Question: I am interested in trying medical cannabis to treat my medical condition, but I am not a smoker. What are my options?
Great question. If this same question was asked 10-20 years ago, the answer would be way less robust, but as technology and innovation trickle into every facet of our lives – we see that the strong arm of tech has made a big impact on the consumption and delivery of cannabis. This is a great thing for those of us concerned with developing stable and standardized delivery modes of medical cannabis, and does much to dispense the unfortunate stigma so many still have of a red-eyed, “stoned” smoker.
We have chosen five of the most common ways to consume medical cannabis, offered a brief explanation and a basic look at their pros and cons. There are more options we haven’t listed (like suppositories, sublingual tablets, and transdermal patches) but this is a basic list to get you started.
Smoking is the first and most obvious method of consumption. It is still a relevant and medically sound way to consume – but likely not the healthiest option available.
Some pros: It is extremely fast acting, entering the bloodstream almost immediately with the ability to provide almost simultaneous effects. It is convenient and familiar (for many).
Some cons: Smoking can be harsh on the lungs and does not allow for a 100% pure cannabinoid intake. Although cannabis smoke has proven much safer than tobacco smoke, when one smokes a joint or a pipe, they are also inhaling carbon monoxide, carcinogens, and tar. This method of smoking can cause visible and microscopic tears in the lungs and can lead to bronchitis-like symptoms.
Vaporizing is non-smoke inhalation method that has gained much popularity in the last decade. Like smoking, the effects are nearly immediate. And like smoking, the effects typically taper off two-four hours after inhalation. The big difference with vaporizing or “vaping” as it is known, is that it is a non-smoke inhalation method.
Here’s how it works: Vaporizing involves taking a cannabis flower, oil or concentrate and heating to a controlled temperature that doesn’t actually combust the plant material (like smoking does). Instead, it releases the cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant and allows for an inhale of a light vapor instead of harsh smoke.
Some pros: Vaping requires lower temperatures, which makes it cooler, cleaner and less harsh on the throat and easier on the whole system. Vaporizing has been estimated to allow approximately 95% cannabinoids per inhalation and is not associated with the negative effects from smoking. It is also discreet, and not smelly like smoke.
Some cons: There is initial cost in the purchase of a vape-pen or other vape technology. And the availability of vape cartridges (whether oil or concentrate) are not always available internationally. Although vaporizing is not technically smoking, it is still an inhalation method.
Cannabis edibles otherwise known as “cannabis infused food or drink products” are another method of consumption. There is a wide range of products available and the ability for some creative DIY crafting for those with the time and know-how to tinker.
Edibles can come in just about any form you can imagine; from chocolate, to gum, to honey, to cakes, cookies, teas and juices (and everything in between).
It is very important to note that edibles take much longer to take effect – typically anywhere between 1-2 hours with the effects lasting as long as 10-12 hours depending on the dosage and the consumer’s unique endocannabinoid system. When one consumes cannabis in an ingestible form, its THC is metabolized by the liver, which converts it to 11-hydroxy-THC. This active metabolite is particularly effective in crossing the blood-brain barrier, resulting in a more intense high. Juxtaposed to inhaled THC (via smoking or vaping), it undergoes a different metabolic process: rather than passing through the stomach and then the liver, the THC travels directly to the brain. This is why the effects of smoked or vaporized marijuana come on faster and diminish quicker.
Some pros: Because of it’s long lasting effect in the body – edibles can be an excellent option for people who suffer with sleep disorders and/or who need longer term effect of their medicine. And a great option for pediatric patients.
Some cons: Dosing can be tricky. Experimentation seems to be the only way to nail down the proper dosage for a particular patient. It is very important to start with a low dose and monitor effects with the aid of a medical professional. Because of the unique digestive process of THC the psychoactive component, edibles take much longer to kick in and can have more intense psychoactive effects.
Ingestible oils are basically any cannabis concentrate that is taken orally. These most commonly come in capsules, plastic applicators or in a tincture like bottle. Oils can be consumed directly or added to food or drink. Like edibles, ingestible oils can induce powerful effects that take a while to kick in, so being mindful of dosage is very important.
Some pros: See edibles.
Some cons: See edibles.
Topicals are cannabis-infused lotions, salves, ointments, sprays and/or balms that are applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain, soreness, and inflammation. A unique property of cannabis topicals is their ability to treat symptoms without psychoactive effects. Topicals can be extremely effective for arthritis, chapped skin, eczema, minor burns, muscle soreness, sunburns, swellings, joint pain, and tendonitis, to name a few.
Some pros: Provides localized pain relief with no psychoactivity, therefore no issues with dosing.
Some cons: Not always easy to come by. Not widely available in Israel.
There you have it! We hope that our A to your Q was satisfying. If you have anymore questions you’d like to see answered on our blog, by all means, ask away! [email protected] or simply drop a question in the comments below.