Cannabis Delivery Methods: What’s the Difference?
Considering legalization efforts are just taking off in the US, it’s easy to forget cannabis’s impressive legacy. The historical record shows that humans have used marijuana for medicinal purposes since as early as 500 BC. For centuries we’ve used hemp to make clothing, paper, sails, and rope, while hemp seeds and oil were an important food source. Some ancient cultures even cultivated high-THC plants for use in religious ceremonies and healing practice!
And for as long as we’ve known about cannabis, we’ve been innovating ways to use it. When we say “delivery,” we’re not talking about getting products from the dispensary to your doorstep (though that’s a service we offer also). We’re talking about getting the benefits of cannabis into your bloodstream.
With all of the choices in devices and methods, breaking into the world of recreational marijuana might feel overwhelming. And recent advancements mean even long-time partakers have new options when it comes to using cannabis. Each method has its own benefits, and it’s essential to understand your options for an optimal experience.
From Rihanna’s infamous Coachella blunt to Harold and Kumar’s iconic smoking scenes, inhalation is the best-known and most widely-practiced method for cannabis consumption. When cannabis is heated, it produces smoke or vapor, which enters the lungs before passing into the bloodstream. Most users who inhale cannabis notice the effects almost immediately. The strength and duration depend on your body chemistry and tolerance, what inhalation method you use, and the quality or type of product.
There are a variety of devices to choose from, and inhalation can be broken down even further into two basic camps: smoking and vaporization.
Hand pipes, water pipes, and rolling papers
In smoking, cannabis flower is burned to produce smoke, which is inhaled. The most popular devices to smoke with are hand pipes, water pipes, and rolling papers, though when it comes to DIY smoking devices, creativity knows no bounds.
Hand pipes (or glass pipes) are portable, relatively discrete, and are more efficient than joints, so less bud goes to waste. They vary when it comes to shape and size, with many shops carrying a variety of colors and even novelty pipes. Basic pipes are often referred to as a “spoon” because of their shape. These are an inexpensive, easy-to-use option for beginners and pros alike.
Water pipes, also known as bongs or bubblers, also come in a variety of sizes, styles, and designs. Unlike most hand pipes, water pipes incorporate water. Passing through the water-filled or ice-packed chamber cools the smoke before it is inhaled, which means a smoother smoking experience. Some university studies have also shown that the water filters out potentially dangerous particulate matter (ash), though the extent of the benefit remains unclear.
Rolling papers are used to smoke blunts or joints. Joints are cannabis rolled in paper, while blunts are rolled in cigar paper and contain a mixture of marijuana and tobacco. Rolling papers come from a variety of plants, including hemp, rice, and bamboo. Most dispensaries also sell pre-rolled joints, which are a convenient alternative to rolling your own.
Vaporizers provide a potentially healthier alternative to smoking. While vaporizers still apply heat, the temperature never gets high enough for the cannabis to burn. Thanks to precise heat application, cannabinoids (including THC and CBD) vaporize and can be inhaled, without creating ash or other particulate matter. In other words, vaping gives you all the benefits of smoking without the actual smoke. It is also more discreet since there’s no lingering smell.
Vaporizers can be desktop, portable, or disposable. Many vaporizers work with dry herb as well as concentrates such as oil and wax. These concentrate-based vaping devices are likely gaining popularity because they’re more portable, and don’t require the same heating component that it takes to vaporize flower.
Dabbing (flash vaporizing)
More experienced cannabis users are turning to dabbing, or flash vaporization, to deliver a potent, fast-acting hit of pure cannabis concentrate. As one of the newest methods of marijuana consumption, dabbing remains controversial. In dabbing, pure cannabis concentrate is applied to a super-heated surface, and pure vapors are inhaled through a “dab rig.” Since most concentrates contain 60-90% THC, dabbing is not recommended for beginners. If you’re considering trying dabbing, we’d recommend talking to an experienced bud tender about which products and devices you need to dab safely.
Though “special brownies” come to mind when we think of oral delivery, this category includes everything from ingestible tinctures and oils to infused food and drinks. While most cannabis-infused food and beverages take as long as two hours to fully absorb into the bloodstream through the digestive tract, sublingual (under the tongue) tinctures can take effect almost immediately.
Tinctures are alcohol-based cannabis extracts, also known as green or golden dragon. They’re ideal for anyone who needs a fast-acting, accurate dose of cannabis. You can place 2-3 drops under your tongue to feel the effects quickly, or incorporate into your favorite drinks and recipes for slower absorption (more similar to classic edibles).
Edibles refer to any cannabis-infused food or drink. They tend to be longer-lasting, producing an intense full-body high. As the recreational market becomes more competitive, cannabis companies are pioneering new and creative types of edibles. From chewing gum to cheddar crackers, and everything in between, today’s users have more options than ever before. Plus, advances in extraction techniques and in-house laboratory testing mean we have more control than ever when it comes to accurate dosing. Despite the challenges of infusing carbonated drinks, cannabis-infused beer has even started to hit the shelves.
Are you looking for a middle ground between tinctures and edibles? Ingestible oil capsules might be the answer. These capsules are ingested like edibles, but typically oil-based. The pre-measured doses are safe, convenient, and provide a low-calorie alternative to infused food and drinks.
Need to keep a clear head, but want to relieve some persistent aches and pains? Topicals might be the perfect solution. Cannabis-infused creams, balms, salves, and patches have all the neurologic and anti-inflammatory benefits without cerebral stimulation (what makes users “feel high”). Studies have shown that topical cannabis can help with everything from psoriasis and other skin conditions to alleviating acute pain and muscle soreness.
Each delivery method has unique advantages
With so many delivery methods to choose from, cannabis has a variety of applications and uses. Whether you like to smoke a bowl with friends, rely on a tincture for anxiety, or use a cannabis balm for pain relief after workouts, we hope you find the delivery method that works best for you!