When you’re first starting out with cannabis, it’s a good idea to experiment with consumption methods to see which works best for you. Different methods have different onset times and can lead to different experiences. If you’re wondering how to smoke marijuana—or whether you should eat it instead—you’ve come to the right place.
How to Smoke Marijuana
The most common method of consuming cannabis is by inhaling it in the form of smoke. Smoking marijuana has been the preferred method of consumption for thousands of years and across many different cultures.
There are many different ways to smoke cannabis. The most common ways are by smoking it out of a paper joint or a small, compact pipe made from materials such as glass, metal, or wood. Cannabis can also be smoked out of glass bongs and other water pipes that filter the smoke and provide a smoother smoking experience.
When inhaled as smoke, the effects of cannabis typically last between 2–3 hours. Onset time is about 5 to 15 minutes.
Inhaling cannabis vapor is another common way of consuming cannabis. Vaporizing is preferred by health-conscious cannabis consumers who want to avoid inhaling smoke.
Cannabis vapor is believed to contain fewer carcinogens and toxins than smoke and may be a healthier alternative for the lungs. That’s because vaporization happens when cannabis is heated to temperatures that are high enough to release cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, but not the toxins and carcinogens that are released at higher temperatures.
Vaporizers come in all shapes and forms, with some larger units requiring plug-in power and others operating on battery power and being small enough to fit in your pocket. Additionally, vaporizers can vape both dry herb and cannabis oils and concentrates, depending on their design.
You can also easily purchase cartridges that are vaporized with a pen-like battery.
Similarly to smoke, the effects of inhaled cannabis vapor typically last between 2–3 hours and has an onset time of up to 15 minutes.
Sublingual Tinctures & Sprays
Sublingual tinctures are one of the most health-conscious methods of consuming cannabis. Tinctures are made by placing cannabis in a base solution like alcohol (80 proof or greater) or another fat-soluble liquid (glycerol for example) and allowing it to absorb the contents of the cannabis. After straining, the final solution is a concentrated liquid that contains loads of cannabinoids in very little liquid.
Tinctures are applied sublingually using a dropper. Once applied, the contents of the tincture are absorbed by membranes under the tongue and on the inside of the cheeks. From there, they are transported into the bloodstream.
Oral sprays are applied similarly but instead of using a dropper to apply the solution, the tincture or oil is sprayed into the mouth.
Similarly to smoking and vaping, the effects of a tincture or oral spray typically last for around 2–3 hours. Onset time can take up to an hour. If you’re looking to avoid inhaling smoke or vapor, cannabis tinctures are a great alternative.
Ingesting Edibles, Capsules, And Liquids
Ingesting edibles, capsules, and infused liquids is another health-conscious method of consuming cannabis. Edibles and capsules are usually infused with concentrated cannabis oils or decarboxylated cannabis.
Eating or drinking cannabis produces a significantly different buzz than other consumption methods. The edible high tends to take longer to kick in and lasts much longer than smoking, vaping, or applying tinctures.
That’s because it can take some time for the body to digest and process the ingested cannabis. As a result, the high is more of a slow buildup and slow burnout rather than an immediate buzz. The high from ingesting cannabis orally can last as long as 6–8 hours and may take up to an hour and a half to make itself known.
Cannabis topicals administer cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds through the skin. Topical cannabinoids can reach deep inside of muscles and joints to provide soothing relief from pain, soreness, and inflammation. However, they cannot enter the bloodstream and produce no psychoactive or mind-altering effects.
Topicals are preferred by people looking for relief from localized pain. Additionally, topicals are sometimes also used for skincare. They can be used by being applied directly to trouble spots to provide localized relief.