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CBD 101

The Differences Between Cannabis Consumption Methods

The Differences Between Cannabis Consumption Methods

Common Ways To Consume Cannabis

Even as more people wrap their heads around the idea of consuming cannabis either for medication or recreation, one of the challenges faced by newbies is a suitable method of consumption. Which brings us to one common question among potential cannabis consumers; what other consumption methods can one use?

Just as there are dozens of strains of cannabis available, there are also plenty of ways to administer your favorite herb. Whether you’re a recreational or medical consumer if you follow these guidelines, you’ll get the chance to effectively consume cannabis as well as experience all the benefits the remarkable plant has to offer.

In this article, we will focus our attention on the most common cannabis consumption methods along with their associated benefits and differences to help you determine which method will work best for all your cannabis needs.


Smoking is perhaps the most popular way of delivering cannabis. With this method, a reasonable amount of dried flower from the cannabis plant is typically placed in a pipe, bong, bowl, bubbler, hookah or rolling papers to make a joint and light it. Once burned, you are able to inhale the smoke obtained after the dry substance has fully combusted, allowing for a quick delivery of cannabinoids to the system with extreme efficiency. 

Onset: Within seconds of inhalation.

Duration: Effects will generally peak within thirty minutes and diminish anywhere from 1-3 hours.


  • Using raw flower gives you the most control of the strain, source, and cannabinoid content than any other method 
  • You can effortlessly regulate the dosage
  • Smoking provides you immediate relief
  • You can enjoy the real power of cannabis since it’s less processed in this form


  • The combustive smoke generated from burning plant matter contains by-products such as tar, toluene, and other carcinogenic compounds (cancer-causing), though studies on its effects are anything but conclusive
  • Smoking can cause “coughing fits” which may cause irritation, which may not be the best method if you have asthma any or other respiratory issues


Also known as vaping, this method can be divided into two broad categories: portable and fixed models. It involves inserting the desired product (dried flower ash, kief, hash oil, and other cannabis concentrates) on one end of the vape pen and heating it to a predefined temperature lower than its melting point. The supplied heat is hot enough to break down cannabis’ THC and CBD into a vapor, which gets inhaled from the vaporizer’s mouthpiece This method leaves zero chance to produce combustive smoke. There are also disposable vape “pens” which are filled with cannabis oil and intended for single use.

Onset: Within seconds of inhalation.

Duration: Generally, effects peak before thirty minutes and diminish within 2 or 3 hours.


  • A discreet form of smokeless-inhalation
  • Produces a subtle, light and pleasant odor, which dissipates quickly 
  • Doesn’t produce combustive smoke, providing the cleanest and healthiest way to consume cannabis 
  • Provides immediate relief 
  • Vape pens exist in a variety of different shapes, colors, and sizes, most of them being portable


  • Some cartridges and vape oils pose the risk of containing chemical solvents such as propylene glycol, which can be harmful in massive amounts
  • Vaping devices can be expensive


Edibles are a medicine wrapped in a delicious, yet potent treat and include any food item that contains cannabis -- which must be decarboxylated. Pot brownies are a classic example and nowadays, dispensaries sell plenty of these along with a variety of other tasty confections. Still, you can get creative and cook up some of your own treats. Edibles aren’t any different from your favorite non-infused snack, other than the fact that you’ll get really, really high. Unlike smoking where THC is directly absorbed through the lungs, cannabinoids in edibles get metabolized by the liver, which converts into 11-hydroxy-THC -- a chemical compound more potent than THC.

Onset: Fifteen minutes to two hours depending on metabolism and whether or not the user ingests them on an empty stomach (which accelerates absorption).

Duration: Around 4-6 hours, though, effects can last for 24 hours with unusually high doses.


  • Has a significantly longer duration of therapeutic effect than smoking or vaporizing
  • Discreet and convenient forms of consumption 
  • Diverse variety of options are available


  • Dosages can be tricky to judge
  • Not ideal if you’re in need of immediate relief due to slow onset
  • If improperly stored, they can be easily mistaken for non-infused products by children and pets


Tinctures are essentially cannabis concentrates in liquid form and come in a variety of formulations and dosages. They can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) or incorporated into a warm liquid such as tea, or placed onto food. Sublingual administration allows for cannabinoids to be absorbed and transported directly to the bloodstream, which is why they’re popular for those seeking a fast but long-lasting dose of cannabinoids.

Onset: Full effects are usually felt within 20-30 minutes, usually faster than edibles- but not with inhalation methods.

Duration: Seasoned consumers may feel effects last for only a couple of hours, whereas newbies may feel the effects for several hours.  


  • Some formulas contain less available (and studied) cannabinoids like CBN (cannabinol) and THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin)
  • Very discreet and virtually odorless
  • Perfect for customers who do not want to smoke or vaporize their cannabis


  • Tinctures are commonly formulated with alcohol, which may not be desirable for some cannabis lovers
  • Potential for cannabinoid degradation, if stored improperly
  • Can be messy, especially for those who have busy schedules or are always on the go


Dabbing is a relatively new form of cannabis ingestion, typically used by the more experienced cannabis smoker. In this method, a dime-sized amount of cannabis concentrate (commonly referred to as a ‘dab’) is placed on an electronic nail and heated usually with a blowtorch, which causes the surface to get hot and also generate combustion. The dab transforms into a vapor, which is caught in a spherical vessel and then inhaled. But, don’t be fooled by this small amount -- it’s highly potent form of cannabis that can reach THC content levels up to 80%.

Onset: Immediately after inhalation.

Duration: Slightly longer than other inhalation methods.


  • Delivers a pure, high dose of cannabinoids into your system that’s much easier on your lungs than other methods of consumption.
  • Provides quick effects and immediate relief. 
  • Effects are considerably more physically and psychologically intense than other consumption methods.
  • Inexpensive.


  • Combustive smoke releases carcinogens, though, there’s very little evidence on its effect on the lungs
  • The fast uptake of a high level of THC can result in anxiety, nausea, and even passing out, so it may not suitable for newbies
  • Involves the use of solvents to extract THC
  • Requires specific equipment such as a dab rig, torch, e-nail, and an assortment of other products

Eating Raw Cannabis

Although this method doesn’t produce any psychoactivity, there are many people who enjoy the medicinal properties provided by ingesting raw cannabis that hasn’t been cured, dried, and decarboxylated. This method allows you to use ato mix combination of healthy, fruits, veggies and herbs with raw cannabis leaves or buds to prepare a tasty smoothie or juice loaded with essential nutrients including vitamins and minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and so much more. That said, if depending on what you’re looking for, this method may or may not be for you.


  • Perhaps the healthiest of all the above-mentioned methods
  • Good alternative for those who did not respond positively to other methods
  • Contains high levels of the acid cannabinoids THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), which offer key nutrients and a number of other health benefits


  • Cannabis must be organic, fresh, uncured and undriedundrired in order to reap all of its therapeutic benefits
  • Very little support on its efficacy
  • Some may find the taste unpleasant

So, What’s The Best Way To Consume Cannabis?

Well, that really depends on the kind of cannabis you’re consuming and who you are as a cannabis consumer. What we do know is that cannabis can be used in more ways than one and furthermore, the effects experienced when consuming cannabis will always vary by each individual which includes factors such as genetics, physical health, medical history, age, etc. Nonetheless, you’re almost bound to gain many therapeutic benefits no matter which method you choose.


Reviewed by Gabe Kennedy

 Co-Founder of Plant People, Gabe Kennedy is an acclaimed chef and entrepreneur. Growing up in a house of healers and herbalists, he is passionate about the power of food as a tool for health, and actualized this passion and belief system into his company, Plant People. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 Gabe has shaped menus and cooked his way around the world with his mission to promote a more communal, green and healthy world.

 Gabe is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and Cornell University School of Hotel Administration. You can learn more about his work at his website.

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