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How to Consume Marijuana: Best and Safest Methods for Beginners

Updated on December 16, 2023

How to Consume Marijuana: Best and Safest Methods for Beginners

Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has a long and intricate history. Around 5000 BCE, it was cultivated for its seeds and fiber in ancient China. Since the Vedic texts of India to the indigenous tribes of the Americas recognized its psychoactive properties, it was used medicinally and ceremonially in various cultures. As trade routes expanded, marijuana’s influence spread globally, weaving into literature, medicine, and social customs.

Many nations enacted stringent regulations or outright bans during the 20th century because of health and societal concerns. A renewed interest in its therapeutic benefits has led to its acceptance and legalization in a number of countries in recent years. Consumers’ experiences and health outcomes can be significantly impacted by their choice of consumption method.

6 Ways to Consume Marijuana

According to a survey conducted by STATISTA in January 2017, which involved 1,671 adult Americans, the popularity of different methods of marijuana usage varies significantly. The most common method, preferred by 74% of respondents, is consuming marijuana in its flower form. This is followed by solid edibles, chosen by 44%, and concentrates, used by 25% of the participants. Liquid edibles and tinctures also have their share of users, accounting for 14% and 9% respectively. Additionally, 6% of the surveyed individuals opt for pills or other forms. This data not only reflects the varied ways in which marijuana is consumed but also highlights the evolving landscape of its usage across the United States.

As we begin this discussion, let's look at 6 different ways to consume marijuana, delving into each method to understand its unique characteristics and implications for users.

1. Vaping

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) in cannabis (or its extracts) are vaporized by heating them to a temperature that converts their active compounds into vapor. Unlike traditional smoking, the vapor is inhaled rather than smoke from combustion.

A girl choose Right Disposable Vape Pen

How it Works?

Device Types:
  • Pen Vaporizers: Slim portable devices often used for vaping cannabis oil.
  • Portable Vaporizers: Handheld devices commonly used for dry herb or concentrates.
  • Desktop Vaporizers: Larger, stationary units often offer precise temperature control and are typically used with dry herb.
Cannabis Types:
  • Dry Herb: The bud or flower of the cannabis plant.
  • Concentrates: Extracts from the cannabis plant, which include waxes, shatters, and oils.
  • Oils: Cannabis-infused oils that are used in vape cartridges.

Vaping marijuana involves heating the plant or its extracts just enough to release its active compounds into a breathable vapor. Compared to smoking, it is considered healthier, but like any consumption method, it is not without its risks. Be sure to source products from reputable vendors and be familiar with local regulations.

2. Smoking

Marijuana is traditionally consumed by smoking. Cannabis plant material is burned, releasing active compounds like THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), which are then inhaled as smoke.

Smoking Marijuana

How it Works?

Device Types:
  • Joints: Marijuana rolled in paper, similar to a cigarette.
  • Pipes: Handheld devices made from various materials where marijuana is placed in a bowl and lit.
  • Bongs: Water-filled devices that cool the smoke before it's inhaled.
  • Blunts: Marijuana rolled in tobacco leaf or cigar wraps.
Material Types:

Typically, the dried bud or flower of the cannabis plant is used for smoking. However, some users also smoke resin or hash, concentrated forms of marijuana.

The by-products of combustion make it a health concern, even though it is a widely used and long-standing method of consumption. Using any consumption method responsibly requires understanding the risks and benefits.

3. Edibles

When consumed, marijuana edibles deliver active compounds such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) from cannabis extracts. Edible compounds are metabolized in the liver, which produces a different effect than smoking or vaping.

How They Work?

Types of Edibles
  • Brownies & Cookies: Traditional baked goods that are often associated with edibles.
  • Gummies & Candies: Sweet treats infused with cannabis oil.
  • Beverages: Drinks, like teas or sodas, that contain cannabis extracts.
  • Tinctures: Liquid extracts that can be taken directly or added to food and drinks.

Marijuana edibles offer a smokeless way to consume cannabis, resulting in a distinct and prolonged effect due to the body's digestive and metabolic processes. While they provide certain advantages over inhaled methods, it's essential to be cautious with dosage and be patient in waiting for effects to manifest. Always start with a small amount and wait to understand the full impact before consuming more.

4. Tinctures

Marijuana tinctures are liquid extracts of cannabis, usually containing alcohol as a solvent. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are active ingredients in marijuana. You can take tinctures sublingually (under the tongue) or add them to foods and drinks as a smokeless method of consumption.

How They Work?

Production: Tinctures are produced by soaking cannabis flowers or isolates in alcohol, allowing the active compounds to infuse into the liquid. The plant material is then strained out, leaving a potent liquid extract.

Administration:
  • Sublingual: Dropping the tincture under the tongue allows for faster absorption into the bloodstream, leading to quicker onset of effects.
  • Ingestion: Tinctures can also be added to food or beverages. When ingested, they are processed similarly to edibles, with a slower onset and longer duration.
  • Dosage: Tinctures often come with droppers, allowing for precise dosing. Adjusting the number of drops consumed is possible to find the desired effect.

Marijuana tinctures offer a versatile and precise method to consume cannabis. They provide both rapid and prolonged effects, depending on the mode of administration. As with all cannabis products, starting with a low dose and gradually adjusting is recommended to find the optimal impact for the individual.

5. Dabbing

Dabbing is a method of consuming highly concentrated cannabis extracts known as "dabs." These extracts, which can take the form of wax, shatter, budder, or other consistencies, are heated on a hot surface (usually a "nail" or "banger") and then inhaled through a specialized piece of equipment called a dab rig.

A man going to dabbing

How It Works?

Dab Material:

Dabs are concentrated forms of cannabis, often with THC contents much higher than traditional flower. They are extracted using solvents like butane, CO2, or propane, followed by a purification process.

Equipment:
  • Dab Rig: Similar to a bong but designed specifically for dabbing. It features a nail or banger instead of a bowl.
  • Nail/Banger: A heated surface, usually made of quartz, titanium, or ceramic.
  • Torch: Used to heat the nail to the desired temperature.

Marijuana dabbing is a method of consuming highly potent cannabis concentrates. While it offers advantages in terms of potency and flavor, it also comes with concerns about overconsumption, potential contaminants, and the complexity of the process. As with all cannabis consumption methods, being informed and cautious is essential, prioritizing safety and personal tolerance.

6. Topicals

Marijuana topicals refer to cannabis-infused products designed for external application on the skin. You can purchase them in the form of lotions, balms, salves, and patches. As a result, cannabis and its cannabinoids, such as CBD (cannabidiol), THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), deliver therapeutic properties without causing psychoactivity.

How They Work?

Types of Topicals
  • Lotions & Creams: Moisturizing products are often used for general skin care or to address conditions like dry skin or eczema.
  • Balms & Salves: Thicker formulations are used for targeted relief, especially for joint pain or muscle soreness.
  • Patches: Adhesive patches infused with cannabis that provide a slow release of cannabinoids over time.
  • Oils: Infused oils used for massages or specific spot treatments.

Topicals are applied directly to the skin in the area of discomfort or where treatment is desired. The active compounds in topicals interact with CB2 receptors in the skin, providing localized effects without entering the bloodstream in significant amounts. This means most topicals won't produce the "high" associated with cannabis.

What is the Healthiest Way to Consume Marijuana?

The specific product used, the dosage, frequency of use, individual genetics, and other factors influence the health effects of marijuana consumption. “Healthiest” may also be a relative term depending on individual preferences and concerns.

That said, when comparing different ways to consume marijuana or how to consume marijuana, here’s a general overview based on the available scientific research.

  • Smoking: Smoking is the traditional way many people use marijuana. When marijuana is smoked, it combusts, releasing carcinogens and other harmful chemicals into the lungs. To a lesser extent than smoking tobacco, smoking marijuana can lead to respiratory issues over time.
  • Vaping (Vaporization): Vaping heats cannabis without combusting it, thus reducing carcinogens and toxins inhaled. Studies suggest vaping is less harmful to the lungs than smoking.
  • Edibles: When consumed as food or drink, marijuana doesn’t pose the same respiratory risks as smoking or vaping. Due to the slower onset of effects, dosing can be challenging, increasing the risk of overconsumption and adverse reactions.
  • Tinctures: Sublingual or oral cannabis extracts based on alcohol. They can provide more consistent dosing than edibles and don’t involve inhaling anything, making them less risky for the respiratory system.
  • Dabbing: This involves consuming highly concentrated cannabis extracts (“dabs”). The process can expose users to harmful chemicals, especially if the concentrates are not adequately purified.
  • Topicals: These are cannabis-infused products like creams, balms, and lotions designed for direct skin application. They generally don’t produce psychoactive effects and are mainly used for localized relief (e.g., pain or inflammation). They pose no respiratory risks and have a lower risk profile than other consumption methods, making it the safest way to consume marijuana.

If you’re looking at the healthiest way to consume marijuana in terms of minimizing potential harms:

  • Avoid respiratory risks by not smoking or dabbing.
  • Be cautious with vaping, especially with products that might not be tested or regulated.
  • Consider tinctures or edibles, but be aware of dosing challenges.
  • Topicals are a good choice for localized issues without systemic effects.

Regardless of the best way to consume marijuana, sourcing products from reputable and tested sources is essential. If considering marijuana use for medical purposes, it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance tailored to individual health needs.

How Do You Consume Marijuana Easier and Cheaper?

How can marijuana be consumed? Cannabis consumption depends on individual preferences, local regulations, market prices, and product availability. As a general rule, however:

  • Smoking: Traditionally, smoking marijuana using hand-rolled joints or simple pipes is among the least complicated and least expensive methods. You simply need cannabis flower, rolling papers (for joints), or a basic pipe. The immediate upfront cost might be low, but over time, depending on the frequency of use, purchasing cannabis flower can accumulate in cost.
  • Edibles: If you’re considering making edibles, this can also be cost-effective, primarily if you use leftover stems or less potent cannabis. In addition to using cannabis-infused oil in recipes, you can make cannabutter at home. When asked to explain the dangers of consuming marijuana edibles, it’s suggested that dosing is tricky. You have to wait a long time to feel the effects, which can result in overconsumption.
  • Tinctures: Homemade tinctures can be relatively inexpensive if made in larger batches and can be cheaper than store-bought tinctures. They involve soaking cannabis in high-proof alcohol for an extended period.

While vaping, dabbing, and topicals can offer unique advantages, they tend to be more complicated and might require a higher initial investment in equipment or products.

Tips for Cost-Efficiency:

  • Buy in Bulk: Purchasing larger quantities can reduce the gram price. However, ensure that you store it properly to maintain freshness.
  • Grow Your Own: Growing marijuana is a cost-effective method in the long run, although seeds, soil, lighting, and other materials are required initially.
  • Avoid Waste: Store your cannabis products in airtight containers and in cool, dark places to maintain their potency.
  • Shop Deals: Many dispensaries offer deals or loyalty programs. Take advantage of these to save money.
  • Simplicity: If you’re looking for the simplest method, smoking a joint or using a pipe is straightforward once you get the hang of it. Edibles, especially store-bought ones, can also be simple as there’s no preparation – you just consume them.

Conclusion

Here, we’ve learned when navigating the world of marijuana, beginners should prioritize safety and understanding. Various consumption methods, from vaping to edibles, offer distinct experiences, each with advantages and cautions. Researching and starting with low doses is crucial. While the cannabis journey can be rewarding, ensuring you select a method that aligns with your comfort and health requirements is the key to a positive and safe introduction.

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