Cannabis 101: The 411 on Different Methods of Consumption

If you grew up in the late 90’s, it’s highly likely that you were introduced to cannabis through some sort of a home-made contraption that involved a root vegetable, some tinfoil and a little green. If you were lucky, and someone in the squad was already nineteen, you were living large and smoking with rolling papers. And that is pretty much where we lived, in the land of pipes and papers, until fairly recently. Thankfully, for the next generation, things have gotten a little more interesting. 

As the market for cannabis for wellness has developed and as its advocacy has grown, what we see now is a market that allows users to really create a tailored cannabis experience, using a total myriad of consumption methods. Now, you can look for the healthiest way to smoke weed, or the easiest ways to ingest cannabis oil and ultimately, for each individual, the safest way to get high. Everyone’s preference is different, so we rounded up the most common. Here’s the 411 on different ways you can consume your favourite strains. 

COMBUSTIBLES  

Pipes/Hand Held/Water Pipes

Pipes and handhelds bring us back to the simple, portable, ‘make it out of just about anything’ days. This method uses dried, chopped up flower packed into a small bowl at one end of a pipe. The pipe traps the smoke from the burned cannabis until it is inhaled by the user. Inhalation works by absorbing the active cannabinoids through the lungs and then into the bloodstream. The effect is almost immediate and lasts anywhere from one to four hours. 

Pipes are generally discreet, handheld, and super low maintenance. A popular new pipe to the market is the ‘dug out’ or ‘one hitter,’ which — shockingly, is exactly that; a one-use hit of cannabis. This type of pipe is small and cylindrical in nature, often designed to look like a cigarette. A small amount of dried cannabis is packed in one end, lit and inhaled by the user. 

Another style of pipe is referred to as a water-pipe, or more commonly a ‘bong’. This method heats and burns dried cannabis, similarly to a handheld pipe, but with this method, the smoke is instead pulled over water that sits in the bottom of the pipes globe, before inhalation. It is said this method cools the smoke before being inhaled, and is therefore a smoother smoke. Smoother smoke or not, be careful with your bong usage. It would be wise to take it easy if you are new to water pipes. If you’re ever going to really green out over something, it’s probably this guy.  

With any pipes or bong, its best to keep this shit clean. Real clean. You wouldn’t use an old crusty pot to make your dinner, would you? Same thing goes with an old, blackened pipe. Not only will it affect the taste and flavour of your cannabis, but that build up is just no Bueno for the lungs. Luckily, it is super easy to keep on top of. Simply pick up a glass cleaner from your local smoke shop, and let it sit in the bottom of your emptied bong for a hot minute (usually 45 hot minutes to be exact) before rinsing. If it’s a handheld, you can drop it into a ziplock bag, cover with glass cleaner, and again, let it sit for 45 minutes before rinsing. Voila!  

Joints/Blunts

This is basically Ol’ Faithful of cannabis consumption. All the cool kids have been doing it for many, many decades. Simple and effective and basically the best way to smoke weed. A pack of papers will run you $1.99 and with a quick YouTube tutorial, you’ll be rolling your way to high times in no time. Joints can be used for dried flower or for smoking hash oil and is made by rolling dried and chopped flower into a rolling paper, much like a cigarette. Rolling papers are most commonly made from rice paper, bamboo and hemp fibres, and aside from a little ash, leave no evidence. Blunts fall into the same category, but are made from rolling dried cannabis into tobacco paper and actually contain nicotine as a result. If you’ve ever seen a Snoop Dog video — you know what a blunt is. 

Although smoking cannabis is in no way comparable to the harmful effects of smoking tobacco, there is still an err of caution to be had. Despite cannabis being a therapeutic botanical, inhaling burnt, hot smoke, plant matter, paper fibres and glue into the lungs is harmful. Period. Especially long term. Although the art of smoking is ritualist for some, try to break up your consumption methods vary your usage.

Vaporizing

Vapes are the cool new kid on the block. The enlightened one that cares about health, the environment, and the universe and stuff. Vapes are low-key, low maintenance, low temperature way of consuming cannabis. Vaporizers can be small, handheld devices, or quite large with a ‘parachute’ component that fills with the vapour before being inhaled. Dried flower, oils or waxes are added to the heating compartment and then heated at a temperature high enough to vaporize the cannabinoids (THC & CBD) and terpenes (the essential oils found in all plants), but low enough not to combust, which creates harmful smoke. This, in effect, lowers the long term risks associated with smoking. 

Ideally, to extract both cannabinoids and terpenes, the oil or flower should heated to a temperature of 410 degrees. Much higher than this and the user is primarily vaporizing THC and no terpenes, and at a point of 455 degrees, you’ve hit a combustible temperature. If you stick to the sweet spot, each time you burn a new strain, you should really feel a new, specific effect based on the combination of oils and terpenes vaporized. Its brilliant.  

Dabbing

Dabbing is the trendiest new way to consume concentrates and oils. The is the potent, 2.0 version of vaporizing. The method involves dropping the product onto a hot nail (heated with a blowtorch, for dramatic effect), which vaporizes on contact, collects into a glass globe, and is then inhaled by the user through a glass pipe. Those new to cannabis, and who are adjusting to the effects of consumption and dosing, should mind their business when it comes to dabbing, until there is a tolerance established. Generally speaking, bud and edibles range at 18-25% THC, whereas a concentrate or oil, may hit upwards of 80% THC. Therefore, a little dab can really slap you in the face. Once you do decide to experiment, start with a very small dose, wait 20-30 minutes to evaluate how you feel, and then work your way up from there. Take. It. Easy. 

INGESTIBLES

Ingestibles are king. Not only can you work with specific doses and build up to your comfort zone, but some people believe this to be the safest, cleanest way to consume cannabis. 

There are two different ways that you absorb cannabis with ingestible’s. First, when eaten, the food/oil capsule, is ingested, digested, absorbed through the stomach, into the liver and then finally into the bloodstream. This is a slow and steady way to get your dose of cannabis. The second is a sublingual delivery (dropped under the tongue). With this method, the oil or tincture is absorbed directly into he bloodstream, giving immediate, noticeably stronger, longer effects.

Edibles

If you dose with awareness, edibles might be your new favourite friend. Starting low and slow is the key, which is sometimes hard with the delicious candies, popcorn, baked goods and chocolate on the market. Most products now give specific doses and strain dominance allowing the user to consume responsibly. How you metabolize an edible is specific to each person and dependant on size, weight, body fat percentage and activity levels. All edibles are made with a high fat carrier oil. The most common being olive oil, butter and coconut oil (which has the best absorption rate for THC during the infusion process). The effect of an edible can last anywhere from four to six hours and may take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to feel any real cerebral effect. 

I find that working your way up in increments of 10 mg is a safe place to start. Generally speaking, a dose of THC that will produce psycho tropic effects is somewhere around 25 mg. Again, start low and slow. If you find that you’ve ingested a little more than you had wanted to, take a small dose of pure CBD oil (which will counteract the effects) or chew on black pepper kernels. And then never, ever do that again. 

With edibles, the most important step in the process is the decarboxylation or activation of oils through the heating of cannabis at very low temperatures (175 degrees for about 20 minutes). Without this process first and foremost there will be no effects felt.

Oils

Oils are made by extracting the cannabinoids and terpenes (oils) from cannabis with alcohol. After extraction, the alcohol is burned off, leaving pure cannabis oil which is dark and tar like in texture. For those new to cannabis use, and for those looking to discreetly use cannabis as medicine, oils are a fantastic way to consume. You can either use oils sublingually (fast acting) absorbing directly into the bloodstream, or as a capsule, which is generally enteric coded and is metabolized slowly through the digestive system and then the liver. The most common oil for consumption is CBD, which has dramatic affect on pain and inflammation in the body. 


Tinctures

Tinctures are prepared in a similar way to oils. Tinctures can be made from any fat soluble substance, like vinegar or alcohol. The longer the solvent soaks the cannabis, the more potent the tincture, although different carrier oils and fat-soluble substances absorb THC differently. Olive oil and forty proof alcohol are the more popular choices. 

Tinctures are taken sublingually, making the effects fast acting and potent. Again, ingestion this way processes the cannabis through the liver, after digestion and before hitting the bloodstream. This is a preferred method for controlled dosing capabilities.

TOPICALS

Speaking of things that I love, lets talk about topicals. This is the bees knees of consumption methods and is very popular amongst athletes, people suffering from arthritis, or other inflammatory conditions. This is the stuff that aches and pains should fear. 

Topicals are canna-infused body lotions, balms, salves, rubs, and bath bombs that can be applied locally for acute relief of pain and inflammation. Many of the new products on the market also add in other therapeutic oils and spices, for a little flair. Things like cayenne, tumeric, lavender and peppermint give an added benefits to healing properties in the body. 

Topicals work by absorbing through the skin, into the soft tissue or muscle and then binding to our bodies CB2 receptors (part of the endocannabinoid system). Once activated, the CB2 receptors work to control pain and inflammation. 

What’s nice about topicals are that most aren’t able to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning there are no cerebral or psycho tropic effects. Topicals are fast acting, super effective and have no intoxicating effects. If you’ve never experimented with cannabis therapeutically, this is a really great way to get the medicinal relief, without getting high. Although cannabis patches absorb topically as well, they DO in fact absorb into the blood stream, which will cause psychoactive effects, depending on the strain used. Read labels and be aware when consuming cannabis.

At the end of the day, everyone experiences, and wants to experience, cannabis differently. Luckily though, we live in an era that allows us to really explore the different effects of cannabis safely with clean, trustworthy products. Tailor your experience and your high to your mood, time of day, or needs. It’s totally possible now! So get out there and live a little, and if you can catch a little buzz while you’re at it, then you’re living the high life for sure. 

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