly Patients.
Tips to get the most out of marijuana edibles
The trick is to always start slow and go slow. The effects of cannabis edibles usually take a long time to kick in, this tempts most people to consume more than is needed. However, once the effects kick in, they could hit hard and fast, and will last for a long time. To avoid the THC overdose statistic, taper your consumption of edibles.
Medical Cannabis Tinctures
Marijuana tinctures are highly concentrated alcohol or oil based marijuana extracts that are consumed sublingually (beneath the tongue). They come in a wide range of concentrations.
Why are marijuana tinctures preferred?
If you were to search online for marijuana products you will most likely come across tinctures in almost every site. This is because tinctures are simple to make and consume.
How they work:
Extracted cannabinoids are mixed into an alcohol, glycerin solution or MCT Oil (Medium-Chain Triglyceride), which in many cases are hemp or coconut oils. These sublingual products usually come in a small bottle. Just squirt or spray it under your tongue and let it absorb through the thin tissue of the mouth.
- Doesn’t hurt lungs like inhaling cannabis.
- Easy to control dosage for a very low dose.
- Mild taste.
- Preferred method for children.
- Can be expensive for people who require a high dosage of CBD or THC
- Takes effect faster than edibles, but still not as fast as inhalation.
- Onset, could take up to an hour or more to feel desired effects.
How to make the most of cannabis tinctures
While you can swallow the tincture, it is advisable to consume it sublingually by placing a few drops under the tongue. Because this region is well vascularized, you will feel the benefits sooner.
Medical Cannabis Transdermal Patches
Marijuana transdermal patches are adhesive patches that have been medicated with marijuana. They are usually applied onto the skin where they release the cannabis into the bloodstream.
Are transdermal patches popular?
While they may not be as popular as other marijuana products, they are preferred by those who want a discrete consumption method.
How they work:
Apply patch to a clean, dry and hairless skin surface. Many medical professionals recommend adhering the patch on the inner-wrist area, top of foot or ankle. This is the ideal method for any patients who prefer to not inhale the medicine. If you have explored multiple options without success, this might be the right path depending on your choice of effect you are trying to reach.
- No Smoking Required.
- Comes in different formulations.
- Mild dosages.
- Some individuals may develop an allergic reaction to the adhesive.
- Must be applied on a clean and dry skin surface.
- Not be applied where a great deal of body hair.
Tips on how to make the most of cannabis patches
To make the most out of patches, you need to ensure that the skin surface is adequately clean and free from excessive hair or oils from the body.. Most importantly, you should target an area of the skin that is well vascularized to ensure that the cannabinoid hits the bloodstream soon. Avoid areas that have a lot of adipose tissue.
Medical Marijuana Suppositories
Marijuana suppositories are cannabis-infused medications that are inserted into the rectum, vagina, or urethra from where they are broken down and absorbed into the body. Suppositories are a preferred method for those with swallowing difficulties.
How they work:
You insert a small cone-shaped mass of cannabis extract into the rectum, where it absorbs through the colon. This method is somewhat controversial and rather less dignified than other ways to medicate, but some patients swear by it.
Put on protective gloves, lie on your side, and insert the suppository about 1.5 inches. Squeeze your sphincter muscles and stay in place for at least a few minutes. When you’re ready, get up, throw away the gloves, and thoroughly wash your hands. There are also companies who make pre-made ratios of medicine for rectal use – 1 mg non-injectable syringes.
- Great alternative to edibles.
- Kicks in quickly and lasts long.
- Most Efficient way to digest.
- Difficult and embarrassing to administer.
- Must be refrigerated.
Tips to make the most of cannabis suppositories
Once you have inserted the suppository, squeeze your sphincter muscles and hold for a few minutes before releasing. This will assist the breaking down process.
Medical Marijuana Topicals
Medical cannabis tinctures are a great way to medicate without any psychoactive effects. Salves, ointments, lotions, and sprays are great for arthritis, chapped skin, eczema, minor burns, muscle soreness, sunburns, swellings, joint pain, and tendonitis, to name just a few.
How they work:
As the name suggests, topicals are applied directly to the skin. You will need to clean the skin first with warm soapy water and dry. You can then apply generous amounts of the topical to the affected area of the skin.
- Topicals don’t get you “high”.
- Addresses skin issues.
- Topicals offer localized pain relief.
- Does not help cancer, PTSD, epilepsy, or glaucoma.
- Don’t provide a euphoric feeling.
- Patients report some products simply don’t work.
- Messy ointment may stain clothing.
How to make the most of marijuana topicals
Always clean the skin before applying the topical. This will improve the absorption.
Ingesting Fresh Medical Cannabis
Raw cannabis has developed quite a following. Patients claim that the raw plant has medicinal properties that are lost when the plant is dried or heated.
How it works:
You ingest the raw leaves and buds straight from the plant, usually by mixing them into a juice or smoothie.
- Raw cannabis is packed with THC-A, the acid form of THC, which is not psychoactive.
- Some patients and doctors believe THC-A has unique medicinal properties.
- Some patients whose chronic diseases never responded to other treatments (including dried cannabis) say that juicing raw marijuana has been their ingestion of choice.
- Requires large amounts of fresh cannabis.
- Has an unpleasant vegetable taste.
Tips to make the most of raw cannabis
Dr. William Courtney, the leading advocate of juicing, recommends ingesting fifteen leaves and one or two big buds (2–4″) daily.
Medical Marijuana Beverages
Your local dispensary probably sells bottles of cannabis-infused teas, juices, smoothies, and sodas. You can also make your own cannabis tea by steeping a bud, piece of wax, or tincture in hot water. Adding a bag of your favorite tea can improve its flavor.
How it works
Drink it as you would any other medicated beverage
- Provides long-lasting relief.
- Alternative for people averse to inhaling their medicine.
- Give a specific feeling, such as stress relief or energy.
- Takes 30min-2hours to kick in.
- Dosage can be difficult.
- Causes a different “high” than smoking.
Tips to make the most of cannabis beverages
Consult with your doctor before drinking marijuana beverages. Start with one small sip & wait an hour before deciding whether or not to drink more.
Dabbing Medical Marijuana
A “dab” is a cannabis concentrate (hash oil, budder, shatter, wax, etc.) that you heat to a high temperature and inhale. The delivery devices vary, but they tend to be complicated and usually involve the use of a butane torch. Also, concentrates can contain as much as 90 percent THC, so you will get a very high dose of psychoactive compounds.
Dabbing is NOT recommended for patients with a low THC tolerance or those new to cannabis medications!
- Concentrates deliver cannabis directly to the lungs and bloodstream. The effects are immediate.
- Cost-efficient for patients who need High-THC.
- Good for pain relief.
- Concentrates are at higher risk of containing harmful chemicals.
- Solvents are used to extract the medicinal chemicals, and may not be properly removed.
- Dabbing concentrates can easily cause overdose, though non-fatal.
- Devices are difficult to use; accidental burns are more likely.
Tips to make the most out of dabbing cannabis
When dabbing, always start with just one ‘small’ hit and avoid “burning” the dab.