For many cannabis users, the consumption method is just as important as the strength and quality of what they are consuming. Modern technology in the marijuana industry has opened the doors for consumers to use this medicinal plant in a whole variety of ways rather than the traditional method of smoking. 

Edibles, tinctures, and vapes have entered the market in a big way, and many health conscious cannabis enthusiasts are finding healthier ways to reap the medicinal benefits. Each method of consuming weed makes the effects slightly different – and changes the physical and mental benefits.

In this article, we’re checking out the most popular ways to use weed and how each of them works with a different kind of cannabis user.

Inhalation – smoking and vaporizing

Smoking weed is the traditional way to use it. Before we had advanced technology for extracting cannabinoids, we simply used to grind up a flower, put it in a rolling paper, and light it up. There’s no doubt that other methods existed too and that cannabis legalization also encouraged greater experimentation – but despite this, smoking weed is still the most popular way to use it. 

When you inhale the smoke of the cannabis flower, whether by smoking or vaporizing, the cannabinoids enter the bloodstream through the lungs. Through the blood, cannabinoids reach the brain and body, causing the well-known and much loved stoned effect.

Interestingly, the lungs don’t have the same defense mechanisms of the gut, for example. This is why smoking and inhalation can cause stronger effects than other ingestion methods – and definitely the fastest! The fact that cannabinoids don’t have to bypass epic human defense mechanisms such as the digestive tract allows them to travel to the brain faster, producing effects a lot quicker than other ingestion methods. 

Smoking weed

Whether you use a rolling paper, a glass pipe, or a bong, smoking is the consumption method most commonly associated with weed users. Although there is a widespread consensus that smoking weed is a lot less harmful than smoking tobacco, health professionals still agree that any exposure to smoked material is harmful – even if it’s just a little bit.

Vaping cannabis flowers

When most people think of vaping, they think of concentrated extract (such as cannabis vapes). But the dried flowers of the marijuana plant can also be vaped. Using a device like a volcano, raw plant material is heated but not burned until it starts to produce a vapor. This is different to smoking, where the buds must actually be burned to produce smoke.

Vaping is considered healthier than smoking because in the absence of burning, there’s fewer carcinogens in the smoke. All smoke from burning plants produces carcinogens, so vapers consider this a less harmful way to consume cannabis while still enjoying the customary method of inhalation. 

Vaping and smoking extracts

In the advent of butane hash oil (BHO) and near pure cannabis shatters and oils, smoking enthusiasts have developed all kinds of cool ways to smoke these concentrated extracts. Whether its vaping the oils or using a dabbing rig, even highly potent cannabis extracts can be smoked.

The recreational way to use cannabis

Overall, smoking or vaping is considered the most “recreational” way to use cannabis. This is probably because that’s just what you used to do as a weed user – you’d roll up a joint and pass it around a circle. 

Having said that, many medicinal cannabis users still prefer smoking as their ingestion method because it’s the fastest acting and possibly the strongest. 

Edibles – weed as food

The next most common way for cannabis users to enjoy the effects of weed is by eating it! At one point, it became so cool to eat marijuana that cannabis-inspired restaurants opened up all over the USA. You can even find yourself a weed pizza in Cambodia. What makes edibles fun is that cannabinoids can be infused into virtually anything if you’re careful about heating methods. Whether it’s brownies, chocolates, gummies, or pizza, cannabis is as much a food as it is a medicinal weed.

When you eat foods infused with marijuana, cannabinoids travel to the stomach and then digestive tract. Through the small intestine, cannabinoids find their way into the blood. They have to pass through many defense mechanisms such as enzymes in the stomach, processing by the liver, and finally, the barriers of the intestines. For this reason, it takes a lot longer to feel the effects of edibles, and the full effects might not be felt until 2 hours later. The effects also last a lot longer, sometimes up to 6 hours, compared to the short-lived 1-2 hour high felt from smoking cannabis.

Medicine for your insides

Needless to say, eating weed removes a lot of the potentially harmful byproducts that smoking can produce, making it a healthier way to consume cannabis. In addition to this, eating weed is a great way to send cannabinoids to the stomach and digestive tract. If you’re the kind of person using cannabis to treat something like IBD, for example, then consuming it this way sends medicine straight to the problem area. This probably means you have to consume less to get the same amount of medicinal benefits. 

Eating cannabis is also a form of recreation for many people, especially those who simply don’t like the act of smoking. There’s no shortage of people enjoying brownies on a weekend evening together – who have just as much fun as their smoking counterparts!

Tinctures – modern meets old

Our modern cannabis tinctures are very different to the tinctures of old. But overall, consuming cannabis in a liquid form is older than most people think. Before the days of prohibition, cannabis tinctures were a staple product in just about every pharmacy in the USA. However, most of these tinctures were probably prepared by simply steeping the cannabis flower in an alcoholic solvent.

We now know that cannabinoids are more fat-loving substances, which means they dissolve better in oils than in water or alcohol. Steeping cannabis in alcohol does release some cannabinoids, but not nearly as much as modern extraction methods.

Most cannabis oils are now produced using butane or carbon dioxide (CO2) as a solvent. Although there’s some controversy around using butane extraction methods, skillful processing doesn’t leave any of the solvent in the final product. However, CO2 extraction is by far the most sophisticated extraction technique, creating virtually pure cannabis extracts that are almost 100% pure cannabinoids. 

Consuming a tincture is a lot like consuming edibles in terms of the way that cannabinoids move through the body. However, as a liquid, some of it is absorbed through the mucous membrane under the tongue, therefore reaching the body faster. Many cannabis users find that the effects come on faster with tinctures than with edibles and can be felt for much longer than with smoking. 

Cannabis – the people’s weed

The sheer variety of ways that cannabis can be consumed makes it highly accessible to a huge variety of people. Tinctures and extracts can also be put into capsules or used in topical preparations, allowing an even broader range of medicinal applications. This is probably one of the most important reasons that cannabis appeals to so many people.

Whether you use marijuana recreationally, as a medicine, or as a lifestyle choice, the different consumption methods allow you to maximize the therapeutic effects and tailor your experience to be just right every single time. 

Sera has been a cannabis writer for over 8 years and is a natural medicine enthusiast. With a bachelor degree in naturopathy, she is passionate about all things plants, botany, and writing.