Cannabis: how best to ingest
Medical cannabis is an option many Australians are turning to, but what's the best way to ingest and use the product?
You probably already know why you might want to try medical cannabis. And hopefully you’ve already had a look at this article outlining the process for getting access to it.
But, you may have more questions and one of the most common ones I get is how to consume. If you’re not sure what to expect, especially from medical cannabis, it can be a little confusing.
There are a lot of different ways you can ingest cannabis to get desired effects. But this also leads people to wonder about what method is the right one. Especially for their needs.
I wanted to cover some of the most common methods of consuming cannabis to help clear some of this confusion up.
Burning cannabis flower and inhaling the smoke is one of the most common ways to consume. Be it in a rolled smoke like a joint or blunt, or using a tool like a bong or a pipe. Whatever the style, if you add fire directly to the product, you’re combusting.
There are big differences across this group. The more cigarette style approach like joints can be good for beginners because it’s a smaller amount per puff and you can put them out as you need. But they’re also pretty harsh and smell a lot.
Pipes and bongs give quite a different effect, as you’re usually ingesting much more in one breath rather than using over a period of time. They get rid of the paper and give you a reusable tool. Bongs are much cleaner with water filtration and give a smoother and less smelly experience but can be more of a hassle to clean.
You’ll also generally feel the effects within about 10 minutes, as with basically all cannabis you inhale, so you can dial in whether or not this amount is working fairly easily.
The reason I lump all these methods into one is because they’re all pretty bad for you. Bodies aren’t huge fans of breathing smoke into their lungs. This gets worse when a lot of people like to mix their weed with tobacco and are thus breathing in even more baddies.
That being said, there are still reasons you might choose to go down the combustion route. Many people are simply used to this method of consuming and some say that it gives a fuller high.
This is because different parts of cannabis are thought to be activated at different temperatures. By incinerating the plant, there’s a fairly good chance you’re getting all those layers. But, you’re also getting a whole lot of other gunk you really don’t need.
Combustion is also really harsh. It can burn and feel unpleasant, especially if you’re not used to it. When I tried it, my virgin lungs couldn’t handle it at all and honestly, if it had been my only method of consumption I probably wouldn’t have gone back.
It’s also one of the least economical ways to use cannabis. Generally speaking, if you can avoid combustion methods, I’d recommend doing so.
Look, I’m just going to say it. If you’re new to cannabis or even just edibles in general, tread lightly.
Basically anything where cannabis has been infused into a food is an edible. Eating cannabis as opposed to inhaling it has a lot of benefits. The effects tend to be longer lasting, give pretty good bang for buck, and don’t require you to breathe anything bad into your lungs.
Edibles are also super duper fucky.
When inhaling the effects take on much faster whereas edibles can take hours to kick in. It varies depending on what you’re eating, who you are, what you did that day, and a whole bunch of other factors.
Lolly style edibles like gummies seem to take effect faster, likely thanks to absorbing more through the saliva, while baked goods can take longer.
All of these discrepancies often cause people to take far too much when they think the original dose hasn’t kicked in, leading them to have a really bad time. The high can also be quite heavy thanks to the way you digest cannabis.
Basically, clear your day the first few times you try out edibles to find out how they’ll work for you and, please, start small.
If you’re making your own edibles, the process is also quite a thing and without following the proper steps it can be easy to waste your product. It can also really stink up your house. Do your research.
As an added bonus, some people don’t digest edibles properly and feel nothing from them. It’s a numbers game.
Despite all this fuckery, edibles are very worthwhile. The slower build is excellent for longer term relief, especially for things like chronic pain. They can also be a handy way to partake a bit more discreetly. They’re a great way to consume cannabis as long as you approach them with the respect they deserve.
And if you don’t, just remember not to panic. You don't die from an overdose of cannabis, you just have to be careful. Get yourself some water, snacks, some things to watch or music to listen to, and ride this one out.
These are similar to edibles in that they’re typically an infusion. Sometimes they’ll be done using oil, or often for faster acting results in alcohol.
Tinctures are usually used for microdosing. They allow for very precise dosages at small levels and are generally absorbed in the mouth under the tongue, so they take effect much faster than regular edibles.
If you need very low levels of cannabis that you can accurately dose over the course of a day tinctures are a really good choice.
Sometimes people squeeze all the good stuff out of cannabis into much smaller form factors. These usually appear as a wax, shatter, or oil like substance. These are all concentrates.
Concentrates aren’t something I personally have a lot of experience with but they are often used by people who are looking for a big fast hit.
One set up for concentrates is something like a dab rig which is basically a specially designed bong. The substance is heated in a chamber and then the user breathes in the resulting smoke. They tend to be healthier than pure combustion while hitting hard. Typically you only see pretty experienced cannabis users go this path.
The other most common option with concentrates is to have some sort of vaporiser. These often allow for a more session type experience similar to a joint. Some of these are single use pens, others can be reloaded with specific oils, and some are a bit more versatile. Many of these tools are also incredibly discrete.
This isn’t too common in medical cannabis in Australia as it’s still quite new but many see these setups as a big sign of the future of cannabis. There have also been issues with fake carts (cartridges) and bad chemicals so make sure whatever you’re getting is through a very trusted source.
The other possible downside with concentrates is that sometimes they lack the full range of terpenes and cannabinoids. This means you may not get all the effects you’re used to so it’s a good idea to check.
Dry Herb Vaping
Currently the much more accessible option when it comes to vaping in Australia, is using a dry herb vaporiser. These tools allow you to use cannabis flower, just like you’d load into a bong or pipe but for vaporisation. Some also work with concentrates but it’s always best to check first.
Vaporising is much, much healthier than combustion while still providing that on demand high experience. The biggest barrier to entry is picking the right vaporiser for you and in some cases, the price.
The cheapest worthwhile option on the market is the often raved about sub $100 Dynavap. It’s essentially a long metal pipe that lets you put a tiny amount of product in one end. This vaporiser requires you use an external heat source like a lighter to warm the chamber until it clicks, then it’s ready to be inhaled like a pipe.
These units are said to hit more like a bong or pipe than a joint or session vape and be incredibly economical on weed. They do take a bit of getting used to and you can accidentally combust your cannabis, so be mindful of that.
If you’re after something more session orientated there are many battery powered vapes around. They absolutely vary hugely in quality, price, and just preference, so you’ll want to do some research here.
I started with a relatively cheap entry unit called a CF Boundless which cost about $150 and absolutely does the job. However, if you’re even a somewhat regular user the smoothness, battery life, and general quality of the experience can be vastly improved. Recently I upgraded to the well known and respected Mighty vaporiser which will set you back around $450 and I definitely notice the difference.
If you’re a purely at home user you may even want to go for a desktop vape like a Volcano but you’ll lose the portable functionality. What I’m saying is there are a tonne of options in this space.
That being said, most of these style vapes work pretty much the same way. Load in the herb, press button to select desired temperature, wait, and partake.
Many users will start on a lower temperature and gradually step it up over the course of a session, extracting more from the same herb each time until it’s spent. Some will even use leftover herb to make edibles afterward (your mileage may vary).
As an added bonus to vaping, you can also use many with attachments for bongs if you want an even smoother time or to take bigger hits.
This reuse combined with only needing a fraction of what many would normally use makes dry herb vaporising one of the best ways to consume cannabis - at least via inhalation. It’s certainly way healthier than smoking and kinder on the wallet, after that big initial purchase anyway.
There are tonnes of ways to consume cannabis. If you ever want to see human ingenuity in action give a stoner some flower and they’ll find a way to ingest it. Anyone who’s ever suspiciously found a length of their hose has been cut and their Gatorade bottle missing can attest to this. (Please don’t do this it’s so bad for you, also don’t use aluminium foil.)
They all do feel genuinely different, and can work better in some use cases than others. I think it’s important to go with whatever works for you, and to talk to your doctor but please keep in mind some are much, much healthier than others for your body.