While it’s true that smoking the dried flowers of the cannabis plant has traditionally been the primary method of consuming marijuana, today there are many marijuana products that offer different experiences and effects. Patients may find one form of medicating is preferable for their needs, as individual response to medical marijuana varies, depending on the person, setting, and how the cannabis is consumed (inhaled or ingested).
Patients may experience short-term effects from cannabis including coughing, reddening of the eyes, dry mouth, delayed motor response, sedation or anxiety. Anyone medicating with cannabis should do so in a safe environment, and are advised not to drive, operate machinery or participate in dangerous activities.
Cannabis flowers can be smoked using a pipe, water bong, or rolled into a joint. Smoking delivers the most immediate effects of all methods of ingesting medical marijuana, and patients can control the level of dosage, choosing to smoke as much or as little as needed. Depending on the potency of the strain, the effects typically wear off within 60 minutes to 4 hours. Patients who suffer from excessive coughing, find smoke irritating to the throat, or are concerned about the respiratory hazards of smoking are advised to use vaporizers or try other methods of medicating.
The most basic joint consists of rolling papers and ground cannabis flowers. A “roach”, usually made of stiffer paper, can be added at the end for better flow. It also makes sure you can enjoy your joint down to the very last bit.
Water pipes, or more commonly known as “bongs” come in all shapes and sizes and are generally made from glass. Cannabis flower is placed in the bowl and the main chamber is filled with water up to one inch above the stem. Smoke is then drawn through the water, providing some filtering.
Pipes come in all sizes and colors and are made from various materials, but most commonly from glass. The main components include a bowl for the cannabis flower, a carb—i.e. a small hole in the pipe that helps create a vacuum—and a mouthpiece.
A vaporizer is a device that heats up cannabis at low temperatures of 356 – 392 Fahrenheit, just below the point of combustion. Using a vaporizer is the most recommended method to ingest medical marijuana as they extract the active therapeutic ingredients in marijuana (known as cannabinoids) without burning them, and allow the patient to inhale the gentle vapors.
Patients who are used to smoking marijuana are advised to wait a few minutes after using a vaporizer, as at first, it may seem as if nothing is happening because the vapor can be so mild. These smokeless, electronic devices can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small handheld pens that operate by a battery to larger desktop vaporizers that plug into a wall outlet for home use.
The most portable of vaporizers, vape pens are discreet, battery-powered devices that heat concentrated cannabis oils instead of dried flowers.
Small enough to fit into a pocket or backpack, these vaporizers offer portability and are capable of heating flowers. Some models can handle concentrates as well.
These offer little portability but are capable of extracting higher quantities of therapeutic ingredients than their smaller counterparts
Marijuana can be infused into oil or butter and cooked into food, typically baked goods like cookies, fudge or brownies, though also available as gummies, hard candies, chocolates and more. These infused “edibles,” as they are typically called, are discreet to consume and deliver intense, long-lasting effects.
When buying edibles at a dispensary, their dosage is typically clearly labeled, ranging from 10-20 milligrams per dose. When making marijuana-infused edibles at home, patients can simply grind up the cannabis flowers, heat it up in oil or butter to activate its medicinal properties, and then add a small amount to any type of food for a relaxing body high.
Tinctures are a marijuana extract made from spirits with high alcohol content to capture the essence of the plant in a liquid concentrated form. Tinctures are sold in small bottles at most dispensaries and can be administered by simply putting a few drops under the tongue. The effects can typically be felt rather quickly, often within minutes.
Begin with one or two drops and increase accordingly until the desired effect is achieved. Patients can also experiment with homemade tinctures by soaking dried and chopped cannabis flowers in pure grain alcohol of 90% strength or higher (such as Everclear) for several days, gently shaking the mixture once a day, and finally straining it and storing the liquid in a medicine bottle with an eyedropper for easy and discreet use.
Oils, Lotions, and Balms
Due to its pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects, cannabis oils are commonly used topically in lotions, ointments, and balms. Topical cannabis products are often used to relieve sore muscles, reduce swelling and provide pain relief. They are typically a combination of cannabis oil with beeswax or aloe vera and are used for a range of conditions ranging from arthritis to rashes to muscle soreness.
Topical oils, lotions, and balms provide no psychoactive effects or feeling of being high. This is because they are applied to the skin and psychoactive chemicals do not enter into the bloodstream.