cannabis leaves on old wooden backgroundThis easy guide is intended to help patients and caregivers understand the different method of administration of medical marijuana, so that they can make educated 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 that cannot be replicated by any other currently prescribed medications, and it induces far fewer and much less severe side effects than many commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs.

One of the first questions patients often ask us is:

“What are the best and healthiest ways to consume medical cannabis?”

First, unless you live in a state like Colorado, Washington or Oregon that allow recreational marijuana purchases and use, and depending on your state’s laws, you will need to 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 cannabis is a good choice for you.

Once you have obtained your recommendation and/or card, you will be able to enter and purchase different types of cannabis from a local marijuana dispensary or collective. Smoking marijuana flowers is a well-known method of administration (or “medicating), but there are numerous alternative ways to gain the benefits of medicinal cannabis—each possessing certain benefits and drawbacks.

Smoking Medical Cannabis

How it works: Pack a small amount of dried (cured) cannabis flower into a pipe, water pipe (bong), or rolling paper (to create a “joint”).

Then hold a flame to the cannabis flower until it combusts as you inhale the smoke from the mouthpiece or other end of the joint.


  • Delivers instant relief
  • Fairly easy to regulate dosage
  • Inexpensive
  • 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

Dosage: Start small! Inhale lightly (i.e. “take a small hit.”). There is no need to hold the smoke in your lungs…exhale. Wait a few minutes. If you don’t feel the desired effect, or you want to feel a greater effect, take another hit.

Vaporizing ``Vaping`` Medical Marijuana

How it works: Preheat the vaporizer to the recommended temperature. 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.

Vaporizers are available in a wide array of shapes and sizes, from fancy home units to pocket-friendly pens.


  • Delivers instant relief
  • Less harsh on lungs than smoking
  • Doesn’t make you smell as much as smoking


  • Vaping units can be very expensive.
  • Battery powered units must be recharged.
  • Need time to warm up device.

Dosage: Start small! Inhale lightly (i.e. “take a small hit.”). There is no need to hold the smoke in your lungs…exhale. Wait a few minutes. If you don’t feel the desired effect, or you want to feel a greater effect, take another hit.

Medical Marijuana Edibles

How it works: Once upon a time, edibles were limited to homemade brownies that tasted pretty awful and contained a mystery dose of THC. Nowadays you can find medicated cookies, popcorn, crackers, nut mixes, lollipops, ice cream, gummy bears, chocolate bars, chews, and many other kinds of food. The culinary science has evolved enough that most products are yummy—you can hardly tell they contain cannabis.


  • Provides long-lasting relief.
  • Good alternative for people averse to inhaling.
  • You get to eat a delicious treat.
  • Dosage can be very precise.


  • Can take half an hour to several hours to kick in.
  • Dosage can be difficult if the manufacturer.
  • Must be locked up to avoid children and pets.
  • Causes a different “high” than smoking.

Most Popular: This is most popular method among Children & Elderly Patients.

Dosage: Only use edibles under the supervision of a doctor. Dosages vary widely depending on your weight, metabolism, experience level, and other factors. Doctors we know have suggested starting with a small amount—2 mg or less—and waiting at least an hour before eating more.

Medical Marijuana Tinctures or Sub-Lingual Sprays

How it works: Extracted cannabinoids are mixed into an alcohol, glycerin solution or MCT Oil (Medium-Chain Triglyceride), which in many cases is coconut oil. 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 cannabinoids.
  • Takes effect faster than edibles, but still not as fast as inhalation.

Dosage: Start with just a few drops and wait ten minutes. If you don’t feel relief, try a few more drops. Eventually you’ll figure out your ideal dosage—for most people, it’s between half a dropper and a couple of droppers at a time.

Medical Cannabis Transdermal Patches

How it works: 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 rather not inhale the medicine. If you have explored multiple options without success, this might be the right path for depending on your choice of high you are trying to reach.


  • No Smoking Required.
  • Comes in different formulations.
  • Mild dosages.


  • Some individuals may develop an allergic reaction.
  • Must be applied on a clean and dry skin surface.
  • Not be applied where a great deal of body hair.

Dosage: Most transdermal patches come in 10mg dosed patches. They can be cut in half for smaller doses.

Medical Marijuana Suppositories

How it works: 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.
  • Difficult to apply.

Dosage: Most suppositories come in two sizes: 2g for adults and 1g for children. They can be cut in half for smaller doses.

Medical Marijuana Topicals

How it works: 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.


  • Topicals don’t get you “high”
  • Addresses skin issues
  • 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.

Dosage: You’re unlikely to cause any real harm with topicals, but do try to find ones that are aimed at your specific ailment. Use salves and ointments as much as you want as often as you want, keeping in mind that they can get greasy. If you experience skin irritation, discontinue use. Consult your doctor about using transdermal patches.

Ingesting Fresh Medical Cannabis

How it works: 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. 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 treatment (including dried cannabis) say that juicing raw marijuana has been their miracle cure.


  • Requires large amounts of fresh cannabis.
  • Has an unpleasant vegetal taste.
  • Studies have not confirmed results.

Dosage: Dr. William Courtney, the leading advocate of juicing, recommends ingesting fifteen leaves and one or two big buds (2–4″) daily.

Medical Marijuana Beverages

How it works: 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.


  • 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.

Dosage: 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

How it works: 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.

This method is NOT recommended for patients with a low THC tolerance or those new to cannabis medications!


  • Useful for urgent medication of acute illnesses.
  • Cost-efficient for patients who need High-THC.
  • Provides instant relief.


  • Concentrates are at higher risk of containing harmful chemicals.
  • Solvents are used to extract the medicinal chemicals, may not be properly removed.
  • May cause overdose, while never fatal, can be very unpleasant and uncomfortable.
  • Devices are difficult to use; accidental burns are more likely.

Dosage: Consult with your doctor prior to trying dabbing—it’s probably more than you need. If you do choose to try it, start with just one ‘small’ hit, but know that it will have extremely strong psychoactive effects.

United Patients Group is dedicated to improving the lives of patients suffering from serious medical conditions. Bringing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about medical marijuana to those who are suffering. We invite you to come back to our site and blog frequently as we keep it constantly updated with the most comprehensive and reliably sourced information, and please contact us if you have any further questions or comments.